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What is an age appropriate game for a kid who likes Call of Duty
November 27, 2012 11:58 AM   Subscribe

A soon-to-be nine year old has asked for Call of Duty for his birthday. What else could I get him?

Even though it is evidently alright by the parent to play such games (the soon-to-be nine year old already has similar games). I don't want to get it for him. What are games that might be similar in game playing style he would find appealing, but are more age appropriate?
I can get either PS3 and Xbox 360 games.

Thanks for any advice you may have.
posted by msali to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (36 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well it depends on the kid, but I'd say no first person shooter is appropriate for a nine year old, since they will all focus on violence in some form or another.

If you want something combat-oriented but with more cartoonish violence, maybe the new X-COM? It's slower paced and third-person though. Halo 4 is an FPS but the enemies are not human at least.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:02 PM on November 27, 2012


I would think that any of the "Rayman" titles would do well (our 11- and 9-year olds love them).

The games are funny, in a juvenile/slapstick sort of way. They're a collection of minigames held together with a central character who is constantly menaced by insane rabbits, Some of the minigames are first-person-shooter, but your weapon is a plunger gun and the plungers stick to their insane rabbit faces.

They are available for the XBox 360, though my kids play on the Wii.
posted by DWRoelands at 12:07 PM on November 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


The new X-COM has visceral violence. Zoomed in headshots, blood, and the like. It's a great tactical shooter, but it's not cartoonish.
posted by ellF at 12:11 PM on November 27, 2012


Borderlands 2 has a large co-op component (not the same as the deathmatch in CoD but its something), is cel-shaded, and has a "gore" switch that you can turn off. However, there's a dirty jokes/innuendo and foul language and if this kid's parents were anything like mine, dirty jokes and foul language are a lot worse than 'splody heads for some reason. Also, good luck keeping the kid from figuring out how to turn the gore back on.
posted by griphus at 12:16 PM on November 27, 2012


Maybe Mirror's Edge? It's first person, but is more a parkour simulator than a shooter. I've heard it is really fun, if that helps.
posted by joelhunt at 12:25 PM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think it might be wise to consider another gift idea instead of a game. Kids who want a specific game want that specific game, even if it's age inappropriate (or human inappropriate, in the case of CoD). They don't want you to try and outsmart them.

I would think that any of the "Rayman" titles would do well (our 11- and 9-year olds love them).

The games are funny, in a juvenile/slapstick sort of way. They're a collection of minigames held together with a central character who is constantly menaced by insane rabbits, Some of the minigames are first-person-shooter, but your weapon is a plunger gun and the plungers stick to their insane rabbit faces.

They are available for the XBox 360, though my kids play on the Wii.


This is pedantic, but the above is a description of the Raving Rabbids games(which originated from the Rayman IP). Rayman: Origins on the PS3/360 is the main series game, which is a (superb) 2D platformer.
posted by selfnoise at 12:29 PM on November 27, 2012 [14 favorites]


What are games that might be similar in game playing style he would find appealing, but are more age appropriate?

Personally I would suggest either asking him or his parents if he has a second choice for a game he wants. The type of game he wants is a First-Person Shooter, and pretty much all of the decent First-Person Shooter games that are out right now are going to be dubious in terms of age appropriateness. For example, Halo 4 mentioned above is rated M (Mature) which is basically the video game equivalent of R rated movies. Other than that it's pretty much a crapshoot when it comes to predicting what game he would like. Maybe he would like a basketball game for example which would definitely be appropriate, but without knowing anything about his gaming interests it's hard to tell.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:29 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


As somebody mentioned, you're not going to get a first-person shooter without the violence. So if you want to buy him a game with that kind of gameplay, you're going to have to compromise. However, Call of Duty is one of the worst in this regard, as it has very realistic violence that glorifies current real-world conflicts. Borderlands 2 could be an option, but it's pretty disturbing (even without the gore) in a black-humor kind of way that I don't know if a 9-year-old would understand. Halo 4 is not nearly as bad, and if I saw a 9-year-old playing it I wouldn't worry about them.

If you want to avoid violence at all, Lego Star Wars is a very good game, but a nine-year-old who wants Call of Duty might think you're patronizing him or "treating him like a kid".

If you search here, you can find a more detailed description of possibly-objectionable content in any game you might want to buy. But the fact is, among big-budget games the best ones are often rated M.
posted by vogon_poet at 12:29 PM on November 27, 2012


I'd suggest Portal and Portal 2, but I don't know if the first one is available on consoles outside of the Orange Box Bundle.
posted by radwolf76 at 12:32 PM on November 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


really the content of the game is secondary to the userbase in terms of offensive material. shooting guys all day is one thing, interacting with the other players online, however, is where things get truly gross.
posted by radiosilents at 12:33 PM on November 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I thought Ghost Recon:Future Soldier toned down the visceral 'headshot' experience and focused on the mission at hand. Most of the time you're viewing the target in an 'x-ray' or night-vision mode, so blood and guts are not as visible.

Actually, I withdraw this due to the terrorism cut-scene in London where falling glass from a nearby explosion rains down on victims and is displayed in fairly gory detail.

Maybe Ghost Recon:Advanced Warfighter 1 or 2.
posted by exparrot at 12:43 PM on November 27, 2012


If the 9 year old doesn't have Minecraft yet, look into it even though it's not an FPS. Minecraft is *huge* in that age group. I know it's available for Xbox, not sure about PS3.

I'll second Mirror's Edge -- my 12 year old digs it -- with the caveat that there's some profanity and a bit of comparatively mild violence.

Also: the 9 year old might be asking for Call of Duty mostly because he has friends who play it, and he wants to play with them. Not sure if it's an option to look through his friends' gaming profiles to see what other co-op games they're up to, but in case it is...
posted by gnomeloaf at 12:52 PM on November 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


As a 9 year old, he should be prohibited from playing on X-Box Live/PlayStation Network

Now that we have that fantasy out of the way:
I know this isn't much better, but if you can find a fighting game where the women wear clothing, that might be worth getting. I have political issues with the Call of Duty games and would recommend Spec Ops: the Line, except I think that that is probably too dense for him to understand.

Another vote for minecraft. On the X-Box Arcade there is Bastion, which is a lot of fun. Portal sounds great and while it did not receive as positive reviews, Quantum Conundrum could fit the bill. The current incarnation of Katamari Damacy is always fun, but he might view it as too kiddy.

Does he play any computer games? I have fond memories of playing lots of Civ around when I was 10 or 11, but I was an odd kid.
posted by Hactar at 1:07 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I should add that the best games for younger kids that I can think of are all for the Wii (Mario, Zelda, Super Smash Brothers, Metroid (ignoring Other M), etc.).
posted by Hactar at 1:08 PM on November 27, 2012


Alice: Madness Returns. It's violent and creepy, but not against humans.
posted by corb at 1:16 PM on November 27, 2012


How about a driving game like Split Second?
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 1:22 PM on November 27, 2012


Said kid is not on x-box live/playstation network, nor does he have a computer. These games are for him to play alone or with his older sibling. From what I know about it, Call of Duty is far too mature for a child his age, which is why I would like to find another game for him that he would find engaging. I have zero gaming experience, which is why I asked you all for help.
posted by msali at 1:26 PM on November 27, 2012


msali: Julian Murdoch, one of the guys who writes for Gamers with Jobs, put together a pretty good piece on the ratings and appropriateness question recently. It might be a good starting point for assessing games for kids: http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/node/113659

Particularly notable is that the ESRB ratings website provides a narrative description of every game it reviews, which is MUCH more detailed than the 5 words you get on the game's box. Not every M-rated game will be horrific to every child, for example, and if an elder sibling is participating it may make even "questionable" games more acceptable.

CoD is not going to ruin the kid in single-player, and he's probably already played it with friends. As a guy in his 30s who started out gaming in the 80s, I'll echo the sentiment that getting him something other than the game he's asking for is apt to be a disappointment; you may want to consider a gaming accessory instead. Maybe a really nice controller?
posted by ellF at 1:56 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Super Smash Bros. It's not an FPS, but it is a *super* fun fighting game and you can play as almost any Nintendo character.

I'm not sure if this is available in either of the platforms you mentioned, though.
posted by colin_l at 2:13 PM on November 27, 2012


> I'd suggest Portal and Portal 2, but I don't know if the first one is available on consoles outside of the Orange Box Bundle.

Seconding the Portal series. The puzzles can be tricky, but an older sibling is perfect for helping (or getting into fights about the "right" way to do it.) Portal 2 has a co-op mode which works locally on the Xbox.

Portal: Still Alive [...] features the original game, 14 new challenges, and new achievements.
posted by morganw at 2:49 PM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Minecraft is a religion among the kids I know in that age group. Portal is fun for adults and older kids, but IME it can be a little slow for 9yo's, especially ones used to the nonstop assault that CoD provides.
posted by apparently at 2:54 PM on November 27, 2012


I'm not sure if this is available in either of the platforms you mentioned, though.

It is not, but the upcoming Playstation All-Stars (basically SSM with Sony characters) will be soon.
posted by griphus at 2:55 PM on November 27, 2012


My advice is that it is almost impossible to find a FPS that is age-appropriate for a 9 year old. If you are uncomfortable buying him COD (which I would be too!) then I would talk directly to his parents and tell them that you are uncomfortable buying the game, and ask for alternatives that are more age-appropriate.

I do think Minecraft is an excellent game for that age, but the gameplay is completely different. And you should check he doesn't already have it, along with all the other games suggested here.

I don't think there is an easy answer here that doesn't involve going back and saying no. As other have said, buying him a different game will probably not be well-received, because its not what he asked for. So you need to ask for alternative suggestions.
posted by Joh at 2:56 PM on November 27, 2012


As others have said, First Person Shooters aren't appropriate and I would avoid them all.

I've been playing the new Lego Lord of the Rings and a 9-year-old who had seen the movies would enjoy it. And if he had internet access, I'd Nth Minecraft because my 9-year-old son *loves* playing it.
posted by tacodave at 3:04 PM on November 27, 2012


If I had a 9 year old I would absolutely not let him or her play Borderlands 1 or 2. And that's coming from someone who has spent a not insignificant amount of time on repeated playthroughs of both.

I've been watching my boyfriend play the newest X-COM for the past week or so and it's also gory (and according to him, REALLY HARD).

Both Portals are great, but the kid probably already has them and they're not FPS games. Valve also has the Half-Life series and the Team Fortress series which are FPS, but they're kinda old.
posted by elsietheeel at 3:11 PM on November 27, 2012


Borderlands2 has far more mature content than call of duty does, i wouldn't recommend that as an alternative.

If he really wants call of duty, any substitute is likely to be poorly received unless he really wants another game that you don't know about.

Nthing ask the parents for a substitute, or get something non gaming.
posted by TheAdamist at 3:14 PM on November 27, 2012


Well, the issue I see here is that many gamers want specific games, and aren't interested in other games. I agree that at 9 he shouldn't be playing call of duty, but if that is the game he wants, you probably aren't going to get very far by getting him a different game. He may enjoy it, or he may not have any interest in it at all. When you're talking about shelling out $50+ for a game, you want to make sure that he's going to actually want to play it.

I'd suggest getting him something completely different, so as to avoid any drama there. If you do get a different game, don't get Xcom. It's a great strategy game for adults or older kids, but it is bloody and requires a slow methodical play style which doesn't work well with younger kids.
posted by markblasco at 3:23 PM on November 27, 2012


OK, wait -- FPS are not, de facto, inappropriate for every 9-year-old. There's a lot of backseat parenting happening here, and many of us were mature enough at that age to handle the content, distinguish it from reality, and turn out OK.

If you aren't comfortable buying him CoD, don't buy him a platformer. Minecraft is awesome, but it's not available on consoles (except for the 360, but that requires purchase via XBox Live). The Smash Brothers series is Nintendo-exclusive. Portal and Portal 2 are both quite fun, but they are (a) technically FPS games, and (b) entirely different in feel/tone from CoD, and likely not what he wants to play.
posted by ellF at 5:55 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I asked the same question about this time last year, but I was looking for Wii games.

I just played through the COD: Black Ops 2 single player campaign, and many of the cutscenes are VERY violent and graphic. (ie - extreme closeup of someone getting a knife through the jugular).
posted by Diag at 6:00 PM on November 27, 2012


I'm not a parent, but some of the best gifts I got as a kid were the weird educational gifts that I got from friends of my parents who didn't know me well. I often had very specific gift requests, but I was a suburban kid with limited horizons. The internet probably changes that for the better.

So I'd vote for getting the kid something unexpected.

On the other hand, my parents made reasonable efforts to steer me away from violent video games (not that you could really depict violence in '80s video games the way you can today), but completely dropped the ball on PBS. There were plenty of shows on Holocaust Death Camps and Nuclear War that I managed to catch between morning cartoons. It might have been better to worry about getting stabbed/shot than to suspect that every shower could be a secret death chamber. At least that prepared me well for Wolfenstein 3D.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:09 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


How about The Orange Box? Half Life 2 is sometimes scary but not sexist or jingoistic and the enemies aren't recognizable human beings, The package includes both Portal and Team Fortress 2, a multiplayer shooter that's cartoony and basically bloodless. He'll get his shooter fix with no harm done. It's a couple of years old so it should be under $30 at this point too.
posted by Blue Meanie at 6:11 PM on November 27, 2012


Yeah, it's true that the 9-year old would probably be disappointed by anything aside from CoD, since he will be hearing about it every day at school lunch-time conversation. There are some fantastic alternatives that are much more appropriate:

Minecraft, for the reasons above. $20 (1600 Microsoft points). Make sure he doesn't already have it.

Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale just came out for the PS3. Think of Super Smash Brothers: tons of cartoony melee action, but with Playstation Characters like Parappa the Rapper and Kratos. Rated T for violence and mildly suggestive themes. PS3/Vita only. $60.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is a check-point racing game that forces you to maneuver your transforming wheeled racing machine into a rocket, boat, or plane through hazards, outer space, water and other racers. In a nutshell, it's a psychedelic Mario Kart with Red Bull. Much better than the LittleBigPlanet kart racing that came out recently. Xbox360/PS3 released. $40-60.


While the new Need for Speed: Most Wanted is a fun escape-from-the-cops with crazy jumps and Burnout-esque crash spectacles, complete with crisp graphics and realistic car brands in an open world, it doesn't really offer split-screen. Instead, your escape times and race records are compared to your friends' in EA's system dubbed "AutoLog". PS3/XBox. $60.
posted by Giggilituffin at 6:48 PM on November 27, 2012


Not sure if this is what you're looking for, but my little cousin (10-ish) and I play Kung Fu High Impact on my XBox Kinect. It is a very active (jumping, kicking, air-punching) game that involves fighting, but very stylized fighting of cartoon zombies, gremlins, ninjas, etc.

I love it, he loves it, and all parental units involved approve.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 9:04 PM on November 27, 2012


OK, wait -- FPS are not, de facto, inappropriate for every 9-year-old. There's a lot of backseat parenting happening here, and many of us were mature enough at that age to handle the content, distinguish it from reality, and turn out OK.

Yeah, exactly this. Many of us played FPS when we were younger, too - it's just that the graphics weren't good enough for the spatter effect. Wolfenstein and others.

I second Borderlands not being age-appropriate, primarily for the humor rather than the spatter factor, though. Same thing with Fallout, which otherwise is fantastic.

From what I remember, Red Dead Redemption was pretty good, though - it involved a lot of shooting, but the old-West setting meant that you were generally killing murderers and thieves and terrible people, and I don't recall the spatter factor being particularly high.
posted by corb at 5:10 AM on November 28, 2012


Yet another vote for Minecraft. It's first-person but without the shooting, so perhaps it will appeal on that level. And yes, it's almost a religion among the local kids that age.
posted by jbickers at 9:33 AM on November 28, 2012


Child of Eden. It's a shooter, alright, but a musical rail shooter! You don't shoot at people or animals (at least, any that are anywhere CLOSE to appearing realistic) but rather... polygons! And it makes music; the better you perform in terns of accuracy and timing, the more "fulfilling" the resulting melody sounds! Whether or not you care for this kind of techno/ethereal-type of music is something else.

The only downside I can see is that its... optics are easily conflated with "taking hallucinogenic drugs." Personally, I find the entire experience is very happy and beautiful without being cheesily-so.

It's designed for Kinect/PS Move, but is perfectly playable with a normal gamepad.
posted by Yoshi Ayarane at 8:19 AM on November 29, 2012


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