I am often asked for advice about how to be a smart shopper when buying video games. With Christmas just around the corner, I thought it was a good time to post the advice I have been anecdotally sharing with my close friends and family over the last few weeks.

Below are my three top tips to ensure you are making informed choices this when you inevitably find yourself wandering down the electronics aisle:

Console Wars: If you have little ones under the age of 12, the Wii U from Nintendo is the way to go! Not only do they have many titles that are suitable for the whole family (Mario Kart is a classic!), but they also have several games that are perfect for the younger ones of the bunch. Some of the hot releases this season for the under 10‘s include Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (age 6+), Mario Party 10 (age 7+), and Yoshi’s Woolly World (age 8+).

For the older kids (13 and up!), the Playstation 4 and Xbox One will both be hot ticket items. Children will usually have their preference as to which console they prefer, so try and drop some hints before the shopping rush to get an idea of what they are hoping Santa will drop under their tree this year (Although, it should be noted that since July the Playstation 4 has been outselling the Xbox One 2-to-1 and has remained the top selling console to date).

M for Mature: Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when purchasing games for your children this holiday season are the age ratings. The ESRB age-rating system was developed to help parents make mindful decisions about the media they choose to purchase for their families. If you are unsure if a particular game is appropriate for your child, it is best to go with the ESRB suggestion. For example, no matter how badly your 10 year wants Assassian’s Creed Syndicate this holiday season, this game is rated M and is only suitable for players aged 17 and older. No matter how mature your 10 year-old may be, the content within the game is not suitable.

Be sure and take a look at the ESRB content descriptors as well, as they will give you an idea as to content of the game and why it received a particular age rating. For example, Assassian’s Creed Syndicate has been assigned the descriptor badges for blood, drug reference, strong language, and violence. If you do not want your child to be interacting with this kind of content, then be sure and avoid games with these characteristics.

Age ratings and content warnings aside, if you are looking for some inspiration as to what game to purchase this year, there have been several lists outlining the “Best Games of 2015” (see here and here for overall winners and here for a list of family friendly games).

Let ‘Em Have Fun (and Join In!): In the end, video games are supposed to be fun! If you take the time to read the labels and heed their suggestions, you will be able to sit back and enjoy your children’s excitement and laughter without the anxiety that they may be engaging with material that is age-inappropriate.

Also, don’t be afraid to join in! Games can be a great activity for the whole family (why not try Family Game Night?) and research has shown playing video games together with your children can strengthen family bonds and increase communication! Together, you can make video game play a topic of conversation, rather than the center of anxiety or arguments!


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