#PlayApartTogether – Margaret Anderson, Director Classification Board
IGEA works with a vast array of stakeholders and industry professionals. We’ve all seen the increased popularity, and again the power of games in keeping people connected in these unprecedented times. As we navigate unchartered waters in dealing with a global pandemic, we’ve continued working with our games industry leaders and stakeholders on numerous issues. Recognising we all have a role to play in flattening the curve and stopping the spread of COVID-19, IGEA will be talking to leaders and policy makers about the entertainment they are consuming and how they are practising self-isolation and social distancing. We know many of them love digital games and we’d love to se what they are playing, what they recommend playing and if they have any tips or resources to share with the community.
We spoke with Australia’s Director of the Classification Board, Margaret Anderson about how she is contributing to #PlayApartTogether
What tasks are you undertaking to keep yourself (and/or your family) occupied during these times of self-isolation, and physical and social distancing?
It is important to remember that while we must physically distance ourselves from each other at this time, social proximity, interaction and connectedness are still vital for our mental wellbeing.
In my family, we are using our smartphones and apps to stay connected through regular video calls, allowing us to see each other’s faces while we talk.
When I’m not on the phone, I’m either in my garden or on the lounge, watching the World Movies channel on SBS – they are screening so many great movies at the moment! I’m also watching a lot of the World Food channel and a variety of home renovation shows.
But the lounge has to be limited. Depending upon the particular circumstances of your community’s level of lock-down, you may get a daily walk – which means it is time to play Pokémon Go! I am a devotee of almost 4 years and while you cannot meet up with your fellow Pokétrainers currently, I love that I can continue this game, while keeping a safe distance.
Why these particular activities?
You need to stimulate your senses, and computer gaming is a great way to do that. People game for all sorts of reasons – for the thrill of the chase; for winning a level or a tournament; for keeping your mind agile and your brain engaged. Gaming is so often strategy. It offers a different kind of engagement from sitting passively and enjoying a film, so it’s a great way to mix up your iso-activities.
What games are you playing?
I love playing Pokémon Go and started a fortnight after the game’s release in 2016.
I play other games such as Fishdom, which is really good at luring you in. But parents be warned: in-game purchases are regular and may quickly accumulate, so put strict limits around anyone using your account with a linked credit card!
Other games include: Wordscapes; CodyCross; Word Mocha; Jigsaw Puzzle; and Mahjong. I deliberately do not make any in-game purchases in these games. Instead, I endure ‘lost lives’ (this causes an enforced and temporary end to game play) and advertisements. I do not play games which force me to log in with either Google or Facebook credentials. I keep my gaming and social media accounts separate.
Do you play games alone or with others?
One of the things that I love about Pokémon Go is that it gets you outside and talking to fellow Pokétrainers (something which is a bit trickier at the moment). I’m also part of a Pokémon Go group on Messenger which is an excellent extension of this gaming experience (and which is completely within the current physical distancing restrictions). Groups like these not only allow you to share your gaming luck (or lack thereof) and to ask questions or bemoan certain events, but also to reach out to fellow Pokétrainers and organise boss battles.
What games are your family playing?
Some of the primary school-aged members of my family are playing games on their Xbox, Switch, iPad and PC such as, Brawl Stars, Roblox, Wings.IO and Idle Army Base – which is especially played with friends who may be on different devices, sometimes in the same room (pre-physical distancing requirements) or otherwise apart.
I do not engage in online chat while playing games, but children and teenagers enjoy doing so. Apps such as Houseparty group video chat is popular with many primary school-aged children. But as with all apps, it’s important to know and understand how it works and how you, as the parent, guardian or care giver, you can and should control access by your child and limit access to your child by others.
Are there any games you recommend?
It’s me you’re asking, so it has to be Pokémon Go! It’s brilliant for all family members. I particularly love the Pokémon Go Community Days (pre physical distancing) when you meet up with Pokétrainers from far and wide as we all madly try and catch certain mons with special moves or the elusive shiny. Although Community Days are postponed for the time being, you can still play this game and share your experiences. The younger members of my family are hugely into Roblox, because they “love the mini-games!”
What resources do you recommend to assist parents and carers manage and monitor game play for their children?
Do your research! Research individual games. Go to your preferred Internet search engine and try questions such as, “How do I play [insert name of game]?” and “Does [insert name of game] have in-game purchases?” The cost of accessories (eg: skins, inventory) can add up. In-game currency often costs real world money. Do not let your children have uncontrolled access to in-app or in-game purchases.
It’s also important to be aware of chat room features in games. You need to understand that there are lots of apps which enable in-game chat during any game (whether or not a game has its own chat room); and you need to understand how you can activate the “parental lock” on your various devices. Anyone can be behind an avatar or online character. Familiarise yourself with the safety features available to parents. You can and should limit access. Ask your friends who are also parents, what things they do. Check out government web pages like esafety.gov.au/parents for tips and resources. Above all, keep open dialogue with your children – so you can rely on them to tell you if they receive messages they are not comfortable receiving.
Games are not baby-sitters. You would not take your 11-year old to watch an MA 15+ film in the cinema, so equally, you should not be allowing that same 11-year old to play an MA 15+ game. Classification is there for a reason and for children, it is there to protect them from material that may harm or disturb them. The legally restricted classification categories (MA 15+ and R 18+) have strong and high impact content respectively and are not suitable for everyone to play.
Now that you have done your research and set up limitations – go forth and play safely and enjoy!