Ask GamerDad – Grandpa Halo Concerns

-Trying to stay fair Grandpa writes: “My daughter who has recently seperated from her spouse has major concerns that her ex spouse is allowing their 6 yr. old boy play “Halo” when at Dad’s house. I am not a gamer and not at all
equipped to give an opinion.  Please let me know your thoughts on allowing this child to play for extended amounts of time this game.”

I bet this is an extremely common problem. It sure was back in 1980 when I had to have an uncomfortable conversation with my Grandma about how I wasn’t going to become a Satanist from playing Dungeons & Dragons.

Ok, let me start by saying that Dad has the right to do this when he has visitation. Of course the best outcome is that each parent compromise and respect each others wishes but that’s an ideal that’s rarely a reality so let me just say that Dad has a right to do this.

First off – Halo is violent but the enemies aren’t human.  The blood is purple and the violence is about as intense as Star Wars (which I saw when I was 6). The game also features co-op, meaning Dad and child can play and work together. This is again, a GOOD thing. Essential

Is it a good idea though? Probably not. Halo is much, much tamer than it’s rated. I usually recommend it for 13 and up. The reason why it’s inappropriate in my opinion is that Halo is intense and features some horror elements. I do not believe and I’ve never seen compelling research to suggest that your grandson is in any psychological danger.

Ah, but there is a rarely considered upside. Dad and Mom divorce, that’s the real trauma the kid is likely experiencing. I say that if Halo with Dad is helping them have fun and bond – then it’s a GOOD thing.  The game also features co-op, meaning Dad and child can play and work together. This is again, a GOOD thing.

If this will help you understand why the game is fun, lets compare it to playing cops n’ robbers or cowboys n’ indians. The difference is that nobody is going POW POW POW. There’s skill involved here – and that will always make it more fun. I bet the child you once were would take to this like a duck to water. It’s natural, I think, for kids to play war. It helps them reconcile death and heroism and videogames help to do this safely.

So here’s my bottom line.  Leave Dad and the boy alone. Let them have this guilty pleasure. The bonding and fun outweigh any dangers and so long as the boy isn’t having nightmares about it, let them have this. Especially if Mom and Dad are at each other’s throats in any way shape or form that the boy can see.

If you want to do something, maybe recommend or give your ex-son-in-law a copy of LEGO Star Wars,  Batman, or Indiana Jones. These games are also co-operative, involve shooting things (everything is made of Lego blocks so it’s hard to call  it violent), and will also help them bond. They can’t play Halo forever, maybe inviting a step in this direction will put the M-rated stuff on hold for a while.

I don’t recommend Halo for a 6-year old but since they’re already playing it, the horse is out of the barn. Just remember that even though there’s shooting and virtual death the game is really about surviving against aliens. And this kid gets to do that with Dad. I think that’s worth a little inappropriateness.

(Caveat: If Dad is letting the kid play alone, or using it as a babysitter – then I think he’s dead wrong to do it. But for now it seems likely he’s doing cool things with Dad. That’s very important for kids whose parents are separated.)

Also, good for you for caring about it!  Just be sure any meddling you do in this situation is positive. Dad does have a right to do this. It’s also his child.

Thanks for your question!


No Responses to “Ask GamerDad – Grandpa Halo Concerns”

  1. Good point. I am handling some custody issues for a client and the cold, hard reality is that a court is unlikely to intervene, except for something pretty big. Even if dad were letting him stay up until 11, play GTA, and let the kid watch the Saw series, I doubt an intervention will happen.

  2. I would like to second GD’s kudos to you for caring and add some kudos of my own for researching the issue. Far too many parents (and grandparents) don’t bother to ask the question and instead just condemn without understanding.

  3. This is a fantastic question and great answer!

    I too agree with GamerDad on all counts. I allowed my son to play some violent games when he was younger (bearing in mind the things that I indulged in when I was his age), and have had both great and a couple not as great results. Doing things together is the key.

    The funny thing is when people say, “I don’t get why you let him play game X, but not game Y or Z. They’re all violent shooters with mature content.” Yes, but the type of content, the context in which it’s presented, and the actual maturity level of the child as an individual are the defining factors. For my son, I’m okay with Star Wars based games (and the like), but have no tolerance for real life based modern warfare games.

    I too allowed my son to play Halo around that age. I ultimately made him stop when he started to develop this somewhat disturbing fixation with cackling his brains out while running over AI marines with the Warthog (like GD said – the horse was out of the barn). I never blamed the game because my attention was focused on the state of mind of my son, and how to address his perspective on this pleasure of senseless manslaughter. While it sounds bad and disturbing, I made a good thing out of it and he learned some more lessons about the critical importance of respect, teamwork, fair play, and good sportsmanship. Even more important, how to treat friends and having the ability to be kind to perceived enemies.

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