Within our library of games, each game falls into one of three generic age groupings: children, family, adult. Children’s games are usually easy to pick out. Having themes or concepts so simple that they would be uninteresting anyone over the age of 8. However, the distinction between a family game and an adult game is a much finer line. Sure there are suggested ages on most boxes. But why a designer decided that a particular game is only suitable for certain ages is often ambiguous at best. This being said, why have board games not established a set rating method like other forms of entertainment?
A clearly defined difficulty rating would be the first step in the right direction. How complicated is this game? Just because a game is weighty does not mean that it falls into Family or Adult, but would give some obvious hints as to why the age group is defined a given way. Even games as complicated as Diplomacy are a family board game. There is nothing so Adult themed within them that I would not want my own children to play it.
Other games have quite obvious adult themes, such as Chez Geek. Players are encouraged to use drugs, quit their job, have plenty of sex, and engage in other nefarious activities. Not something I would want a very subjective young mind to mull over. So clearly a game of this nature falls into the Adult category.
And then there are the games which are not so clear cut. Class Struggle is an excellent example of a moral dilemma when grouping by age appropriateness. CS was clearly created by a Marxist. It is rife with communist ideals, and speaks poorly of capitalists, but there is otherwise nothing adult about this game. There is no sex, no violence, no swearing, simply an unpopular concept. Is this adult? Should we shelter the young minds from these concepts, lest they get the wrong idea?
These kinds of dilemmas in classing games makes me long for a simple system, like the TV rating system. This game contains: Violence, Nudity, and Suggestive Themes. Let the parents know what exactly they are getting into before they open the box, rather than simply relying on which of three broad categories I have put it in, because what might be within the appropriate limits of reasonable family play for one household is completely unacceptable in another.
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