|Some (totally random!) kids playing video games|
Children make up 20% of the U.S. population, and account for almost 16% of gamers. Without them, there could be no future for the human race. Everyone has been a child at some point. But in most games, they don't even exist.
It's pretty common to talk about sexism in the video game industry. But what about the fact that almost every video game character is between 18 and 30? Kids make up a big portion of video game players, but how often can they play a main character their age, even in games aimed at kids? While I'm not suggesting that we need kid avatars for Halo or Dragon Age, childhood is a large area of the human experience that has been virtually ignored in video games.
In some games, there are no children at all, and while part of that is because of the types of stories that easily translate into games, part of that is due to technical and legal difficulties. Oblivion, for example, is detailed enough to have geologically-appropriate terrain for the entire world, and each of the hundreds of characters has their own schedule for each hour of each day of the week, but there are no children in the world. Assassin's Creed has meticulously recreated historical cities with thousands of people populating them -- but no children.
|What's missing from this picture?|
|Kids have their own town in Fallout 3|
Children, when they appear in games, usually occupy stereotypical roles, such as the Crying Little Kid or Heartwarming Orphan, with little to set them apart and make them a living character. But surely in kid's games there are sometimes realistic kid characters, right? The truth is, even in kids' games, they usually play as robots, anthropomorphic animals, teenagers, or adults.
|Do kids identify with these guys? Maybe . . .|
The only child main characters (under 14) I could think of were in Pokemon games, Gau & Relm from FFVI, and Sora from Kingdom Hearts (Wikipedia has little else to add). But Sora is a great example of a child main character who is not merely a story prop or stereotype. He has relationships and problems similar to other school-aged children, but with the added responsibility of trying to remember his past, save worlds, and survive. His struggles are not just physical (beat the bad guys!), but emotional and psychological as well.
|It's okay, Sora, we all feel a little emo sometimes...|
Sometimes we forget what it's like to be a kid. It would be hard to do well -- to capture the learning and naivete and the sincerity and intensity of being a child. But I think accurately portraying children would help video games feel more realistic and be more true, as well as having stories that mean more to both children and adults.