What They Play

So I saw an ad on the ad space above and kind of dismissed it like most of the other ads about “Parental” game ratings. Usually these sites are just soapboxes for fundamental Christians or overprotective parents.

But this one, What They Play, seems different. They don’t really have “reviews” but more “why did this game get this ESRB rating”. Their take on Mass Effect, which as we all know faced controversy (well, invented, idiotic controversy) for its “explicit sex scenes”, was very honest and straightforward, and covered all the bases. Other games are covered in a complex fashion. For instance, while it mentions that Fallout 3 has lots of blood and gore, it also has a “moral framework” underlying it. It mentioned a few (very few) racy aspects of Rock Band 2, but overall says it’s just a fun game kids will love. At the end of each writeup it gives and age rating for each game. Mass Effect got a 13, which seems entirely reasonable to me, even though it got an “M” rating. The writeups so far seem to be pretty balanced, pointing out any questionable material but putting it in context. It’s clear either the author played the game or actually discussed it in detail with someone who did.

I’m not a parent but on first glance it seems to be a pretty helpful site, and not a reactionary force of idiocy like most of your typical “But what about the children!?!?!” sites.

What They Play is run by John Davison, formerly the head of 1up. If you want to hear his views on games, check out the 1upYours podcast. He’s on there pretty much every week.

A site for parents about games run by someone who actually knows something about games?

There may yet be hope in the world.

My understanding is that it was started by John Davison, previously of 1 Up. He definitely has his shit together.

EDIT: Whoops, got beat by MSUSteve.

It was co-founded by ex-!UP guy John Davison.

Edit: Beaten by all. Stupid tabs.

Four years ago we were doing this at Gamerdad.com and no one cared. Yay me.

Steve, I like how you’re always trying to recruit more people into listening to gaming podcasts. You’re like those news teasers for local news:

“There could be a murderer loose in your neighborhood. For more, tune in tonight at 10”.
“Are you going to be hit by that tornado in the area? Find out, tonight at 10”.
“John Davidson could be a real asshole, or a reasonable guy with interesting viewpoint on games. For more, be sure to tune in to one of the bazillion podcasts put out by 1UP”.

Heheh. Well, with good reason. Steve has a serious interest in the gaming industry but is geographically isolated from it. I can sympathize with that.

Podcasts are how folks like us feed our enthusiasm and give us a sense that we’re having a dialogue with similarly-interested folks.

Or that’s roughly the gist I get.

Anyhow, Davidson is one of the more interesting voices on the show, and I think having listened to him before being very aware of the site brings credit to the former. So I think it is pretty relevant.

Heh. Well, I’m not trying to be annoying or obnoxious. The OP really seemed to like the views on WhatTheyPlay.com so I was trying to offer him an option to get more from John Davison if he was interested. I have no stake in any podcast, or anything like that, and I don’t really care to “recruit” anyone, but in this case I thought it made sense to mention 1upYours.

…except the folks at What They Play, who bought the GamerDad review archive.

  • Alan

To be honest I find discussion podcasts, of any sort on any topic, completely annoying. I much prefer structured, edited, more polished, traditional formats. Two, three, or four guys just talking about stuff has no interest for me, no matter who they are.

It’s not the substance of the discussion, it’s the presentation.

Yeah, then you’d hate 1upYours. It has a structure of a sort, but often devolves into people talking over each other. To his credit, John Davison is the one that tends to keep that show on track, but yeah, I withdraw my recommendation based on your expressed preference.

I’m not sure I understand your distinction. Do you mean you prefer only one person who delivers a news-style broadcast to you, or that you don’t like freeform discussions? There is certainly structure to the 1Up Yours podcasts, but it remains a discussion.

Examples might be helpful, and I’m curious to know, but I suppose we ought to take that to the Gaming Podcasts thread from here should we continue …

Same here. The one time I made an exception is the 1UP FM podcasts that were discussing Psychonauts at the end of each show. I skipped straight to that discussion, and I have to admit, that was great to listen to, and it made me go back and start replaying Psychonauts. The discussion had enough structure and felt more like a roundtable discussion, which is something hard to present well in written form. (Though, the Rock, Paper, Shotgun guys do a good job with their roundtable-style reviews).

This is true, but I shouldn’t say anything more.

GamerDad actually does some work for WhatTheyPlay as well.

Dave, do you really need to be asked for juicy gossip? That’s what the internet is for.

Dave’s post does seem like it’s barely hiding some juicy subtext.

He says he shouldn’t say any more, but he doesn’t say he won’t.

It’s “Davison,” not “Davidson.”

Sorry, driving me nuts.

There’s just not a lot to say. GamerDad.com generated similar posts like this one once in a blue moon, but overall no one cared about what we were doing. And in fact, a lot of the later comments were things like, “Why do you review the games at all? Just write the Kid Factor next to what amounts to a press release.”

That’s essentially what you get now at WhatTheyPlay. I’m sure it benefits someone, but I also am finding the timing of the ad buy and the “story” they published about a new HD Wii in 2011 to be a little bit suspect.

I put in a lot of hours to try and raise issues, really dissect the games for parents, etc. I edited most of the content for a year and a half. It was a great learning experience, but one that never really paid anything other than peace of mind that I had done something most people find “nice to have around”. Gamers especially just don’t care.