Lots of things change when you have children – your sleep patterns, your amount of free time and your stress levels to name but a few. Though gaming is also one of the things that takes a hit when bringing a lovely, small, helpless person into the world.
Now, don’t read me wrong, this isn’t a yet another piece about how to squeeze gaming in as a new parent. Instead, what I wanted to discuss was something that I don’t believe has been mentioned in any of Sony’s pre-release Playstation 4 information so far: what are Sony’s plans for parental control on their new system?
In fact, let me back up a bit there; it’s not so much what are the plans, rather than how will the system be implemented?
Currently, with the PS3, you have a degree of parental control restrictions to make sure your children aren’t viewing inappropriate content. While this should never be a replacement for sitting with your child and monitoring what they are playing, it does mean they are safe from accidentally clicking something they shouldn’t. It’s not just about what they could play though – some splash screens could be considered disturbing for small children (e.g. Dead Nation, Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare) so it makes sense to restrict some titles.
Despite the fairly confusing ‘level’ rating system, it does work, requiring the user to input a password to access restricted content. I have no major issue with this part of the system, although it would be nice to know which level equates to which age rating and such, without having to find out on the internet.
My main complaints about the current system are as follows: firstly, these restrictions are system wide, which may be a minor annoyance for me since my children are around the same age, but for those who have children with a bigger age gap it means they are all on the same age gate. Sometimes giving an older sibling a bit more responsibility than the younger one is a good way of showing them you trust them, though I would be unable to do this on the PS3. It’s not a massive complaint but surely one that can be fixed by applying different restrictions to each user rather than across the entire console itself?
And while there are some provisions in place, in that you can create a sub account for your child, this is more suited to teenagers or older children as you’ll need to provide all their details (date of birth, e-mail address etc.) to get the account set up. Many people don’t want to hand out those details for very young children.
As it stands, with restrictions in place even I would have to put a password in to activate a restricted game. And I wouldn’t have a problem with that if it wasn’t for my second gripe: the awful way the PS3 deals with displaying restricted content. Everything restricted is hidden in a padlock folder with the file name “Parental Control Restricted Content”.
You have no way of knowing what the individual content actually is!
There doesn’t seem to be a way around this, short of creating a folder for every digital game or demo I own. It’s a very ‘all or nothing’ approach that I can’t quite get my head around. Why couldn’t they lock the file and splash screen but leave the name? How did they think people would manage to work out which title was which?
Of course, the PS3 was designed a long time before downloadable games and content were the norm. I expect they didn’t think they’d need too many restrictions beyond the disc-based products we know and love. From what I have seen of the UI on the Playstation 4 so far it looks like they have refined and streamlined a lot of aspects of it; I’m really hoping restrictions are one of them.