It is still in beta, but What They Play is a surprisingly useful site aimed at parents who either buy games for their children or who still exert influence over what their kids buy – and play.
I say “surprisingly useful” because the site is well designed and usable as well as being informative without being preachy. Previous entries into the adult-guidance website market have tended to obsess about undesirable aspects of video games such as violence, sexuality, substance use (alcohol in particular), and glorification of criminal activity. This site does not shy away from pointing out that these elements are part of many popular titles, but it describes the content much as a movie reviewer would. Reviewers also remind readers of each game’s ESRB rating, which – like a movie rating – should be a first-line guide to any parent wondering if a game is appropriate for his or her child.
The site is searchable via a number of factors. Look through titles by platform, age recommendations, or genre (yes, Virginia, games fall into genres like any other media), or popularity. You can even do searches based on multiple criteria, a rarity among similar sites.
For each game, you can read a reviewer’s description, see related games, view the age range other parents think should play this game, and read comments from other parents. You can even join in by voting for the appropriate age range for a game, adding a comment of your own, and tagging the game using Facebook or DiggIt.
I have to say that the one thing I’d like to see on the site is a way to rank each game, similar to ranking a book at – and then allowing for visitors to search for a game by player ranking. Other than this one, small feature, the site is a welcome tool for parents who want to be informed when advising their children in making often very expensive purchases!