CNET's news blog has written up a new site called WhatTheyPlay, a website which aims to help parents wanting to find out more about computer games to decide if they're suitable for their kids.
WhatTheyPlay publishes reviews of PC and console games written with a view to answering questions about content and themes (violence, language etc) as well as things like level of difficulty. It has a community aspect to it as well - users can add their own game reviews and comments, as well as voting on what age they think the game is appropriate for.
Although on first glance this could be taken as an anti-gaming website which wants to deter parents from letting their kids play computer games, the site seems to offer two cool tools which would help the pro-gaming parent. One is that the reviews cover things like whether games have co-operative play so that you can play with your kid (and which games let you tweak the difficulty so you and your little one can be on an equal footing). The other is that users of the site can contribute their own reviews of the kid-friendliness of a game, as well as voting on what age they think the game is appropriate for.
The review of World of Warcraft, for example, points out that while the combat has cartoonish rather than realistic violence and an optional profanity filter, that "like other online games, the community in WoW runs a wide gamut. Some players are helpful, others will be every bit as juvenile, immature and downright vulgar as one expects from the sometimes-wasteland world of the Internet." Pretty much spot-on, and I thought their user-voted age recommendation for players of 14 and above was fair too.
The site aims to cover games from early childhood (3 years and up) and as a beta which launched in November, its listings aren't comprehensive yet - for example I couldn't find Valve's recent release Portal. But I suspect it could grow into a useful tool for parents which goes beyond the brief descriptions from the official game ratings to help them make more informed decisions on the games their kids play.
WhatTheyPlay.com gives parents the scoop on video games [CNET news blog]