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Breakfast topic: How young is too young for World of Warcraft?

Does it take a certain level of maturity to play World of Warcraft? In the past we have asked for opinions on how comfortable people are gaming with players of all ages. The general consensus seemed to be that behavior is more important than numerical age.

Surely there is value in gaming for young people. Although a full-grown adult when I started playing World of Warcraft, games have always been a passion of mine. They have fostered creativity and logic. Recently our Lisa Poisso featured a guild for Unschoolers, who use WoW as a tool for self-guided education. When appropriately supervised and balanced, the game can be a fun, family activity.

On the other hand there are some serious drawbacks to youth roaming around WoW. Sporting a T for Teen rating, the start-up screens clearly post the ESRB Warning: Game Experience May Change During Online Play. Game masters do act on reported conduct-violations, but I'm frequently a little shocked about the types of messages and emotes that cross my screen. I won't even start about "mature" (as opposed to adult) guilds. Similarly, parents may be concerned about the amount of screen time children get, and there is the potential to miss out on real-world socialization in favor of WoW.

There is also the matter of tolerance on the part of older players for the younger crowd. Those of you who have ever turned off Barrens chat or cringe at the trade channel in the major cities know what I mean. We can only stand so many one-liners about a certain red-headed action hero. In the past, when I've found myself in the market for a new guild, I developed a policy of asking for a general age range of members before signing up.

While it is up to parents to decide what type of activities are most appropriate for their children, I'm sure most players have an opinion on the subject. What do you feel is an approximately appropriate age for beginning adventures in Azeroth?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Breakfast Topics, Features

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