Former EGM Editor Launches Game Content Site for Parents

Is Halo 3 okay for little Johnny?

Parents who struggle with such decisions may now turn to an additional resource.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, John Davison, former editor of popular video game magazines like Electronic Gaming Monthly and Official PlayStation Magazine has launched What They Play, a website which bills itself as “the videogames guide for parents.”

Said the former EGM editor, the father of two young boys:

We wanted to provide a place where parents can turn to for neutral, objective information on the games their kids might want to play.

We really believe that it’s the parents that should be controlling [what games their children play]. And the best way to do that is to tell them the facts so they can make the call.

Former Ziff-Davis colleague Ira Becker is partnering with Davison on What They Play.

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  1. 0
    Billy King says:

    To everyone who keeps saying he looks like Gordan Freeman, he actually looks nothing of the sort. If you watched the 1up show (which every half gamer should) you’d know this guy like your best mate. I’ll miss him from the show (and the podcast – 1upyours) but it’s great to see him still keeping buisness.

    Davison was one of the best and most popular game journalists in the world. I hope he returns to Ziff in a few years.

  2. 0
    Gryphonosiris ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Also, he doesn’t care about informing people, but rather from all that I’ve seen his plan is probably to nerf video games completely. First M, then T, the E until they aren’t worth playing anymore, just to spite the industry.

  3. 0
    kurisu7885 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    He won’t make such a site because that kind of site undermines what he wants, to get famous, force his morality on others, deprive people of media he doesn’t approve of, and would deprive him of the bully rush he gets.

  4. 0
    Coravin ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Good, parents can use all the resources they can get to educate them on products they must decide are apropriate for their children, or not. I laud another tool like this, and am quite certain GamerDad is happy to see it as well. One man can only do so much, and it’s never a good idea to have only one set of data on a matter with so much variety as videogames.

    Unfortunately, it is a valid point that the parents who most need such tools–those too busy, lazy, incompetent, or clueless to even gain a basic understanding of what their children do and want–will never see it because they lack the resources or the interest to do even the tiny bit of research it would take to find this information on the Internet.

    However, I find that in general, such parents won’t be reached by or pay attention to any other form of knowledge dispersal, so things like public service announcements (such as what the ESRB seeks to provide through justice officials) will be more likely to be seen by them but not too much likely o be listened to or learned from.


    Jack doesn’t make such a resource site for several reasons, the foremost likely that he won’t make money or get his face up on TV by disseminating useful information rather than knee-jerk sensationalism. Not far behind are such simple things as not actually caring about children, being more famous the more people remain ignorant, and greatly preferring to point fingers and try to get others in trouble because that gives bullies a rush.

  5. 0
    Pierre-Olivier ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    I get what you’re saying. The issue about mature videogames being sold at children is mostly because of the parent’s ignorance. And sadly, ignorance is often the tool of activists. My mother was much more careful. Once, my friend allowed me to burrow Mortal Kombat 4 (I was 11 at the time). My parents were a little suspicious, so my father played the game before giving a “no” (I later played the game and found it boring and hollow). Since then, I refused to play another game “unsuitable” for me (yes, I checked the ratings for myself) until I was 15.

    And I never thought I’d see a person as delusional (or else, he just like to twist facts to adapt them to his vision of the world (like Gehn in Riven)) as Jack Thompson in a lifetime.

  6. 0
    Internet Hate Machine ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The best lines regarding education I think come from the movie ‘Thank You For Smoking’.

    “Gentleman. It’s called education. It doesn’t come off the side of a cigarette carton. It comes from our teachers, and more importantly, our parents. It is the job of every parent to warn their children of all the dangers of the world including cigarettes so that one day when they get older, they can choose for themselves.”

    Though I can’t seem to find it, my fav line is where the tobacco lobbyist asked the movie producer if he’s worried about smoking, and the producer says something to the effect of “The information is out there; if people want to find out about it they’ll go look for it themselves. It’s not my job to tell them what’s right or wrong, that would be morally presumcious of me.”

  7. 0
    HollywoodBob says:

    While I think that sites like this and GamerDad’s are great, the way I see it they’re pretty much only a minor help. Here’s why. I work in a small office, we have 7 employees, and I’m the only gamer and the only person without kids. None of the other people in the office know anything about the internet and even less about games, yet they all buy their kids any game the kid asks for. And I’m thinking this is the majority for most parents. How many of us have made a comment about games and been looked at like we just started talking in Swahili?

    While sites like this one well be helpful to net savvy parents who bother to look for help and want to be informed, the majority will never know more than what their kids tell them, or what the network news might mention if the game is controversial enough. Sadly, it’s not a lack of resources for information, I think they just don’t care. One of my coworkers has an 11yo son, she bought him Halo3, now while I don’t see much of a problem based on knowing her and the kid (he watches plenty of R rated movies as long as there’s no nudity, you crazy yanks) but she didn’t even have a clue about it’s rating until I told her that it was M, and that it really wasn’t a kids game. Her response seemed to echo what JT’s crusade implies, “Games are made for kids, aren’t they.” I told her that has never really been the case, and just a major misconception that all games are for kids. I told her that while Halo was pretty tame (I’m still not sure why it’s not T rated) but to be careful in the future. But she’s what I think is typical of a lot of parents out there. They think games are just for kids, and that all games are ok for kids.

    This is why I think the industry needs to sponsor public service announcements to run in prime time on the major broadcast stations, telling parents about the ratings system, and reinforcing the idea that they shouldn’t just buy any game that their munchkin asks for. Education is the key but just having it available to parents looking for it, isn’t going to suffice.

  8. 0
    Internet Hate Machine ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ theshroomguy

    Too right. I think it was in ‘Young Justice:Sins of Youth’ I first heard the notion that teens are screwed, because they often get treated like children despite having a lot of adult responsiblities.

  9. 0
    MonkeyPeaches ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The Industry does not control who the games are sold to, also when ever I buy a M-Rated game I am always asked for ID even though i’m 20.

  10. 0
    GryphonOsiris ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Ok, I have now concluded that Jack Thompson needs to get a refresher course in Kindergarten to Post-Graduate classes. His reading comprehension skills are worse than most of the people that graduated from my High School (a few asked in ‘Ivanhoe’ was about a pimp named Ivan and his ‘ladies’, ’nuff said).

    So let me spell this out for you Jack, and I shall use words with the least syllables in them for you.

    The site is for PARENTS to LEARN what is in the game BEFORE THEY BUY it for THEIR children.

    Pay particular attention to the words that are in all caps, there will be a test on their meaning later on. Now run along to recess and play tether-ball with all the other students, just be back after the bell rings. Next we will cover capitalization, and grammar…

  11. 0
    DarthCylon says:

    @Jack Thompson
    For the last time M-Rated games are not marketed to kids. I don’t see Halo 3 commercials on Cartoon Network or Nick. So get a life and worry about your own kid.

    P.S. How about you answer my question, check it out on the comments section about the Finland shooting story.

    P.S.S. Stop saying things about Dennis.

  12. 0
    S.W 92 says:

    I believe parents who also plays video games should develope websites like Gamerdad and What We Play . Because they know alot about video games,but still care about there kids mental health. People like John Davison,not some parent or GOP who never played a minute of todays video games.

  13. 0
    DavCube ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ JT

    “Glad to see that yet another person in the video game industry has figured out what I said eight years ago on 60 Minutes is accurate–that the industry should stop selling mature games to kids behind their parents’ backs. Hooah!”


    2. I never saw a ‘Take Two’ store anywhere in my local mall, did you? Then quit saying the industry is selling them.

  14. 0
    Picho, takin down teh combin ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @everyone who thinks he is gordon

    Yes, that is also what i first thought. A movie you should see is also 9th gate. Depp looks alot like gordon in that movie as well.


    Hey i got a great idea for you. Next time there is any new about that guy.. call him by his real name. 😀

  15. 0
    Andrew Eisen ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Two things I want to point out:

    1. The site has no way to search for AO games. Is this because What They Play has confidence in parents figuring out for themselves the juvenile suitability of a title rated “Adults Only” or because it would be pointless seeing as AO games pretty much can’t exist at retail?

    2. This part of its mission statement: “We won’t tell you what to think. We won’t make decisions for you. We believe the only true parental control in your home is you.” (emphasis What They Play’s)

    Andrew Eisen

  16. 0
    ApokalypseNow says:


    You’re misinterpreting the story, as usual, though we have yet to figure out if it is from malicious intent or mere stupidity. This is a guy basically making a review site for parents, with an emphasis on content. He isn’t advocating anything for retailers, he’s just going more in-depth than “M for Mature”. Further, the video game industry has nothing to do with who buys their games – that is a retailer issue.

  17. 0
    Mysticgamer ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Anyone else think the guy in the pic looks like Gordon Freeman from Half Life 2?

    Damn it, I was going to say that but you beat me to it.

  18. 0
    Socialist Gamer ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    So, this is basically just like Gamerdad?

    @Jack: The point isn’t that they’re selling them behind their parents backs, it’s that the parents, not knowing enough about what their kids are wanting, buy the mature games for them.

  19. 0
    deuxhero ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    If EGM can’t even provided an objective review on Oblivon, a game with massive glareing flaws (none of which there review even mentions), how can they be objective with this?

  20. 0
    The Ph03n1x says:

    @ Jack Thompson RE: “Glad to see that yet another person in the video game industry.. ” blah blah blah

    Look! Jack misinterpreted reality to suit his own agenda again!

  21. 0
    Erik ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Also as far as Mr. Davison’s website, I applaud anyone who attempts to educate parents on this matter. Though Gamerdad has been doing this for years now.

  22. 0

    […] Video Game Website for Parents: What They Play Posted on November 12, 2007 by Alex Taldren Game Politics pointed me to this, a video game website geared toward parents called What They Play.  The website was created by John Davison, a former editor of the video game magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM).  It is similar to most video game community websites but with one major difference, it isn’t for you (gamers).  […]

  23. 0
    Erik ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “Glad to see that yet another person in the video game industry has figured out what I said eight years ago on 60 Minutes is accurate–that the industry should stop selling mature games to kids behind their parents’ backs. Hooah!”

    Wrong as usual Jack. He said that parents need to be educated so they can make the decision about what games are proper for their homes. Never did he say that hack lawyers should make that decision for them.

  24. 0
    Gameboy says:

    @ somerguy

    I like the idea of GamerDad and What They Play linking to each other. Its a good idea and allows parents to find more resources and opinions faster.

    To be fair, maybe they should also link to a more critical site, too. I hate Common Sense Media, but compared to some other sites they are fair and balanced and might offer a good counter-point on occasion.

  25. 0
    Shoehorn O'Plenty ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @Jack Thompson:

    “Glad to see that yet another person in the video game industry has figured out what I said eight years ago on 60 Minutes is accurate–that the industry should stop selling mature games to kids behind their parents’ backs.”

    You are wrong as usual. This man has figured out, like the rest of us, that the issue lies with parents who don’t realise that video games are not all for kids and some are inappropriate. This man’s new site is to give parents the information they need so that they don’t buy the wrong games for their kids.

    Also, you are incorrect regarding the industry selling games behind parent’s backs. It is the the children who are buying the games or getting their hands on them by the other means behind their parent’s backs.

    Is it 8 years ago already? Wow, you’d think you would have learned since then… Try reading this new site, it might help you understand the real issues at hand, instead of viewing everything in light of your personal and petty vendetta against Take Two.

  26. 0
    Masterofpsi says:

    @ Mr. Thompson

    Instead of going on television, trolling boards, and flaming gamers across the internet, why didn’t YOU make a resource site for parents that explain the ESRB ratings?

  27. 0
    Shrike says:

    In the world of Jack Thompson, every child in America is at risk of being tied down and forced to play Manhunt 2 by roving bands of R* games developers.

    This site, on the other hand, seeks to inform parents that buying violent games for their children is a bad idea, even if they whine and cry.

    Also, Jack… ever think that you’re making the problem worse by drawing less-than-ethical parents to the notion that they could buy games for “Lil’ Billy” that will make him go crazy, then sue the companies for profit?

    In America, land of child stars and high-pressure youth sports, you can’t discount that there would be parents who listen to you and make the wrong choices because of it.

  28. 0
    Pierre-Olivier ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Ah, Jackie, Jackie Jackie… You either make my blood boil, or give me a good laugh.

    Try washing your glasses or wearing contacts BEFORE you read the website.

    No matter how many times we tell you, you still don’t get it. You’re hopeless.

    P.S. Sorry if this sounds insulting, but I was in a particularly bad mood right now

    And that’s a neat idea. I should introduce that website to my family (at least, those who understand english).

  29. 0
    Paul ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Wow Jack, way to show off your inferiority complex…”Somebody (meaning everybody) thinks that violent video games should not be sold by kids, therefore….it’s all because of ME! I’M PERFECT! I’M GOD! YESSS! HOOAH!”
    On a more serious note, this guy’s agenda is nothing like yours. He seeks to educate parents so they won’t go out and buy their kids M- rated games, where as you want to tell parents “it’s not your fault at all, it’s those filthy game developers. They forced you to go to give your child $60 and not check what he’s spending it on!”

  30. 0
    somerguy says:

    @E. Zachary

    Nah I truely doubt it would be competition. A parent looking to get informed would most likely read both and then weigh the pro’s and cons. I think it would be great if both sites linked to each other with something like a “Would you like a second opinion?”. Though of course the number of parents looking to get informed is the true problem here…

  31. 0
    Thomas P. ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This is a great idea, I’m all for sites providing detailed content analysis for parents provided they don’t use it as a watch dog group or call for the industry’s heads when they find objectionable content. Most importantly, a website should use facts of the game, and the game in its unaltered form, to make these judgements.

    They should provide the ESRB rating, and then augment it with what they observed in the game, or say they don’t agree with the rating and back it up with facts. Most watchdogs like Common Sense Media will just say “well its uber violet and should be an AO” doesn’t cut it. Cite specific evidence from the retail, unmodified version of the game (no PSP Manhunt hacks) and give your reasoning behind that.

    Obviously there are games not designed for children, but they have to get an M rating in order to get published. Not to beat a dead horse, but if the big 3 allowed AO games and stores offered to sell them (even under the counter, and only with proof of age which is 18+) that would make sure that games that truely deserve an AO get it, and the industry and manufacturers support and enforce that rating.

  32. 0
    arowe87 says:

    @jack thompson

    When have you ever said parents are ill-informed. Oh wait, your talking about the statement he never made, that the industry is purposely selling games to minors.

    He started the site to inform parents, the ones that are too lazy to research games before they let their kids play them. You know, what gamers have been saying for the past 10 years.

  33. 0
    kurisu7885 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @jack thompson, attorney

    Adding to my above comment, what this is is a man who recognizes a problem and is adding yet another resource onto a pile of resources that parents as a whole have no excuse, ABSOLUTELY no excuse to not make use of.

    This is proving willful ignorance over the sleazy practices you accuse the industry of, even though the gaming industry itself has nothing to do with actual sale. Hell, John Carmack[I hope I spelled that right} wasn’t on hand to sell me my copy of Doom 3.

  34. 0
    kurisu7885 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @jack thompson, attorney

    That’s not an industry problem, that’s a retail problem. The gaming industry just makes the game, what happens to the software after it leaves the distribution center has nothing to do with the developers themselves.

  35. 0
    John Simpson says:

    Sorry for the double post…

    @ everyone

    Well, it turns out I was right. Jack Thompson is still alive and that he didn’t give up. Jack Thompson did his stupid stunt, again.

  36. 0
    John Simpson says:

    @ Gameboy

    The reason why Jack Thompson has not made any comments, is because he wants us to think that he is either dead or he gave up. If Jack gave up, there would have been more information about it. If Jack was dead, there would have more information about it. He tried this same stunt, months ago, but it turned out that he was alive and that he did not give up. I won’t fall for his stupid stunt, again, unless there is evidence, that he either gave up or he died.

  37. 0
    kurisu7885 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Well, I’m looking at it this way ,there’s one more resource parents have no excuse not to use, thus further proving willful ignorance over slimey sales tactics.

  38. 0
    video game time ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ The Discombobulator

    I mentioned about his son not having an M rated game sold to him by which that is on the content topic.

    So many people have posted about situations that had nothing to do with the topic.

    You do not need to mess with me, so back off me.

  39. 0

    I’ve been waiting anxiously to see John’s new project, and was immediately interested to see how it would turn out when I first found out what it was going to be. It’s a much needed service, honestly – and as people who grew up with games turn into parents, it’s simply great that they’ll have some way to check out games before letting their kids loose on them, so to speak. The ESRB, while a necessary and functioning(?) program, simply does not provide the insight that I think Davison’s company aims to. Great job, and good luck to him.

  40. 0
    Gameboy says:

    Hey, this can’t hurt. One can never have too much accurate information. You never hear someone complain that they know too much about something to make an informed decision. He’s a former video game magazine editor, so I doubt he’ll attempt to ban any games.

    @ video game time & Luigi

    No need to bring him up. He’s not made any comments and this story is unrelated to it.

  41. 0
    The Discombobulator says:

    Its very certainly a step in the right direction. Not just for parents either, its christmas round the corner and the grand folks need help to find the right game too!

  42. 0
    jack thompson, attorney ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Glad to see that yet another person in the video game industry has figured out what I said eight years ago on 60 Minutes is accurate–that the industry should stop selling mature games to kids behind their parents’ backs. Hooah!

  43. 0
    MaskedPixelante ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    we’ve got a week before Mass Effect comes out and the poopie hits the proverbial fan (I listen to VCPR A LOT). While it’s pretty cool that a game has a well blocked, but for the most part uncensored, (I didn’t see anything covering up the alien’s naughty parts but shadows) lesbian sex scene (that’s an oxymoron if ever I’ve seen one), we ALL know SOMEONE’S gonna find that offensive. Not a man though, men’s brains are somewhat powered down by the concept of lesbians, I’m no exception.

  44. 0
    nightwng2000 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    As has already been said, GamerDad already does this very well.

    Still, every little bit helps. Eventually, people will find their preferred site.

    I’m still waiting for an overall media version (TV, Movies, books, music, as well as video games). And I mean an intelligent version like GamerDad’s or the one proposed here. Not the “morally superior ‘do it our way or you’re bad Parents'” of the PTC and the Organizaed Crime organization, the CSM.

    NW2K Software

  45. 0
    Garret says:

    @ Shoehorn

    while it is true that the ESRB already does it, they don’t really explain the context of the content, at least not in the way a paragraph of information could.

    for example, Halo 3 has the content descriptor “Blood and Gore”
    what it doesn’t explain, is that 98% of it is blue and green alien blood.

  46. 0
    Shoehorn O'Plenty ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “tell them the facts so they can make the call.”

    That’s what the ESRB already does… /facepalm

    Still, I suppose it may be easier for a parent to take information from another parent and accept it more readily than the labels on the box. Anything that helps to get the message across that not every game is appropriate for your kids and helps clueless parents figure out which is good.

    Fear and misinformation = fail. Education and information = win.

  47. 0
    video game time ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Jack Thompson has not been on this site over the weekend, I think that he will bring us new information on the school shooting in finland that happened a few days ago.

    Of course the new information would be that video games caused the killings.

    In Jack Thompson’s opinion.

  48. 0
    Luigi ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ Colonel Finn: True, but at least it’s another attempt to keep a line between us and the game-hating community. But how long do you think it will take for them to cross it?

    @ Jack Thompson: Get a haircut.

  49. 0
    Colonel Finn says:

    This is a good idea, although I rather thought GamerDad was already doing this.
    As long as it doesn’t become preachy, we don’t need another capalert.

  50. 0
    video game time ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ Jack Thompson

    It looks like no store would sell Manhunt 2 to your son yet.

    Now you will not be able to use that as an excuse to violate my amendment right to play a game like Manhunt 2 if I want.

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