I was doing research for an app to write about when an ad came up. The ad was for a game called Episode and it featured cartoon animated teen girls in situations that would only come from some mid-day television show. For example there was one girl deciding whether or not to perform CPR on her shirtless and handsome male companion. He winks at the “camera” and she thinks he may be faking so the player gets to chose her next move. “Perform CPR” or “Kiss him to find out.” This scenario is one of thousand available on these games that are developed by a company called Episode Interactive.
Their apps are all interactive story games that put the player in control of the choices of the main characters. Each app features thousands of stories to play out. The scenarios feature romance, mystery, comedy, family, and a bunch more. The situations that the character is placed in during the stories can often be very adult oriented. Decisions whether or not to have sex. A choice to run away from a potential mugger or try to attack them back. There are some very dramatic and grown up themes in these games. A look at the description will tell you that the games are rated for ages twelve and over for various reasons including, sexual themes, drugs and alcohol, violence, and nudity.
These games are a choose your own adventure of sorts for the new generations. They target young tweens with the glam of what it’s like to be a teenager or what High School life is like. It’s all obviously very fictitious but our kids buy these messages hook, line, and sinker. Think of apps like this as romance novels that are targeting your ten to twelve year old daughter. I say it’s targeting tweens because the app I was reviewing when I saw the ad for Episode was one that is obviously mostly populated with young girls. Your daughters will believe a message about who they are and what gives them value. Apps like this are speaking to a certain version of that message. We as parents must play defence against the wrong message to successfully teach the correct message.
What Parents Can Do
My advice is to make sure your child is far older than the recommended age for these games before you let them play. They are obviously meant to mimic the soap operas of our parent’s days and they feature exactly the same types of themes. The maturity of your child is best understood by you, their parent. It is usually not a good idea to take the age recommendation of an app, game, or other form of entertainment as the law and gospel. You have to use your own judgement. Unfortunately for some kids these themes are mild compared to things they’ve dealt with in real life. But for many of our ten, eleven, and twelve year olds, these games can introduce topics that they may not be mature enough yet to navigate. That’s why it’s so important for you as a parent to step in and see what they’re doing on their phone or tablet.
Apps like Episode are easy to spot because they don’t hide their themes in the ads on the app store. It’s pretty obvious what they feature in your game. My advice is to use something like Google Play’s parental settings, or Apple’s Family Sharing to ensure you’re seeing every app being installed by your kids. If you see something that looks like it could be a choose your own adventure style of soap opera game then think seriously about the potential questions your child will be asked while they play it.