A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Surviving High School touches upon some realistic aspects of teen life--dating (and the physicality associated with dating), cutting class, fighting with bullies -- that may give certain parents pause. One possible scenario has a boy snuggling with a girl all night long. Whether or not such behavior occurs in the story depends upon the player's choices. Understand, though, that nothing graphic is ever shown on screen, and pretty much all behavior in the game has its own consequences. In fact, the game can be looked at as a lesson in the importance of making good choices. This game is only available on the Nintendo DSi as a download.
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What's it about?
The main storyline of SURVIVING HIGH SCHOOL follows a new student at Centerscore High in his attempts to make friends, find dates, keep up his GPA, make the football team, and maybe even become Homecoming King. Exactly where the story goes is up to the player who is constantly asked to make choices based on the situations he finds himself in. As the story progresses, the player will have to take real quizzes for schoolwork, as well as play word games to advance past situations as varied as dancing in a mosh pit to finding a missing lizard. Football games are played through a fast-tapping reflex game, so even people who know nothing about real football can succeed. Once the main storyline is finished, you can play through eight bonus episodes that center around supporting characters from the main story. Some of these have slightly less realistic plots and put teens in situations like dealing with a mafioso thug or searching the basement of the Globe Theater for a lost Shakespeare play.
Is it any good?
Surviving High School is basically a playable teen soap opera, but that description doesn't give it enough credit. The characters are incredibly well-drawn (and not just visually), the dialogue can be very funny, and the plot can even be surprisingly touching in parts. Teens will definitely be engaged--and probably unwilling to put the game down between episodes. The inclusion of very real educational material is surprising, but laudable. And the tap-style football games (quickly tap the highest yardage numbers as they appear) makes the game palatable for non-jock types (who are probably a big part of the audience). Although the protagonist is a male by default, girls will probably also be interested in playing--and several of the bonus episodes have female protagonists. The game flirts with some ethically challenging scenarios, but that only makes it more appealing and, frankly, more relevant. Teens who are into the interactive story format should absolutely love Surviving High School.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about dating. What is an appropriate first date? Is it okay to kiss someone one the first date? In one possible scene, the protagonist spends the night with a girl he's been dating for a few months. Is that acceptable? Or inappropriate?
Parents can also discuss how much tolerance or acceptance of differences there is at their children's school. In the game, there are several characters who are initially judged incorrectly. Assumptions are made about people based on their appearances or a single comment or action. But those assumptions can be proven wrong. How can such pre-judgments hurt people? What can you do to be more open with people who may be different from you?
Parents can ask their children about the choices they made in the game. Are they the choices they would make in real life? Do they try to put themselves into the situation and answer questions realistically? Or do they prefer to live cathartically through the game and make choices they would never make in real life? Is it fun to try both?
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