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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that MatPat's Game Lab is a show on which YouTube gamers try to perform stunts from popular computer games in real life. Parents' primary concern may be safety: Players wear safety gear at times (but not always!), and host MatPat doesn't emphasize that players shouldn't try these moves at home. Some of the stunts could be dangerous, such as walking across a narrow ledge above concrete steps or riding ostriches. Some games featured also have violent and/or horror elements: scary animatronic animals, sword fights, and other fantasy battles. A different game is featured on each episode, with the game's name, logo, and publisher and clips from gameplay shown. Cursing includes "goddamn," "dammit," and some questionable language ("jeez," "that sucked"). The show takes pains to feature female gamers and gamers of color on each episode; they cheer each other on politely; and MatPat ends each show with conclusions about the reality (or lack thereof) of each game, valuable media-literacy lessons for both players and watchers.
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What's the story?
YouTuber MatPat (Matthew Patrick) made a name for himself by analyzing computer games using actual math and science; on his YouTube Red show MATPAT'S GAME LAB, he makes the jump into the real world. On each episode, MatPat chooses a different computer game and invites a team of three well-known YouTube gamers to visit an expert on that game's focus: bombs, escaping otherworldly monsters, parkour, and so on. The gamers practice stunts modeled on the game, then are given challenges to accomplish, each illustrated by 3D CGI demos. Each player's attempt is scored, an episode winner receives his or her high-fives, and MatPat takes a moment to evaluate how realistic each game is -- and whether that really matters.
Is it any good?
Even if you don't have your own personal joystick, this MythBusters for the computer-gaming world is a gas -- and sneaks science and media-literacy lessons in, too. Matthew Patrick and his gaming friends are clearly having a great time as they vault over blocks, swing swords, and defuse bombs, and it's infectious, not to mention interesting. Can you really leap between two buildings with a single bound? Wriggle through an air vent? Conduct battles from the back of an ostrich? With help from experts in explosives, parkour, and many other game-friendly disciplines, MatPat and company gamely give it a shot.
But MatPat's Game Lab rises above Jackass-style stunt-pranks by taking time to analyze two crucial questions: How do the games stack up to reality? And are the gamers as good in real life as they are when they have a controller in their hands? By giving viewers a little to chew on, Patrick proves to be a savvy commentator who makes you feel smarter by watching.
Talk to your kids about ...
MatPat and his gamer guests sometimes perform stunts that could hurt them. Does that make you nervous? Does the show go far enough to warn viewers not to try the stunts at home? Does that warning even work?
At the end of each episode, MatPat sums up what was learned by trying out a game in real life. Does that enhance your appreciation of playing or detract from it? Do you have to have played a game to enjoy seeing it deconstructed? Should games be realistic, or is it OK with you if it veers toward the fantastic or unrealistic?
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