During a playtest of Corporate America a few months ago (immortalized in the beautiful presidential portrait over there), one player suggested bringing the game to play with some students she mentors. She thought they might learn a thing or two from the game. After discussing it for a bit, some players became very opposed to the idea… Corporate America might scar their fragile little minds.
Corporate America does address some serious issues, and is full of innuendo and jokes. It was designed for adults to enjoy. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not alright for kids, though.
Since the Kickstarter is live and more people with kids will be looking at the game, I thought I’d take a little time to address this issue myself.
I may not have kids, but I grew up in a pretty large family with lots of young cousins running around. In another life, I also worked with middle school students, teaching them to program by helping them make games.
If these credentials don’t do it for you, I encourage you to read Cyrus Kirby’s thoughtful review of the game. He IS a father, and addresses many of these issues as well (and perhaps not surprisingly, comes down a little more anti-Corporate America-for-kids than I do).
Before I get into details, let me just tell you my final verdict: the game is solidly PG-13. If you’d be ok with your child seeing a PG-13 movie, Corporate America is probably appropriate for them.
What Could Go Wrong?
There are a number of places where parents might be concerned for their kids when it comes to Corporate America. Let’s go through them one by one.
First up, there’s the concern that the game will turn their kids into heartless business tycoons. (This is what I would be worried about if I was a parent.) Kids probably won’t quite get all of the satire, and might get wrapped up in the fun of wielding all of the power behind a corporation! But… this sounds an awful lot like parents being afraid their kids will start to worship demons after playing Dungeons and Dragons. I think most kids have a good enough grasp on reality that the game won’t change their underlying personalities TOO much.
Next up are what I’ll call the “political zings”. The game is political satire to its core, and there are lots of little jabs at various political ideologies. Take the card Trickle Down Economics, for example. In Corporate America, Trickle Down Economics makes luxury businesses make more money. And that’s all it does. That’s one interpretation of how the trickle down economics theory works in practice, and maybe you disagree with that interpretation, and maybe you don’t want to expose your kids to ideas you don’t agree with. If that’s the case, I don’t think there’s much I can say; Corporate America probably isn’t for your family. But one thing to keep in mind is that these political zings target all sorts of different ideologies, so at least your preferred beliefs aren’t the only ones?
Next we get into innuendos. The main culprits here are businesses, which often have names that can be a little questionable, such as Microhard and Big Journey SUVs. The good news is that most kids probably won’t get them. The bad news is that when you and your kids (or you and your parents) play together, things might get awkward when you both think a joke is funny but don’t want to admit it to the other generation. If you anticipate that being a problem, Corporate America might not be perfect for your family.
Almost there… next comes naughty words. There actually aren’t any in Corporate America. That was easy! That said, there are a couple of businesses that have names that sound naughty, namely, Crapple and Schitibank. This is probably the exact argument your kids will give you when they try to explain why it’s ok for them to say the names of these businesses. I don’t really have much to say about this… there are two naughty words in the game. I figure that if PG-13 movies can get away with using the f-word once or twice, I can get away with this, but I’ll leave that up to you.
And finally, we get to everyone’s favorite business type: sin! Perhaps your kids leading finance businesses that exploit manual labor and transportation businesses that pollute isn’t a problem for you, but maybe you don’t like the idea of them running a Porn Emporium. I won’t argue about that. But just so you can make an informed decision, all of the sin businesses are there to the right.
Before leaving the topic of sin, I just wanted to say there was no chance the industry wasn’t making it in the game. It’s easily one of the most popular types of business with some of the funniest cards. It also offers some interesting strategy: sin businesses get just a little better returns than most other businesses, making them tempting… but they’re also the most vulnerable to government intervention. Going sin can be a really strong strategy, as long as you think you can keep the government in check.
Alright, there you have it: the problems you might have with Corporate America as a family game. All in all, I think they’re pretty tame, but you be the judge. If anyone else can think of something I missed, feel free to post to the comments.
You didn’t think I’d only talk about the negative effects, did you? Just like the player who thought her mentorees would benefit from trying Corporate America, I like to think playing the game can actually teach players things. As I’ve discussed before, I strongly believe that games can be as deep and thought provoking as any great pieces of art. While I don’t claim that Corporate America is a great piece of art, it’s certainly something I aspire to.
So, what can Corporate America do to improve your children’s minds? Well, first off, it features a good amount of math. You’ll be adding and subtracting like crazy. While not required to enjoy the game, thinking about probabilities can greatly improve your chances of winning. It also teaches perhaps the ultimate math lesson: the value of a dollar (and how it can change based on circumstances).
Corporate America is also a very social game, encouraging lots of negotiating and fragile alliances. These sorts of experiences can help kids learn about how to think about other people: are they bluffing? Why would this person want me to do this? Is there a way I can try to get these two opponents to not notice what I’m trying to do? True, kids may try to use some of these types of skills ON their parents, but learning to sympathize with other people is something many kids can struggle with. Games like Corporate America can really help introduce them to that way of thinking.
Finally, Corporate America is a really engaging experience, and happens to be about something many parents might want their kids engaged in: the political process and social justice. You can think of Corporate America like a really big, engaging political cartoon, which will get kids thinking and interacting with issues they may not otherwise be aware of. I kind of hope Corporate America has this affect on adults that play it as well, actually.
Think of the %@#! Children!
In conclusion, not only do I think you shouldn’t worry about your kids playing Corporate America, you should support it on Kickstarter to ensure that they one day get exposed to its many benefits. (Why do I feel like Socrates all of the sudden?)
In all seriousness, if you think your kids can handle a PG-13 movie, Corporate America should be fine for them. If you have a different opinion or have further questions, I encourage you to ask away in the comments below!
Oh yeah, and don’t forget that, like the rules say, children make excellent Supreme Court justices.