The Fallout of parenting

“Fallout 4 made me think about morality. In the game you can do evil things at will, and see the consequences in a virtual environment where nobody actually gets hurt, because it’s all pretend. Moral education is one of the best assets of video games.”
– Leonor Gomes


I’m a gamer. Contrary to common misconceptions, gaming is not mindless entertainment. Gaming is one of the most hardcore problem solving activities. I’ll make it easy for you. Do you know the game Myst? It’s a first-person puzzle adventure. Google it. Or ask ChatGPT. But all games involve problem solving, even if they don’t have obvious puzzles in them.

One thing I committed to as a parent was never to hide from my child the things I like. When my son was a baby I used to breastfeed him while playing my favourite games. He loved to watch. I also got games for him to play, such as keyboard bangers. He learnt to use a mouse before he learnt to walk.

Parents worry about ‘violent’ games. What their game-playing children know, even if they, the parents don’t, is that it’s all pretend, and except for psycho killers nobody uses them to train to be violent in real life. If you have concerns, you can talk with your child about it. But hesitate before having such a discussion: you might pass on to them your irrational fears.

Games allow the player to escape reality (this is not a bad thing) and to do things they could never do in real life. I remember when Tomb Raider came out, I was 20. The character at the time was a rebellious adventurer whose parents disowned her. She lived alone in a gorgeous mansion and went out on adventures with her dual pistols as her only safety, and her acrobatic proficiency as her means of exploration.

To be able to see a female character in action, to play someone I was not, gave me strength and vision for the possibilities of what I could be. Not a violent person shooting everything in my way, but a brave, independent person. It was also healthy escapism from a reality when I didn’t have much control over my life yet.

What about those games with graphic violence? Or games that allow the player to be evil?

Roleplaying. Again, it’s all playing pretend. Older generations did it by playing cowboys and indians, and cops and robbers, which were far worse as kids could actually get hurt. My dad often recalls to me how he lost vision in his left eye because of a war between streets, where they were throwing stones at one another. In video games, you can’t get really hurt. Yes, not even psychologically. Screens don’t damage the brain. Playing games actually help the brain recover after head injury. Neuropsychologists and neurosurgeons urge brain-injured patients to play a number of different video games including BrainHQ, to promote recovery of mental function. Here is another pro-video-games article on this site—by a neurosurgeon.

One of my favourite games, Fallout 4, has extreme graphic violence—the violence is part of the dark humour of the game. Such violence is extremely satisfying to watch, when you explode some enemy’s head who almost killed you. In a game I enjoy this. I don’t like violence in real life or to see people get hurt. I even change channels when there’s news of war.

When Fallout 4 starts, after the fantastic intro, there is a little hand holding from the devs (that is, game developers), so we learn the ropes on how to move around, fight, etc. The problem solving starts there. How do I move? How do I interact with the world? What’s that thing over there for? How do I hack this computer? How do I fight enemies? And in survival mode it’s literally, how do I keep my character from dying of thirst? Where do I find a bed to sleep? Do I have enough junk to build one? As the game goes on we are faced with a story we have to unravel. Different enemies will attack us and we have to think what is the best approach to take them down and what type of weapon and combat is more effective.

Are you now convinced games are problem solving? Well, and what is problem solving? Learning. Life! Video games are educational! And if being educational by themselves isn’t enough, there is an added bonus. Games inspire people to learn other things.

Tomb Raider hints at ancient civilisations, although presented in fantastic ways, which can inspire kids to learn more about them. People might become inspired to learn acrobatics by playing Lara Croft. They might cosplay. They might socialise with other fans. They might learn to mod the game, to make new levels for it. (“To mod the game” is when people make changes or additions to a game. Some are serious, to improve graphics and gameplay, and to add more quests, and others can be quite silly, for laughs. A famous mod (modification) for the game Skyrim was The Forgotten City, which was so popular it got remade as a standalone game.)

Do you know I have a big gap in history knowledge because of having to learn history at school? There is nothing more effective at creating an aversion to a subject than being compelled to endure unwanted lessons on it.

Ultraviolent game Fallout 4 is a game world set in the time after WWIII. A world that aesthetically looks like how people in the 50’s imagined the future. The game has music from the 50’s too, which opened my mind to older music. The game has real historical references, which made me curious to learn more about them. Being about war, it made me think about war in real life. I think I have a better grip on history than before and no longer hate it.

And most importantly, Fallout 4 made me think about morality. In the game you can do good things and evil things at will, and see the consequences in a virtual environment where nobody actually gets hurt, because it’s all pretend. Moral education is one of the best assets of video games. (But don’t ruin that possibility by turning game-playing sessions into ‘teaching opportunities’ in which you steer the conversation along your own preferred ‘educational’ lines.)

Don’t expect games to lead to other interests (let alone hope that they will): such an expectation or hope would be coercive. It would be exerting subtle or not-so-subtle psychological pressure on the kids to follow your agenda. Remember that video games are truly educational in themselves.

Not only are games super educational, they are work. You probably know at this point that there are many people living from gaming—streamers, who broadcast their gameplay live, usually with a camera showing their reactions while they play. They often also interact with the viewers. Imagine if your kid became a video game live-streamer! Making income of their own!

There is so much more to say about how valuable video games are in so many ways, not least educationally. If you are a parent and you still have concerns after reading this, I am happy to answer your questions in the comments below.

See also:

Leonor Gomes, 2024, ‘The Fallout of parenting’,

2 thoughts on “The Fallout of parenting”

  1. Great article, Leonor. I’m inspired to buy my toddler a gaming console now, although I’ve never been much of a gamer myself and so I’m largely ignorant of which would be best and what games I might introduce him to. Any recommendations? Thanks, comrade. 😉

  2. Maybe the Nintendo Switch? I’ve always been mostly a PC gamer. I had a portable Game Gear (Sega’s version of gameboy and the first colour one), a Playstation when it first came out, and a Playstation 4, which I got only to play Detroit Become Human, because my PC at the time didn’t run it.


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