Along the way he'll casually say things like "and then I killed the turtle" or "then I died". Older folks playing games will use these words (kill and die) all the time when playing games, even describing the end of a game of Tetris as dying. But my wife has brought it to my attention that it is a little alarming to hear our five-year-old son saying these words, and moreover that he's acting out things that he associates with killing or dying.
My son doesn't buy my alternate explanation: that Mario is actually just knocking creatures off the screen and that they don't actually die. He insists that at least some of the creatures die "because they don't come back".
I'd never really thought it important enough to really think it through, but I don't really know that there is a way to convince him otherwise. I don't think it's damaging, although I understand that the use of the words sounds alarming. Does it even matter?
No. It's a convenient 1 syllable word to say he's eliminated the enemies on the current level. It's not a precursor to a life obsessed with killing small animals and graduating to wearing a woman's skin as a mask. What the hell happened when playing "Cowboys and Indians" or "Cops and Robbers"? You died. You got up and played again. It didn't lead to gun-toting mass murderers. (Though some would like you to believe that's a cause.)
Saying "Mario died" or "I died" is the same as saying you've got 3 lives to get to the next level. It's not even the same tone as "Aunt Martha died."
It's just a game. The kid's having fun, so why spoil it with weighty discussions about death? He's 5.
Heaven forbid he wander outside and discover a trail of ants. ;^)
The last thirty years really has seen a metamorphoses with respect to exposing kids to causal death though, hasn't it? And then WHAM, they find fps's. I wonder where kids commonly get exposed to casual death between the v-chip and Doom if it's not something Mario like?
What did you tell him when he watched Bambi (or something similar)?
I'm a mother of three boys, and I agree with the other commenters. So long as he using "kill" and "die" in conjunction with playing the game, no worries.
Kids (indeed, all human beings) can deal with an idea as an abstraction without dealing with its deeper implications. This is helped by the cartoonishness of Mario and his world.
When Elmer Fudd blows off Daffy Duck's bill, it's not "real," is it? It is the same with Mario.
Kids have trafficked in this kind of thing since long before video games. Old nursery rhymes are now infamous for being fairly grim, classic children's literature often takes the form of adventure tales in which some characters (usually bad guys) meet a terrible end, and of course there's movies.
A warning: I suggest not letting your wife watch the kid play New Super Mario Bros. While it turns out okay by the end, Bowser actually appears to meet a grizzly end at the end of the first castle, when Mario dumps him in the lava. It's a rather shocking scene.
"Kids have trafficked in this kind of thing since long before video games. Old nursery rhymes are now infamous for being fairly grim..."
Yep, but what was the mortality rate for kids and infants then? I'd argue there really has been a sea change in the last generation/generation and a half when it comes to treatments of death, in part because of increased age expectancies as well as the continued rise of the individual. /shrug