The Games We Play: In the Family Way

Brandann Hill-Mann
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I have a secret for all of you: I like to play video games. A wide variety of them, and some way more than others, but generally, I like a variety.

I also am a parent, one of those sad, swooning, gushing ones who people are afraid of, who probably thinks her kid is cooler than most other people do. This may or may not be true, and may or may not be a result of several years of single parenting with the aid of other like-minded adults, most of whom were also gamers.

Most people I know never imagined that those two parts of my life could fit together, but gaming has always been a big part of my life. I love few things better than a nice, friendly, competitive night of frivolity among friends and family, be it cards, or a game of Taboo that rose to shouting. Where I’m from in the Midwest, getting together for meals and a night of games is pretty routine.

It probably goes without saying that I find gaming, in its many forms, to be a positive experience, one that can be enjoyed by single people of any age, by couples, and by families with children. My dive back into dedicated gaming was a result of my being bored while my partner was raiding or PVP-ing (playing a MMORPG player versus player), and soon we enjoyed running through Azeroth together. We now have a nice collection of games that can be enjoyed by more than two people, and which we like to play with friends and our kid in social settings.

In my mind, gaming has become akin to what the family board game night was when I was younger, for people who grew up with families who made or had time to do those things. You gather together, choose a game, and laugh and chat during that precious time together. It’s not uncommon for us to toss together a pencil and paper D&D game, giving our daughter a character of her own design to play, gently guiding her through the rules. She also enjoys taking us each on, one at a time, in Wii boxing (sadly, she is the house champ), and several of us were even thrilled when we had time to oversee her through World of Warcraft to ensure she was safe while online.

During my chat with Ashley Soriano we talked a little bit about how most people don’t think of the average gamer as a family-friendly person. Many don’t think of gamers hanging out with loved ones clearing columns in Tetris as part of a mother-daughter afternoon, or pwning n00bs together as a couple. This, however, is how things are in our family, and other families that we know.

The ESA says that 64% of parents see gaming as a positive experience for their children. I think that if we, as gamers, continue to demand better games of the industry, we may see the stigma of how video games are harmful for children washed away. It would be awfully nice if video games were not blamed for every horrible act, then Jack Thompson could stop calling games “murder simulators” and go back to being irrelevant.

Even though they’re responsible for the destruction of gaming and all that is apparently sacred, the industry has been pretty good to those of us social gamers or gamer parents. We now have dancing games for grownups and kids alike, multiplayer games of almost any flavor, educational games, games to help us exercise (if those don’t yell at us), and even board games converted to console. The video or electronic game can and has moved up to a place that can really bring people together in more situations. Fewer people are finding this odd, and that makes me kind of giddy.

It is certainly another reason why I think that it is important to keep critiquing games. I want games to be better, but not just for me. I want them to be better because I want my kid to keep enjoying them. I want them to be something that more families enjoy in social settings. I want gamers to stop living under the stereotype that we are ruining our lives or isolating ourselves by indulging in a hobby.

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2 Comments Have Been Posted

Video Games/Board Games

Interesting that you mention board games, because in our family while we like video games and have multiple consoles, we enjoy board games much, much more. My husband collects board games (we have over 1,000 in our house at any time) and we play a good number of them in rotation. We do have some "standard", buy-at-Target-sorts of games, but most my husband imports from Germany which has a healthy board game industry. The main advantage of playing board games together is that we are able to actually look at each other and interact face-to-face instead of looking at some sort of screen and getting peripheral glances at each other. We also get together with a variety of friends once a month for board game night and my husband gets together with fellow "gamers" once a week to play board games. Don't get me wrong - I love video games, too. My brother and I spent hours as kids playing our Atari 2600 and my son still cherishes the time he and I spent trying to get through all of the levels of "The Simpsons: Hit and Run" years ago. The ability of the web to bring people from all over together to play games online (I love playing Scrabble on Facebook!) is also wonderful, but there's something to be said about spending time together as a family playing a board game.

I think I may have been one

I think I may have been one of the first people to grow up with a PC-gaming parent (my mother). She was probably also one of the first people to be 'into' computers as an at-home hobby thing, as well as one of those not-quite-internet-yet people. (Keeping in mind that our country was slightly behind others with this stuff). I know we were the only ones among all of our family and friends to have a computer in the house. (Then again, most people I know didn't have computers at home until years and years after the internet was already around, even late in the '90s). Most people, if they did any videogaming at all (not many), had a console. We did have an atari too, but it was pretty much tossed aside when we discovered the 'deluxe' versions of adventure games on the PC (with full sound and more colours). That was when I was 8 or so. I remember playing hangman on our PC even before that, at age 4 or 5, and not getting it (I thought I was supposed to complete the little man and for some reason you had to guess the right keys to press).

We used to game 'together' a lot: watching each other play (me not so much: I annoy people when I watch :P), thinking and talking about puzzles or hard sequences and working them out together. I'd sit and translate for my brother so he could game. We experienced many good adventure games together. My brothers would do any sequences that are too demanding for my coordination for me. Whenever I'm back home we still do this: we usually play many of the same games at about the same time, and we talk about progress, different options for the story, etc.

We're not much into social games or boardgames. MMOs, though. I find chats and MMOs a good way to make socialising more desirable and palatable for people (me and family) who are very much loners in most aspects. I've been a much more social person since my mom introduced me to the internet at age 10 (I remember how empty it was, compared to now. Also no pron filters on search engines :D). She made me an email account and everything.

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