Why your family should be playing video games together — and how to get started.
Let’s talk about video games! As parents, we tend to eye them suspiciously, ever mindful of possible pitfalls we need to protect our offspring from. But the good news is: play of all kinds is crucial part of child development. Structured games in particular can teach rules, logic, strategy, teamwork, how to be a good loser (and winner), and countless other important life lessons and skills.
Video games can be an important parenting tool, providing a wide variety of challenges and learning prospects in a safe, supportive environment. Playing video games together as a family can also be a very rewarding experience that builds bonds and makes great memories. But with so many different games out there — and some of them potentially dangerous — non-gamers can feel intimidated.
In this article, I’ll try to make sense of all this for you! I’ve broken down the best video game options into five categories, and provided my top picks from easiest to most challenging. FYI: this article is a summary of a longer piece on my blog at AdventuringPortal.com. Please check it out for more information.
GAMING 101: Getting Started
- Platform gaming
These games provide huge worlds to explore with vibrant colors, music and interesting stories. These games include Mario Brothers, Crash Bandicoot, Sly Cooper, and any of the Lego games. Platform gaming should last through the early years.
- Real-time strategy (RTS)
These are too difficult for children on their own, but by playing together you can show your kids that their decisions matter. You also introduce a time clock in these games, adding a layer of complexity and urgency to decision-making. Games like Civilization and SIMS are great examples of RTS games because they are real “sit on the lap & play together” type of games. Pro tip: If you have never played Rise of Nations, do it ASAP! So simple and uncomplicated, and yet such an elegant war game.
- Role-playing games (RPG)
Once your child has developed a decent attention span, your next and BEST game type is the RPG genre (my peanut butter and jelly!) These games allow you to experience an immersive world with much more interactivity than the simpler straightforward platform gaming.
RPG games were my first video game love. Real open-world experiences, not just basic commands like left, right, up, down, jump, and duck. Games like Zork, Wizardry, Might & Magic, Fallout, Mass Effect, and Diablo are each a worthy and deeply rewarding experience.
To be honest, tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) are better in my opinion than video games. Sorry but they just are. Nothing engages a kid’s brain so holistically: imagination, problem solving, social development. They even teach math and language skills.
Sports games are not my thing and can be tough for some kids because there is a clear winner and loser. If my son was more into soccer or football, I am sure I would have more experience with this genre. However, our family is too consumed with saving the world to worry about victory on the digital playing field.
Still, it’s worth noting that often kids who play sports video games are motivated to take up athletics in real life. And the thrill of competition can be quite a motivation for excellence. Popular options include Tennis, Bowling, Soccer, Volleyball and Golf. There’s even Fishing and Race Car Driving — something for everyone.
TRUE STORY: video gaming itself is an organized sport these days, and it’s getting bigger every year. More than 175 colleges offer millions of dollars in scholarship money — you can even major in “esports.” Last year, Philadelphia opened the city’s first Esports Room, featuring six flat-screen TV’s and a host of gaming consoles and accessories for single gamers & tournaments. Open to all Tuesday thru Friday, from 4pm to 8pm at Christy Rec Center, 728 South 55th Street, (map), 215-685-1997
- First-Person shooter (FPS)
I thoroughly enjoy these games, where death is so casual, common and graphic but, when it comes to kids, I recommend staying as far away from the extreme violence of shooting games for as long as you can.
If it helps to set an age, try to give your child a target of 12 years old — frankly, this still feels a bit too early for me, but unfortunately aiming any older is unrealistic these days where gun manufacturers literally market their wares to young boys.
But that doesn’t mean parents have no control. You can pre-emptively introduce a shooter game like “Helldivers,” which has no graphic violence, the enemies are not human, and players can fight as a team. It’s also super fun.
So there you have it, my road map for family-friendly video gaming. My list is by no means complete — there are many more types of video games, and new titles coming out every day that you and your child can enjoy together.
Learn more about Paul’s favorite game, Dungeons and Dragons, through Adventuring Portal, a local small business that provides exciting, virtual D&D adventures for all skill levels.
JOIN A GAME TODAY!
Adventures are 3 hours per day (M-F) for a total of 15 hours of gaming for $180. Four timeslots: 9am, 1pm, 6pm & 9pm.