5 Reasons to Play Video Games With Your Kids


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video-game-controllers

Video games, as we know them, started with us 

I grew up jamming regular Nintendo from the age or 5 or 6. Was never much of  Contra guy, but I could definitely shred on some Battletoads, Paperboy, and Boy and His Blob, amongst other legendary titles. Not long after, the Gameboy showed up and rocked our world, forever changing everything we thought we knew about road trips.

I dabbled with Sega, but remained tight with our Japanese friends at Nintendo and remained tight with their cousins when the first Playstation was released. I remember this distinctly because this was when both Jennifer Aniston and Lara Croft began to vie for my affection. 1)I had a recurring dream of Lara Croft and I riding off into the Midgar sunset on a black Chocobo after defeating the Shinra regime.

As Sony came on the scene, some people lived in a parallel universe with 64-bits of Mario. I only peaked by head back in the Nintendo world long enough to establish by dominance in Goldeneye. Sega fizzled out and Bill Gates, being the philanthropist he is, changed our lives with the XBOX.

After I joined the Air Force, I bamboozled Sarah into buying me an XBOX. I said something about how playing Call of Duty every night until 2 a.m. was going to help me stay in touch with our friends. It did, but it came with side effects.

So, I’ve played games, off and on, for about 30 years, but I’ve never been a hardcore “gamer.” Once we had kids, I began to sense the time was coming when I might need to shut it dowvideo-game-system-collage-repair-small-bannern completely. (This little number and caption shares a fun little memory and probably the last straw before I sold the XBOX:)2)Once my oldest was born, I definitely scaled back, but when he went down for a nap, I had a date with 10 strangers and a duty to keep my Kill/Death Ratio above 1.5 in a Team Death Match battle. (Mostly, Modern Warfare II and Black Ops) As I’m sure you know, a rocket launcher can shoot down a UAV, one of my favorite tactics. Apparently, my playing leaked a little outside of nap time because my two and a half year old started to pretend to shoot down “UAVs” when he saw planes in the sky. Living on an Air Force base, this happened a lot, and we had friends on those AWACSs.This isn’t a knock on parents who still game, but I had other hobbies and time sucks. Something had to give. As the kids have gotten older, we kept a few systems around (the Nintendo DS, old school Wii, and XBOX 360) and the iPhone provides a wealth of useless games.

I don’t play with the kids a lot because of other stupid adult stuff, but when I do, it’s been pretty rewarding. Most of the time, the kids are just using me to get through a difficult obstacle or puzzle on their DS, but every now and then, we kick back and I lay waste to them on a first person shooter or the latest Madden. As with anything, a healthy balance is important, but I’ve found a few great reasons to pick up the paddles once in awhile and flip on a few games.

1.) The teaching opportunities are plentiful

Perhaps too plentiful. Between dealing with being a sore loser and being a gracious winner, you’d be surprised how many good teaching moments have come out of the adversity in video games. It’s funny how they think they can beat big daddy and their world comes crashing down when they can’t hang, but it doesn’t help that I intentionally keep the game close, making them think they have a chance. That’s when I snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. Or so it would seem.

That said, my oldest is 9 and he’s getting decent. I can only fake sitting on the TV remote so many times before he figures it out.

2.) Just another opportunity to be their hero

I may have never been a gamer, but video games were the back drop for almost every millennial growing up. It might take a second to get acclimated to the controls of a particular game, but I can do anything slightly above average in the video game world. Literally, any obstacle they encountered on a game, that they have deemed insurmountable, I can conquer within about five minutes. I don’t always do it for them, even though I may want to, but if it looks like it’s beyond their 5- and 8-year old skill set, I’ll jump in there and save the day.

3.) Automatic content filter

There are some pretty incredible games being made and they rarely miss an opportunity to drop an f-bomb, incorporate sex, or light people on fire. Regular Nintendo had 8-bits. Even if it was gory, there was no way to know. Now, games basically look like the video game version of the Truman Show. The little black and white label in the bottom lefthand corner just isn’t enough to know what’s going on, but sitting down and jamming with them for awhile can help you get a good idea on what’s being put in their little brains.

4.) It’s a low-stakes way to spend time together

When I take the boys out to the baseball or soccer field, sometimes it’s great. Other times, we leave five minutes after we got there because Easton is chasing rabbits and Catcher is doing flips while I hit him ground balls. I can’t begin to explain how wildly frustrating this is. I packed the gear up. I carried it out to the field. I had a plan on all the things we’d work on and then they turn into irrational monkeys. I want to tell you I don’t get angry, but my silence as we walk back to the car usually says it all. When it comes to sports and homework, the stakes are usually too high at our house.

Let’s keep going outside and doing those things. We can’t give up on that, but every now and then, pick up the sticks for a couple games of Madden . Not only are you in the air conditioning, but there are no expectations. The stakes are unbelievably low and the only thing that matters is having a good time. Flipping it off at dinner time or when one of the kids has decided to be a knucklehead is no problem.

5.) It’s still fun

I’m starting to figure out playing games isn’t quite like riding a bike. It takes a minute to limber up. The 3D world games on the Wii usually cost me a few dozen lives before I get acclimated. At this point, trying to understand Madden defensive schemes is out of my league.3)I can still smoke the boys though But at the end of the day, the things we loved about video games are still there. This isn’t by mistake, either. I’m not sure there isn’t a game being made without adults in mind.4)And why not? We are their biggest market and we gots the cash! Point is, you don’t have to twist my arm to play some games and it makes it even better when we can enjoy it as a family.

Don’t forget where you came from

As you kick your shoes off, after work on a Friday, to show the kids you ain’t no chump,
don’t forget to show them where you came from. We are fortunate enough to have an original NES at our house and we’ve had a
blast repping some of the classics. So, dust off some of the old systems and give these kids a history lesson. Lucky for the world, this bad boy to the right is being released just before Christmas and it’s going to make a lot of dads happy this year.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. I had a recurring dream of Lara Croft and I riding off into the Midgar sunset on a black Chocobo after defeating the Shinra regime.
2. Once my oldest was born, I definitely scaled back, but when he went down for a nap, I had a date with 10 strangers and a duty to keep my Kill/Death Ratio above 1.5 in a Team Death Match battle. (Mostly, Modern Warfare II and Black Ops) As I’m sure you know, a rocket launcher can shoot down a UAV, one of my favorite tactics. Apparently, my playing leaked a little outside of nap time because my two and a half year old started to pretend to shoot down “UAVs” when he saw planes in the sky. Living on an Air Force base, this happened a lot, and we had friends on those AWACSs.
3. I can still smoke the boys though
4. And why not? We are their biggest market and we gots the cash!

About Brent Nichols

My blogging is, no doubt, all over the map, but hope you’ll find something just right for you. Currently living in the D.C.-metro area in Northern Virginia. You know what? I think I kinda like it out here.

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