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The Father Factor


Get Off The Couch, Get In The Game

I grew up in a time where I was able to witness home-based video games grow from their clunky infancy to the heights of technological wonder we see today. I don’t play video games as much as I used to. In fact, my father, 62 years young, knows more about video gaming than I do. As a dad of a young daughter, I’m not totally out the loop as we have the Wii gaming system.

Like most parents, I was drawn to the idea that you had to get off the couch to play many of the games for the console. However, a new study reported that the benefits of “active” video gaming might not boost physical activity in kids. I don’t find this particularly shocking, as there’s only so much you can do physically in front of the TV in the family room. I do disagree with the idea that active gaming isn’t helpful. If fathers and mothers played the active games with their children, it could become a bonding family routine.

My daughter is about as physically active as an 11-year old should be. She loves to play active games with me and we always have a great time. For me, the dual benefit is that we both get to move around a bit and raise our heart rate, and further, we get to bond a for a bit. With some of the sports simulations, I’m actually playing games that mimic activity my child wouldn’t normally do. Perhaps we’re not getting the same benefit compared to an outdoor activity, but playing games with your family can be engaging.

Even with the active games, getting outdoors is especially vital for families of young children. Your child may not be the next big star athlete but you can still introduce them to games that will inspire movement and activity. Playing catch, kickball, and even talking brisk hikes in your neighborhoods or trails are some fun ways you can get your kids off the couch a bit more. If your child isn’t that great at sports, you can still go outside and toss around a Frisbee or basketball.

Active video games are also evolving with the times, with some even featuring physical training. There are even studies that show active games can boost activity in kids. The bottom line is we shouldn’t think poorly of active video gaming, but fathers and families should certainly hit the power button at times and get active in other fun ways with their children as well.

Are you a video gaming dad? Do you play games with your child and family? Tell us more in the comments below or tweet to us at @thefatherfactor. You can also visit and "like" our Facebook page by clicking here.

Guest Post: Let the Video Games Begin!

This is a guest blog post by Chris Dahlen. Chris is the editor-in-chief of Kill Screen Magazine ( ), a quarterly magazine and website devoted to games and culture. He lives in Portsmouth, NH with his wife and his six-year-old son. Chris contributes his advice on choosing videogames for the family as part of NFI's campaign Let the Games Begin: Get Your Game Face on for Family Game Night .

Videogames are fun for the whole family—but how often does a whole family play them? From the console in your living room to the computer in your home office, you can find hundreds of games that are more fun if you experience them together.

Some parents view videogames as an unhealthy alternative to playing catch, or visiting a museum. But in our home, videogames are the perfect wind-down after all those other activities. My son and I regularly end a busy day with a game that stretches our imaginations and challenges us to solve problems, follow instructions, and work as a team. (I’ve also found that nothing motivates good behavior like granting game privileges—or taking them away.)

Look for games that invite two or more players to work together. If you grew up with games like King’s Quest or Zork, try playing Machinarium: you and your child can split time on the keyboard and work together to beat each puzzle. In Portal 2’s “co-op” mode, you’ll work together to solve a series of obstacle courses that test your brains and your reflexes. Even if one of you takes the lead, the other still plays an important role in completing each challenge. Other games encourage parents to stand back and assist: in Super Mario Galaxy, the parent can use a second controller to assist the child and to point the way to the next goal.

Most of all, find games that are good. Skip the low-quality movie tie-in games, and look for excellent $10-15 downloadables like Costume Quest or Flower. Read reviews, and if there’s a free demo, try it out yourself: is this a game that will be challenging, but not frustrating? Does it encourage co-operative play? Is it too violent, or scary? (ESRB ratings are also your friend: stick with games that have an “E” or “E10” rating and be sure to read the tags, and you should never stumble into anything inappropriate.) Even when your kid plays a single-player game, make time to watch and give advice and moral support. Children only bury their faces in their Nintendo DS’s if you let them: stay involved and they’ll look forward to having you by their side.

Like birthday cake and late-night ghost stories, videogames should be enjoyed in moderation. But they should be enjoyed—and beaten—by the whole family. At a time when too many families find themselves staring at separate screens, lost in their own experiences, a great game can bring the whole living room together.

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