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Guest Post: Let the Video Games Begin!

Posted by Fatherhood Admin

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Aug 31, 2011
This is a guest blog post by Chris Dahlen. Chris is the editor-in-chief of Kill Screen Magazine (http://www.killscreendaily.com), 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.

Topics: videogames, Let the Games Begin

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