I’m not a gamer, but my other half is. I grew up with a commodore, which at one stage in the '80s was connected up under the stairs in a lovely little gamers cove as I replayed 'Crystal Caves' and 'Prince of Persia' over and over again.
On the other hand, my husband has grown up with every gaming machine imaginable. He has a vast collection of games that range from retro game collections to modern role-playing video games such as the 'Persona' and 'Yakuza' series.
One thing he was looking forward to when we became parents was sharing his love of games with our kids. With an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old, he is now living that dream. The three of them huddle around the TV, each with their joypads, and play three-player or take turns. They laugh and tell each other to "pick up that apple!" as they play 'The King of Fighters'. Gaming with your kids, whether you are a gamer or not, has some surprising benefits.
Gaming with our kids crosses generational boundaries creating bonds, developing empathy, and teamwork. Working together to achieve a common goal in multi-player games is a positive experience, especially when the older generation helps the younger manage their expectations about what they can achieve in the game (levelling up!) and by effect in life. It may seem easier to play LEGO or kick a ball around, but playing with our kids in a way they are interested in and enjoy is most beneficial.
Validate Their Hobbies
By asking our kids how 'Minecraft' works and playing it with them, we validate their love for their hobbies. We can understand their motivations and reasons for playing particular games and can then help them expand on their interests. By learning their games, the lingo, and when they can and can’t pause mid-battle to come down for dinner, we connect with our kids by acknowledging the importance of their hobby and move the boundaries of respect. So instead of saying, "come down for your dinner now," we may say, "get to a save point and come down for your dinner".
Video games can be a way of opening up conversations with our kids. We can explore the metaphors in games as we take those ideas and transfer them to real-life challenges such as bullying. It helps to set boundaries and open up conversations we may not have otherwise or approach discussions in a relatable way, encouraging them to engage more with us. It can, after all, be easier to have a conversation about sexism when it’s a fictional character. It’s also much easier to chat when we share an activity with our kids. The connection and distraction can make discussions less strained or one-sided.