January 15, 2010

Gaming For The Family...or...How To Get Your Kids To Give You A Turn

Amy Nelson says My husband and I have five children, and we've noticed a disturbing trend through the years: if you teach your kids how to play video games, they won't give them back. We thought it was so cute the first time my oldest laughed while slapping my keyboard to make Elmo pop up and say "Peekaboo." Little did we know how quickly that would translate to "Hey, can I borrow your computer.......FOREVER!" We sadly watched as soon they began to out number us (and our controllers), and found ourselves saying things like, "Remember when we used to play video games?" Short of throwing ourselves on the floor and screaming, "I want a turn!" there seemed little else to do but to give up the controllers and take up knitting (or whatever it is people who don't play video games do with all that extra time).

Don't worry, don't panic, and please don't knit (nobody wants that sweater, really). There is hope--you just have to change your expectations. No, you won't be able to play Silent Hill until they go to bed, but there are a lot of options out there that lets the whole family get in on the fun. Bonus: most of them don't suck. Double Bonus: You are spending quality time with your kids....aren't you a great parent?

When we began our quest for games that all of us could play, two great titles showed themselves to be fun for all ages: Worms and Bomberman. These are old school games that have been released and rereleased, so that there are versions available for nearly every platform. Bomberman involves dropping bombs everywhere to try to break blocks, pick up bonus items, and of course, blow each other up. The upside is that even a preschooler can push random buttons and feel like they are playing. It is very possible to blow yourself up right away, but you can set it so that when you die you just fly around in a jetpack outside the board, still throwing bombs. Jetpacks are awesome--ask any kid. Worms is a little more difficult, in that it requires a bit of reading, but with a little help most kids can play. They will love the way the worms talk and try to kill each other, you will love the Holy Hand Grenade and sheep bombs. Win-win.

In the new era of the Wii, marketed to those who don't consider themselves hard-core gamers, there has been an explosion of games that are fun yet don't require a lot of gaming skill. When WiiSports came out, my husband's grandma was kicking butt on boxing, and even our 3-year old can bowl and play tennis. Simply swing the wiimote, and you're playing. There are many titles available for the Wii, some better than others. The Mario Party franchise has always been a winner, and is even more so now that motion control is available. Super Smash Bros. is multiplayer, allows many different types of control (wiimote with or without nunchuk, gamecube controller, even motion) and seems to be downright addictive.

The Xbox 360 and PS3 do not have quite so many games that are family friendly, but there are a few that stand out. Rock Band. is. just. awesome. Set it to no-fail mode, and your toddler will be wailing away on the microphone while your 4-year old plays bass. You will probably have to pull rank if you want a try at the drums (kids love to hit things), but if you pick up an extra guitar than four people can play at once. And the songs don't suck! You can even download your favorites for about $2 a song. The Sega Genesis Collection is also a lot of fun. You can't have a lot of people playing at once, but you can show the kids how gaming was back in the day and see if those games are still as fun as you remember.

Now that you have some great family titles in hand (goozexed them, of course), seize the day! Grab that controller out of those sticky fingers (kids always have sticky fingers, it's a rule) and show them how it's done.