When I was growing up my parents really didn’t know what to make of video games, and that is totally understandable. After all, video games are a fairly new form of entertainment that is constantly evolving, it’s easy for the uninitiated parents to be overwhelmed. When I was a kid, if I didn’t ask my mother for a specific game for my birthday, she would often choose a game at random. This lead to such fondly remembered explanations such as “no, my N64 won’t play PlayStation games”, and “yeah mom, I’m pretty sure Game Boy cartridges will not play in a Game Gear.” I have to give my mom credit for trying to follow my hobby, my dad didn’t get video games at all. The last game he bothered to familiarize himself with on his own terms was Pac-Man. Anything beyond that… it was like it was from the freaking moon. Most games I got from my dad came standard with a fifteen-minute lecture about the merits of playing outdoors and reading text not on a screen. There was a gap between my parents and me that seemingly could not be bridged. Trying to get them to understand why I wanted to switch to a Game Boy Color from the Game Gear or what the N64 Expansion pack actually does was like trying to get a coma patient to tap dance. It’s not gonna happen.
this thing might as well had been from Mars to my parents
Over time, my mother eventually got more tech savvy and asked questions about what I liked about games, what games I wanted, and took to asking sales clerks for info and recommendations to learn more. A few years back she even bought herself a DS and tried to get into gaming. It’s been an admirable effort; she sticks to games with little to no twitch factor, but games that have some real meat to them nonetheless. Games like Professor Layton and Final Fantasy 3. She now understands gaming a bit better now and my dad, well, he’s reduced the speech to brief few seconds of nagging so I guess that’s progress.
The fact that my parents have little to no interest in gaming doesn’t bother or surprise me. They didn’t grow up with video games; they barely grew up with color TV. My mother was 21 when the Atari 2600 came out. I’m 23, in about the same amount of time between my Mom and the 2600 I’ve seen about 12 or more systems come and go. Technology has improved drastically since my folks were kids. It makes sense to me that all of these Playstations and Sega machines confuse and annoy them. Of course, there are always people that don’t follow this trend, (My Nana has been an avid PC person since DOS was the next big thing and she’s in her 80’s,) but for the most part, parents of people my age don’t care about gaming and thats fine with me.
What I find both bizarre and awesome are parents who game with their kids. I have friends who are five to ten years older then me and when I go through Facebook and read posts about how little Tommy beat Dad in Super Smash bros. for the first time; it kind of blows my mind. It’s so foreign to me but SO COOL!
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as more of my friends get married and have kids; how is having family ties with video games going to change the experience for the next generation of gamers? Is it going to deflate into arguments of “When I was your age we had really hard games! You had to write down passwords! Megaman! Castlevania! Rabble! Etc.” What will happen when die-hard MMO players have kids? Will they play the same games? Will they get messages to remember to do their homework or to be sure to come home by 8:30 via in game chat? And more importantly, how different will their gaming experience be from our own? Will they get the same thrills from Final Fantasy 6 or Gunstar Heroes? How will the future and the past of gaming connect?
Overall though I think there is more good to look forward to then things to be anxious about concerning how parents play video games with their kids. Kids won’t have to feel isolated from the family over their gaming habits if the family is getting their Mario on together. If a gory, violent game is being played parents can be there to address concerns as games are played. Who knows, maybe a lot of the stigmas about how games rot kids brains and cause violent aggression can be snuffed out, or at least studied in an honest fashion. I’ve written about it before, A lot of good can come from gaming, why not share those experiences? It will be interesting to see how relationships will be affected when parents don’t push a game away with a stick, but rather plug in an old cart to play. I’ve explored before how younger kids feel about retro games, it would be cool to see how deep the connections made will go.
What do you think about parents gaming with kids? How do you think this will affect the world of gaming? Let me know in a comment below!