Thursday, 5 November 2020

The Best Family Video Games to Play Together

Video game controller in the hands of a boy wearing a gaming tshirt, you can only see his torso
Video games were never a big deal when my daughter was small, she was never really interested, so I wasn't introduced to video games in any great abundance until my son was old enough to get involved. Now, like many parents, I worry about the effect they might have and how long he should be spending on them. Although I've written about my thoughts on Fortnite, I am by no means an expert, but I do happen to know one. There follows a guest post from Andy Robertson, author of the Taming Gaming book for parents and video game journalist, who gives a brilliant insight into the positives of video games for children and the best family video games to play together.

It sounds like a bit of a misnomer, doesn’t it? Aren’t video games those things that trap our kids and cause us to argue? Aren’t they expensive and juvenile and shrill? Well, they are that sometimes, but in my work with families, I get to highlight what else they have to offer. It turns out that our kids aren’t just tricked into playing them, there’s a lot of good stuff they get out of it.

The usual way this kind of post goes is to justify games because of how they improve hand-eye coordination or reaction time. Although those benefits seem obvious, there isn’t actually a lot of proof that these hard skills are transferable. 

Family of three sitting together. The man is holding a gaming controller and the girl and woman are looking at it too.

It’s the softer skills that video games have to offer. Children learn about communication, companionship and trust in the games they play. A game like Fortnite might seem to be all about shooting. It is, but it is also about communicating with your friends and working as a team. 

Over the months of lockdown (and heading into another one) children have instinctively kept up with friends in these online spaces they play in. They chat as they play like they do in the playground.

A selection of screenshots from different computer games

Case in point are games like Among Us, where talking is the point. It’s a space survival game. But what’s made it so popular is that you can stop the action at any point to call a meeting. A meeting! Then you talk through who you think is betraying the group. Here the talking goes beyond connection, to learn how to argue well, use rhetoric. Also, how listening is as important as speaking if you are going to get your point across.

Then there are loads of games for younger players on Roblox (Adopt Me, Jail Break and Phantom Forces are popular) where kids play with large groups of other children from all over the world. Or games like Krunker where they have to learn the tactics of stealth.

Staying Safe

Of course, it’s important that you set healthy boundaries for these games. There are some great guides on how to set-up all the new consoles so they limit screen time and require a password before older games are played or any money spent.

The best way to keep kids safe, though, is to play together. So in my work with families, I’ve found a load of great games that are really accessible and fun for parents and children to play together.

Overcooked is a great game about cooking for four players. Wilmot’s Warehouse is a lot of fun playing at working for Amazon.  Then there’s Tricky Towers where four of you compete to build the highest towers from Tetris blocks.

A screenshot from an 80's video game, featuring lots of squares with different pictures in them

Whatever you play doesn’t matter too much. It’s setting aside some time to play together as a family that anchors gaming as part of normal family life. Rather than something that happens off in bedrooms.

If you want to find more games like this you can check out the Family Video Game Database, where there are lots of lists to get you started.

Pinterest Image. Gaming controller with title overlaid

Top Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
Pinterest Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash


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