I get a lot of flack for advocating games and gaming, but I come from a perspective that few ever consider. I’m a gamer and a mother of two. I wanted to share my love of gaming with you and your family, plus share some helpful tips to help you curb your kids’ gaming habits.
I love video games. We collect “old school” consoles and games to reminisce in the fun times we shared, huddled around a controller. All of us watching the nerdiest kid in the neighborhood trying to beat that unbeatable boss. My husband and I turned out to be pretty well rounded, aside from playing video games, he also played street hockey, and I played tennis. Check out how we met.
Back then, video games were not built to be “addicting.” They were difficult and required a lot of skill with the correct mashup of buttons and timing. I know the power of addicting video games because I was a casual video game producer. Casual games, especially Free-to-Play models, make money based on retention and repeat play. This increases the likelihood of users purchasing items in-game. In-game items include things like special weapons, equipment, level advancement, character personalizations, and even pets.
The latest rage is Fortnite: Battle Royale. Have I played it? No! The idea of putting myself through the torture of 100 man PvP (player vs. player), last man standing, Minecraft building, cartoonish style, third-person shooter game is so very unappealing. Honestly, I prefer the original Fortnite: Save the World, which is more of a co-op (cooperative) game.
Why do your kids and everyone else love it so much?
It’s free-to-play, games last up to 20 minutes (quick), its quirky, cartoonish style is silly, there are fun ways to customize your character, and there’s a whole bunch of goofy dance moves your character can do. There’s also a lot of momentum behind it with Twitch. (Twitch is the gamer’s version of Youtube), streaming live videos with your kid’s favorite Twitch stars. These are personas with millions of followers!
Here are a couple of ways to manage your kid’s gaming habits.
Cool/Not Cool Parent:
A simple, “Hey [insert name], as much as you play, you’re not going to be as great as #ninja.” Either they’ll be delighted, or they’ll be repulsed that you’re privy to their inside world of Fortnite. What’s great about this method, is at least you’re showing interest in their hobbies, and it opens up a discussion. You’d be surprised how passionate they are about the game. Then, get into the debate of their gaming habits and how both you could come up with a plan on setting limits.
So negotiations have gone to the wayside, chores are piling up, and the long summer days are wasting away. Simple things you could do that are free and do not require an app.
- For Mobile Games:
- Reset your wifi password, daily. Once chores, exercise, or social requirements have been met, give your kids the daily password.
- Downgrade your data plan. Each service provider has a different way of managing your data plan; some even offer data usage caps on individuals. If you reduce your system overall, (along with the resetting your password on your wifi), the kids will be forced to leave your home for greener pastures. At least you get them out of the house!
- For Consoles:
- All consoles (Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo) have parental controls. Use them!
It’s as easy as downloading an app or picking up a controller. Imagine the look on your kid’s face when you beat them at their own game. To add insult to injury, you can dance in-game and in real life all over them. Joking aside, it really is a great way to spend time with your kids. You can even make it a thing and designate a specific time to play together. I’ve known several gamer friends who schedule time with their kids who are away at college to connect in-game with them. If you’re actually playing with your kids, you can limit their exposure to the game and who they are playing with.
A few key takeaways, video games are complex and can teach skill sets that you just might find admirable and useful in real-life. Things like cooperating for the greater good of the team to achieve a challenging task, understanding your specific role in a complex system, and how to leverage it to your advantage, thinking on your feet, problem-solving, and (for me) the most important, how to cope with failure.
I hope these practical tips help encourage you as a parent to be an active participant in your children’s interests and hobbies. Sometimes, it just might not work, and you have to take away their phones and consoles. You do what you need to do to make your family function. My hope is that you join in on the fun.