Gaming: The Reluctant Family

Mar 05, 2010

Gaming: The Reluctant Family Parents are more important to children's video game play than you might think.

No Video Games Allowed Here

There was no way that I was letting my children play video games. Video games, I thought, were bad for my children. Video games were too violent, they ate up time, they were addictive and they made kids fat. For all of these reasons, video games were not going to be part of our household. Ever. We read books here. We have conversations.

But then, I was asked to make a documentary about video games. I’ll move forward as an open-minded skeptic, I thought – but beneath that? I was still determined to save my children from the mindless evils of video games.

The documentary I was asked to make was called, “The Literacy of Video Games.” I interviewed professors and teachers who talked about all that children learn when they play video games. I interviewed a librarian who talked about how libraries in Canada and the United States are incorporating video games into their collections. Hmmmm… maybe video games aren’t so bad?

OK, Maybe Gaming Isn't So Bad

I needed to investigate further. We rented a Wii. I thought we'd start with an “educational” game. It was an underwater diving game. We explored the seas, looked for things and flapped about underwater. But the characters seemed stuffed with chalk. It wasn't fun, it was too hard and, with no rewards, we all grew bored. It was “Wii Sports” that got us hooked. It wasn't just the physicality of it – it was intuitive, it was fun, we played together. We rented the console again but with different games. Each rental brought us further and further into the video game world.

Now We Play Video Games Together

By the end of the process, I was a convert. We now own a Nintendo Wii. My 7-year-old and I cooperatively worked our way through “Super Mario Galaxy.” I watch my children play “Lego Star Wars” – during which they problem solve, they work together, they explore. Video Games are everywhere, my children play and most importantly - I play with them, we have conversations about video games and video games have become part of our technical literacy.

What Parents Need to Do

Producing “The Literacy of Video Games: What Kids Learn, How We Can Help and Why It Matters” taught me that video games are not evil, but more importantly it taught me that:
  • as parents, it is important we participate in video game play with our children
  • we need to talk about game play with our children
  • we do not give up parenting to technology
  • we set video game limits
  • we do not give up other opportunities for literacy for technological literacy.
And, above all else, it taught me the importance of family and connection – even in the video game world. I play with them because I choose to be a part of a gaming world with my children. I choose to spend time on their interests in order to further conversations and build deeper connections. I talk about video games with them and I play video games with them so I am aware of the complexity and nuances of their new world. They may be learning a lot from video game play but I am there with them – not waving from far, far away.