What the little dudes want.
Kids and computer games go together like dogs and tennis balls â€“ you just canâ€™t seem to separate one from the other. Those of us who were the first to have computers and gaming consoles in the home â€“ some of the original gamers - are now approaching middle age and parenthood. Introducing gaming to our kids is both an exciting and daunting prospect.
In a sense computer games grew up as we did. In the early days the games on offer were the rudimentary classics like Frogger and Donkey Kong that entertained us for hours as kids. Then in middle school, games, like some of us, were introduced to the Dungeons and Dragons universe, and a whole world of RPGs opened up before us. Racing games became sophisticated when some of us got our first set of real wheels. And, dare I say it â€“ there are bound to be some gamers out there who had their first glimpse of sex through titles such as Leisure Suit Larry.
Things are different now. Game development has had thirty-plus years to develop and grow, and games for adults have become more complex and interesting - just as we have. At the same time, children have been identified as a viable and huge moneymaking market in the games industry. This divergence in paths has resulted in store shelves awash with games about ponies, Tamagotchi, and Barbie â€“ and first person shooters with complex storylines and controls, filled with zombies, moral dilemmas, and sandbox-type play.
Weâ€™d like to share our love of gaming with our kids, but thereâ€™s only so much zingy music and high-saturated color we can take on a Saturday morning â€“ and on the flip side, there are stacks of titles that we love, that our kids probably arenâ€™t ready to play - due to the nature of the content, but also because their coordination might not be 100% just yet.
As many savvy parents out there already know, the solution to this dilemma doesnâ€™t mean forcing yourself to sit in on kidsâ€™ games that you can only last a couple of minutes playing or watching, or introducing your toddler prematurely to FarCry 3. There are some very good â€˜parent-friendlyâ€™ kids games around, as well as some grown-up ones that your kids can totally handle.
With younger kids you want to make sure that theyâ€™re not completely overwhelmed with fast-paced games with lots of rules that are difficult to keep up with. Anything that encourages the sharing of experience between you both â€“ and the time to talk about it â€“ gets a big gold star.
- Yes theyâ€™re colourful, but early strategy games such as Zoo Tycoon and Viva PiÃ±ata are great for kids. They are relatively slow-moving, so thereâ€™s plenty of time to talk and discover things together, and yet as the games progress there is enough complexity to entertain most Civilization fans.
- Buzz Junior games provide a raucous good time for everyone. Added bonus: PS2 games and peripherals are going pretty cheaply these days.
- For an even cheaper option, haul out your old consoles. Odds are most of those old NES and GameCube games are a perfect match for everyone. Your kids get some quality game time with you â€“ and you can remember what it was like the first time you played Super Mario.
- Speaking of Nintendo, if youâ€™ve purchased a Wii fit to take care of yourself over the winter months, donâ€™t forget that thereâ€™s loads in here that littlies will like. And they can work on their balance and coordination at the same time.
- On the DS, there are heaps of puzzle games, such as matching animals in Zoo Keeper, or general puzzle solving in Professor Layton and the Curious Village â€“ a game that won many Game of the Year awards for the DS last year.
This, my friends, is where you hit your stride in parent-child gaming. Once your kids are at school there are a heck of a lot of games you can play with them. Whatâ€™s great is some of these already incorporate game play styles such as co-op and battle mode â€“ which means you can help each other to get through levels, or have a laugh over a head-on battle.
- Age of Empires / Mythology titles are more advanced strategy games, but not quite at the level of Civilization. Mustering troops, taking on ancient empires, and building cities â€“ this is the stuff kids live for.
- All of the Lego titles get the thumbs up (Star Wars/Batman/Indiana Jones). Not only do you get to enjoy all your old favorite movie characters running around in twee Lego mode, but there are some great cut-scenes here too.
- LittleBigPlanet â€“ your kids might have a better grasp of the existential nature of this game than you.
- The Sims / Spore â€“ maybe youâ€™ll want to steer clear of too much woo-hoo, but the Sims and Spore are so much fun to customize and create, Iâ€™d be surprised if your kids arenâ€™t playing this already. A sense of humour may be required when you realize the first person your child wants to recreate in the Sims isâ€¦you.
- Rock Band / Guitar Hero / SingStar. These games all rock. Your children will have smaller, more agile, fingers, and probably better voices. Be prepared to lose.
(As an aside: most people are pretty hesitant to introduce their kids to anything too violent, bloody or sexy. If youâ€™re not sure about what you might see in that final boss battle, we recommend you check out the title at http://www.whattheyplay.com
, a site that lists games based on their classifications, as well as reports on games kids are currently playing.)