When I first started this blog I had some things in mind I wanted to mention. Most of these were based on real scenarios I have faced being a gaming parent with a young child.  It quickly became very long, so I decided to focus on one or two main points at a time and see what happens.

I strongly feel that if you love any hobby it is your responsibility to ensure the continued growth and health of that hobby. Gaming is no different.  If we want this form of entertainment to grow, then we need to ensure the next generation of gaming enthusiasts are given a strong foundation.  As a parent, this job becomes mandatory.  I find myself not only teaching my son about these things, but several of his friends as well.  We have the "bachelor" house, which basically means we blow most of our cash on things we don't really need but are a lot of fun. As you can imagine we are a popular home for the neighborhood kids to migrate to, once their parents actually get to know me that is.  If you walked into my office at work or my house you would think I was very childish with all the toys and what not.  I am childlike when I can be, but I am also a professional and a parent, responsibilities I take very seriously.

(Looks eerily similar to my spawn)

 I have come across more than one occasion where a kid's first exposure to video games has been at my house or in my care of some sort. This can be a tricky situation, for one if a 9-12 year old hasn't ever played(or played very little) a video game it is usually because their parents do not want them to.  Generally those type of parents are the ones that will want to meet me before the kid ever makes it over. A good practice for any parent to be sure.  During this meeting we are able to discuss such things. If they don't want the kid to play games(which I haven't come across yet), then we would all do something different.  Usually they just want reassurance that the games will be rated appropriately, no violence of course, they tend to like the idea of Mario or Donkey Kong.  I won't allow online MP games with the kids, my son included, although I have lifted his club penguin ban so that he can find the famous "rockhopper".

(worth $5.99 US DOLLARS a month?)

Recap: What to do when you have other peoples children at your house to play games

  • Fly that gamer flag high, make sure people know what their kids could be doing at your house, if you act ashamed of your hobby, then they will feel it is unwholesome and not allow the kid to come over.
  • Have a line up of age appropriate titles for the kids to choose from.
  • Don't always favor your own kid, if there is a dispute about who's turn it is, or if something is "fair" make sure you are equitable in your decision making.
  • Snacks are a must, other parents appreciate things like fresh fruit etc. Cookies and soda all the time is a big negative.
  • Mix it up, play some scrabble or use the kids for yard work. Call it "whoever rakes the most leaves gets to take out the trash"
  • Play with the kids. Don't lock them in the basement and then go to your own gaming haven to play games that are not appropriate for them. They will migrate to you, and if you are playing Killzone while they are playing Castle Crashers, well let's just say they will beg and plead for you to allow them to play. Just avoid this situation and save yourself the lawsuit trouble.
  • Time limits people, and on a school day make sure homework is done first.
  • Have things like footballs, basketballs, etc. readily available. Going outside and playing is a good thing.
  • If you have pets that don't like kids, then make sure you keep them away from each other. Luckily my little dog and cat(Hershey and Sweetie Michael Brown) have never met a kid they don't like.

(Dog thinks he is 20% cooler, cat knows better)

I have had parents ask me for advice on what gaming systems to buy the children.  As a gamer it is vital that you put any fanfolk tendency aside and answer them in a way that meets their needs. This means asking them a lot of questions to get an idea of what will best meet their needs.  Questions to ask and things to consider are:

  • Who will be the primary people playing? Make your suggestions based on the age group and interests of the kids playing.  There are several excellent buying guides for parents on the www, if they have a moment, sit down with them and go to one of those sites and discuss it with them.
  • Value, how much money are you looking to spend?  This can be a tricky question, some people get uncomfortable when you ask them any money related questions, so just try to pinpoint the value of each system before telling them the cost. For example, the wii is the cheapest of the "modern" consoles, however if it doesn't meet the families expectations of what a console should do then it is not a good value. Likewise an awesome Xbox 360 or PS3 is fun to have, but if they simply want to play games only perhaps a wii is more appropriate.  Tell them that the PS3 can play blu-ray, etc.
  • Related to value, make sure they understand that everything available on each system is not free.  Netflix advertises to be available on all systems, some people don't understand that it comes at additional cost.  If they want a great system for online gaming, mention that XBLA is a great service, however it comes at a low annual cost.
  • Again, related to value, explain the accessories available for each, make sure they understand it is an additional cost.  Many people are shocked that a controller can cost 25% or more of the entire console price.  Explain that there are third party controllers available at a significantly reduced price.
  • Parental controls. Mention that any modern system will come with fairly easy to use and understand parental controls.
  • Explain the different models the best you can, particularly of the Xbox360. It's tempting to go for the low sticker price of that arcade model, but if this family plans on playing a lot of XBLA games or putting video or pics on then the small storage space will not benefit them one bit.
  • If you can, show them what you have and let them see for themselves.
  • Be a good neighbor, go with them to the store if possible and even offer to help them set up the console.
  • Let them borrow a few games if possible so they don't end up buying a real stinker for 60 bucks and then getting turned off.

(Not the guy you want to act like when discussing video games with parents, or kids. Around your friends, heck yeah)

The next generation of gamers can be in any age range.  Heck i didn't start playing games until I was 26ish,sure I played for a year or so when I was 10-11, but I literally did not play games for the next 15 years with the very rare exception.  I would have loved having the help of somebody when I first started, but instead I felt weird for wanting to start such a hobby at what I thought was an old age. I just assumed games were mostly for kids and college students.  I felt ashamed to ask anybody for advice, thankfully a guy at Gamestop(thank you Jett!) helped me a ton.

Other topics I may discuss in this series will include balancing the time you play games and the time you do everything else as a parent, patience when you are teaching kids to play games, and I will probably share some real life stories from my own experiences with not only my son, but other kids and some adults. 

Real quick plug, it is not too late to sign up for TEAM GIO, we are raising cash to help sick kids on Oct. 15th, please check out the detailed blog or just go and sign up and then vote in this forum poll.  That's enough plugging, so I won't mention the indie & mojo show, or say that you should listen if you get a chance.

Keep it classy Game Informer.......Thanks for stopping by

Your friend in gaming

Mojomonkey 12