Growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of money. We weren’t able to go out to the movies or take many family vacations. However, what we did have was each other. I have many fond memories playing hours of Scrabble and Risk with my parents and siblings (with the occasional board “accidentally” being bumped by our little brother). So naturally, when we finally were able to afford our first video game console, the Nintendo Gamecube, it wasn’t long before my family began to bond over these daily battles and adventures, parents included.
What began as friendly competitions in the living room eventually evolved into performing in esports tournaments for broadcasted events, creating family memories and bonds that will last a lifetime. Being a proponent of family gaming, here are a few reasons why I think video games can have a positive effect on family relations.
Global Interaction and Connectivity
When I was in college, I was lucky enough to be able to study abroad with the help of a few grants and scholarships. I knew I was going to miss my family a lot as we are quite close. However, during my months abroad, we were able to keep connected regularly through games like Overwatch and World of Warcraft (shoutout to Blizzard Entertainment for making family friendly games). While video chatting through tools like Skype and FaceTime has become a popular mode of communication for estranged family members, I honestly believe that trying to storm a castle as a family and all the preparation involved can be an equally, if not more, interactive experience.
The best part is that as long as I had an internet connection, I was able to join my family in whatever game they were playing at the time. Even now, with one of my brothers living across the country, playing games with him on the weekends makes it feel like he’s just a couple steps away in the other room. If you have a family member that lives far away, I would highly suggest playing an online game together occasionally.
Improving Communication Through Problem Solving
One of the most obvious benefits of online family gaming with is how it can improve communication skills between family members. One of the most difficult aspects of being a parent is trying to develop an open and comfortable communication line with the child.
However, with online gaming, communication is almost universally necessary, as teamwork is a common thread running through nearly all multiplayer games. Whether you’re strategizing how to take down the enemy team or deciding who should receive the magical ring found in a dungeon, these exercises can dramatically improve a family’s ability to communicate with each other in an effective and constructive way (assuming the parent isn’t fighting for the treasure as well).
Developing a Dynamic Parental Relationship
While the first and most important job of a parent is to be an outstanding role model and teacher of life, being able to connect with your child in a friendly way can absolutely provide benefits for on the parenting front. By communicating with your child in a way that he or she can understand and “vibe” with, you’re letting them know that you understand how they think and feel while also making it easier for you to spend quality time together.
I get it, trying to introduce family gaming to a 16 year-old for the first time may be a bit awkward and foreign for some families. So try to make it natural! Instead of dropping in on their world, try inviting your child to join you for a game that you bought for yourself to make it seem genuine. Learning how to play your child’s video games can come later!
While it’s best to start incorporating these activities with your child when they are young and excited to try new things, it’s never too late to spend quality time with your child. And it doesn’t have to be traditional video games either! There are plenty of phone apps, like Words with Friends, which I play with my mother quite often, that can be both educational and allow you to keep connected with family. Whether it’s sports, art or video games, what’s important is that you are making an effort to build strong bonds within your family, something they will appreciate down the road.