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Is the Gaming System the New Family Hearth?

The family hearth: it’s where people have listened to stories for ages and ages. From stories shared in front of the fireplace, to families listening around the radio, it’s where humans gather.

Much was made of television becoming the family hearth in the 1950s and 1960s, when TV replaced radio as the American family’s primary entertainment source. In 2010, Internet use pulled even with television use for almost every age group, but that didn’t mean that the Internet was replacing television all together.

Over the last year, Xbox 360 has replaced our TV as our family hearth, and I think that’s a good thing. About a year ago, our family stopped subscribing to cable television. We realized that we didn’t watch most of what we were paying for, although we definitely enjoy screen time as a family. Our Xbox 360 is connected to the Internet, so we use it to check email, track weather forecasts, and watch Psy’s “Gangnam Style” video over and over again on YouTube. Because we have Netflix streaming through the Xbox LIVE online platform, we use it to watch television and movies, commercial-free. And, of course, we play games.

About half of our game time is spent on the Lego video games — including the Harry PotterStar WarsBatman-themed games — and the other half is on the active games, especially the dance ones. Those are particularly great for burning off energy when the weather isn’t cooperating, and nothing brings a family together like fearlessly busting out some dance moves.

Our family is unabashedly a gamer family. We don’t play any scary or violent games — my kids are only 6, 8, 11, and 11. But we do love video games. We also play plenty of old-school board games and card games — currently, Life and Uno are the favorites. But there’s something to be said for games, of any sort, that everyone in the family likes to play. Especially as our 11-year-old twins get older and “cooler,” we’re aware that there’s a potential for them to become less and less interested in spending time together as a family.

One of my older daughters in particular is already starting to find us at least slightly embarrassing. But while she’d rather die than have me chaperon her school dance, she’s still okay with having a dork-a-thon family game night of Dance Central. For us, video games are a way to stay connected even as social demands pull us apart.

I’m curious about what your family uses your video game system for? Do you use it for just games, or is it connected to the Internet? And what are your fave games to play as a whole family?

Thanks to Xbox for sponsoring this campaign. Visit xbox.com to learn more. Click here to see more of the discussion.

(Photo Credit: Microsoft

Read more from Joslyn at Babble Pets and at her blog, stark. raving. mad. mommy. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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