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In My House, Video Games Are the New Board Games

Thanks to Disney Infinity for providing us with the game and Wii U that inspired this post.

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Video games get a bad rap. Look, I know as parents we’re not supposed to prop our kids up in front of video games and leave them to their own devices, but they can be lots of fun for families like mine.

When I was growing up we played cards and board games, so every year around the holidays I get nostalgic and think I should be whiling away the hours with my children in front of a comforting fire with a board game. Here’s what happens: They don’t want to play. Or we play, and it’s not that fun. Or we try to play, and the younger kids get impatient. Or toddlers rip the playing cards and try to swallow the pieces. It’s never as charming as I remembered.

Enter video games.

We got a Game Cube many years ago when my oldest was around 10. I overthought it, as parents do, and worried about my children’s young brains and the effects of technology. But we did it anyway. For Christmas. For fun. And it was!

Kids these days want to play video games. The colors, packaging, graphics, and characters are extremely enticing. I was wary of video games for this reason. However, when I’m trying to get everyone together and my grumpy/busy/napping teens and tweens don’t feel quite up to a game of Scrabble, I can entice them to the family room to play together with a fun video game. Disney Infinity is great, we love Dance Dance Revolution (it’s even active), and Rock Band is my all-time favorite. My kids discovered back with our first Game Cube that their little 18-month-old brother could participate while they played if they gave him an unplugged controller and told him he was on their team. Technology naysayers are probably shaking their heads at me right now, but there just aren’t that many activities that can keep kids of varying ages occupied, happy, together, and interacting. Video games can.

The hardest thing for a mom to manage on game night is taking turns. It’s boring when it’s not your turn. It’s good to learn patience, of course, but video games can make play interesting and fun with multi-player options so you can spend an easy, fun time together that is more collaborative. My children range from ages 7 to 17. Try spanning that age gap. With video games, you can.

Just the other day, my 7-year-old daughter was watching her older brother play Disney Infinity Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy for a really long time. “Let Ellen have a turn,” I nagged. But she didn’t want a turn. She wanted to watch “the show.” There are scenes in the game that are based on the movies (Star Lord’s visit to The Collector, for example), but they vary slightly depending on choices my kids make in the game. The graphics and story lines are so engaging that we don’t even mind just watching. Again, I’m sure you’re thinking that sitting around watching your kids play video games is not top-notch parenting. And, it’s not. I don’t advocate playing video games all day, every day. We read. We eat dinner together. We do chores. But as a part of our family’s together-time, I’ve found that video games work really well.

My oldest son graduates from high school this year, and it’s a bittersweet time. I see a future stretching ahead of me that consists less of the daily grind with my kids and more of time spent together during holidays, special occasions, and vacations. As much as I like to imagine us poring over a sophisticated game of chess or tallying triple word scores in Scrabble, when my son comes home for Christmas break, he’ll probably head straight for his old Game Cube. And I couldn’t be happier.

Image credit: Kacy Faulconer

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