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June 15, 2005

What's a GameFam, and Why Should I Care?

  • My kids say that all their friends have this game, but is it really for older kids?
  • That game looks safe enough, but will my kids have fun playing it?
  • The character is fuzzy & cute, so the game is good for kids, right?
  • Are there any games that my kids and I can play together?
Excellent questions. And I may just have some answers for you (btw, the answer to the last question is an enthusiastic YES).

But first, the Backstory...


A little over 2 years ago (April, 2003), I woke up one morning with what I thought was a simple "bad back." A few hours later, I felt something snap, and I ended up in the emergency room with 2 severely herniated discs in my lower back. Fast forward to June, 2005, 2+ years later. I am finally coming to the end :o) of a long, painful period that included a colossally unnsuccessful surgery :o(.

Of Lemons & Lemonade

As tough as it's been, however, there has been a wonderful silver lining - the extra time I've spent with my wife and our 2 young kids.

So what does an injured, sedentary-by-force dad do to take advantage of so much extra time with 2 bright (what kind of dad would I be if I didn't think so?) energetic kids? Let's see now... piggyback rides? Uh, no. Anything remotely active? Sadly, still no. Well, before I hurt my back, we played a lot of games together on various websites (Nick Jr., Noggin, etc.), but it was time to introduce them to the wonderful world of home video game consoles
(for the uninitiated, Sony's PlayStation 2, Microsoft's Xbox & Nintendo's GameCube are the current generation... for a few more months, anyway), as well as more substantial PC games. The result was that despite my lack of mobility and occasional painkiller-induced fog, I got to spend hundreds of hours playing many many games with my kids, sharing an activity we all loved. When I hurt my back, I was afraid that it would rob me of quality "dad" time. As it turned out in an ironic twist, it brought us closer together.

What's In It For You?

In case you were wondering, I didn't just pop in a new game for the kids and decide whether it was appropriate after the fact. I read many reviews (GameSpot, GameSpy, MetaCritic, etc.) and personally previewed all of the games before I let the kids even see the box. Then we played all the games together. The whole point of GameFam is to help parents with this critically-important task. Since I'm doing it anyway for my kids, I figured that parents of young kids might enjoy not having to add to their already-too-long ToDo Lists.

So what kinds of topics will GameFam be dealing with?
  • Reviews of the latest video games for kids (focusing on the games my kids loved)
  • Previews of upcoming video games for kids (focusing on the games my kids should like)
  • Reviews of websites that have lots of games for kids
  • What games to avoid & why (e.g. inappropriate, boring, too hard, etc.)
  • The GameFam Bargain Bin (buying good games on a budget)
  • Priceless artwork. My daughter loves to draw, and I just bought a scanner so I can share her drawings of her favorite video game characters with you.
  • Cool extras, like great music & books for kids. My wife does an outstanding job researching music & books to find the good stuff that the kids will (and do) love. Your kids just might love 'em, too.
  • Glossary. Believe it or not ;o), some people actually don't know game industry jargon (not that there's anything wrong with that). Since GameFam is all about making things easier for parents, I'll start by explaining a term within the text, and as this progresses, I'll start a separate section to explain all of the terms I use in GameFam.

My Lifelong Passion For Video Games

I've been an avid, passionate gamer since
the mid '70's, when my brother and I got an Atari Home Pong as a gift. I was hooked. A bit later, my parents won a used Coney Island Rifle arcade game (full size!) at a raffle, and my addiction deepened. In middle school, we used to have Mattel Electronics Football tournaments (we called it "down for down") on the school bus. I spent the bulk of my allowance (and lunch periods) in video arcades. Not only did I spend countless hours playing uber-popular games like Space Invaders, Asteroids, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong & Galaga, but I also get misty when I reminisce about Dragon's Lair, Joust, Star Wars, Time Pilot, Track & Field, Tron & Zaxxon. My left thumb is still sore from using Intellivision's controller/torture device to play Armor Battle, Astrosmash, Major League Baseball, Football & Hockey. While I played my share (a really big share) of Super Mario Brothers & Duck Hunt on the Nintendo Entertainment System, I organized Blades of Steel tournaments in college, and my best friend and I have been playing Little League Baseball for years. I spent most of the 1990's on the gaming sidelines, pretending to be an adult, but soon after my daughter was born, I re-embraced my inner gamer, and today, we have all 3 major consoles (PlayStation 2, Xbox & GameCube), and we play games all the time.


I plan to post a new review every week or two. I'll try to be as regular and predictable as possible. I'll be posting my first review in the next few days.

Oh, Yeah. One More Thing...

I'm currently an Adjunct Professor
at Westwood College of Technology in the Chicago area. I teach a course in ...... wait for it...... video game history. Yes, I'm being serious, and yes, I enjoy it a lot. I grew up with the video game industry, and I get to relive a lot of good times every time I give a lecture or lead a discussion.

As a result of my teaching position, I was able to attend E3 in LA this year (happy! happy! joy! joy!), and I got to play a bunch of the games that will be coming out this holiday season.

Stay tuned...

My sincere thanks to my blogging sherpa roBin, for helping me get this sucker off the ground. Check out her blog, why dontcha?


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