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GameFam

March 02, 2006

Perspective

Howdy all. Here's my latest "A Dad's Take" column from GameDAILY Family:


I was all set.

All set for this week’s column.

All set to write about my efforts to apply one of the central theories in Raph Koster’s book, A Theory of Fun for Game Design, to my family’s gaming habits.

That column will have to wait for another day.

Today I attended the funeral for the mother of a friend. A wonderful, elegant, proud, strong, intelligent, loving, caring person, she was tragically stricken with ALS a few years ago.

A few days ago, she finally, mercifully passed away. As one of her grieving family members put it, she was now free from the prison her body had become.

Several family members and friends spoke about the acute pain of loss, which was palpable in the large room, overflowing as it was with so many people whose lives she touched. My tears, along with everyone else’s, flowed freely.

Then my friend got up to speak, and he gave one of the best eulogies I’ve ever had the poignant honor of witnessing.

Before we knew what hit us, we were laughing and crying at the same time. My friend has always had a gift for making people laugh, and today was no exception.

Few people can muster the strength to find humor amidst a vast sea of grief. My friend found that strength, and though his pain was no less real than anyone else’s, he made sure that in addition to mourning his mom’s death, we also celebrated her life.

While my friend’s eulogy was amazing, they were all memorable and touching, and there was one recurring theme in all of them. My friend’s mother was a person who always focused on what was truly important in life, without wasting time on trivial matters (though she also knew how to have fun).

I thought about that.

I thought about it for a long time.

I’m still thinking about it as I type these words.

If you’ve read any of my previous columns (or blog posts), this shouldn’t come as a surprise, but what’s truly important to me, above all else, is my family. My wife and kids are the planet around which I revolve, and I treasure every moment I spend with them..............................

..............................well, not every moment, now that I think about it. The Terrible Twos were no picnic, the Fours were worse, and though they’re down the road a ways, I hear those pesky teen years are just a smidge challenging (sarcastic much?).

But enough about the difficulties of parenting. Not every responsibility has to be a burden. In fact, one of the most important things parents can (and should) do with their children can also be one of the most fun.

Playing games with your kids is one of the best ways to connect with them, and connecting with your kids is one of the best ways to ensure their happiness and security, both physical and emotional.

If you’re already a gaming parent (more in a bit), then you probably play games with your kids already. But even if you’re not a gamer, you might want to think about picking up a controller (or mouse/keyboard combo) every once in a while.

One recent study found that 100% of college students had played video or computer games at one point or another in their young lives, and a study conducted by MIT professor Henry Jenkins found that 100% of MIT freshmen played video games.

100%!

Twice!

MIT!

So basically, the overwhelming likelihood is that your kids are going to want to play video games more than just a couple of times as they grow up.

Your job will be to make sure that the games they play will be both entertaining and appropriate. What better way to accomplish this important task than to play some of those games with them?

As someone who became a gamer long before becoming a dad, it’s natural for me to game with my kids, because gaming is one of the leisure activities I already seek out for my own enjoyment. But since most people are not hardcore gamers, I sometimes I wonder about how many parents can relate to what I write.

But maybe I shouldn’t worry so much. If recent trends continue, then I’ll have a lot more company, because the ranks of gamer parents, currently at 35%, will only continue to swell.

As has been widely reported, the average gamer is upwards of 30 years old, and as those of us who grew up with the video game industry continue to inch our way up the population chart (and hopefully start winning some Congressional elections), that number will continue to rise as well.

As terrific as I believe video games can be for kids (given parental involvement, of course), I’m not saying that playing video games is the only activity you should share with them. Not by a long shot. Parents should engage their kids in a combination of indoor and outdoor, passive & active pursuits.

All I’m saying is that video games shouldn’t be left out of the equation. In the salad bar of shared parent-child activities, video games can be, say, the garbanzo beans (I’m very deep....or perhaps hallucinating).

So read a book, shoot some hoops, dance, ice skate, go hiking, play video games, play chess, play the piano, play Go Fish. Do whatever it is you and your kids enjoy. But enjoy it together.

Given the natural order of things, we all have a finite amount of time to impact the lives of the people we hold dear, and our kids will be grown and off to college or a job before we can say Boudreaux’s Butt Paste.

So make it count by focusing on what is truly important. In fact, what are you doing reading this? Go play a game with your kids...TODAY.

Me? I’m going to get a dozen-year head start on two applications to MIT.

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