Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Gamers Guide To Raising Gamers

With so many gamers becoming parents now, and with those kids becoming gamers themselves, I feel the need to help those kids and adults become better gamers. I consider myself to be a hardcore gamer, but being a hardcore gamer doesn’t mean that all I play is first person shooters. It means that I’m a fan of gaming in general.
First let me give you some background on myself. I have been gaming for 30 years and gaming helped me become a well rounded person. I have 6 kids and they all game in some form. Even my 10 month old has his own controller for when daddy plays.
Now if you have children or are about to be a parent and if you want to raise responsible gamer kids, here are some simple guidelines that I recommend for you to follow.

1. Making gaming comfortable.

While they are infants take an old controller you don’t need any more and put it in with their toys. Just remember to cut the cord off of it. The controller will allow their hands to get ready to play and it helps with some fine motor skills. This also works for any toddlers as well. It is good to let the toddlers play with that controller while you play games. It also starts a bonding moment with your kids.

2. Get the kids started right.
Let them get a feel for the games. Start the child gaming on older consoles. If you don’t have the old systems then find an emulator or a flash version of say, Super Mario Brothers or Sonic the Hedgehog. This will introduce the kids to the platformer, the one gaming genre that is a staple of the industry. They have simple left to right scrolling and that is usually easier for younger kids. You might even start out with a puzzle game like Tetris or Columns which will also help with higher brain functions in younger kids.
3. Buying them their first console.
Don’t go overboard. If the child is under 10, they don’t need a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. It is a good idea to get a Wii if you have to get your kid one of the current gen systems. If you get them a Wii though, only get Virtual console games at first. If they are under 4 they should have a Vsmile or a Game Boy Advance or any of the Vtech products. You can also get them a NES or a Sega Master System (Google it), just remember they need to have basic controllers to help develop eye hand coordination.

4. Know your roots.
Make sure they learn about the history of gaming. They must now that the PlayStation is not the first game console. At the same time the kids don’t need to know the date the Intellivision came out. Tell them about what gaming was like for you as a kid. They have to know the history of their hobby if they are going to appreciate it. In order for the kids to develop into real gamers and not drones who play only the top 10 games at the time, they need to know where these new games came from. There would not be Modern Warfare 2 if there was no Wolfenstein 3-D. If there was no Adventure, there would not be Final Fantasy XIII. If there was no Castlevania, there would be no God of War.

5. Show them a variety of games.
As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life. The same philosophy applies to gaming. If you limit you child’s gaming experience to what you like, chances are their gaming lifestyle will be limited. Let them play Mario, but they need to experience Bomberman as well. Pocket Fighter is great, but also let them experience Final Fantasy. Do you see a trend here?
There is more to this though. Not only should you let the children experience a variety of game genres, you should also not limit the kids to gaming on one console only. Now I don’t believe in buying a small child multiple consoles, but as they grow older, having more than one console is a necessity if you are going to provide a healthy gaming environment.
5. When you buy games go cheap.
Now when there are multiple gamers in the house, there should never be multiple copies of new release games. Unless of course you have the money like that, then by all means go for it. But as most of us know, gaming is not cheap. That is why the bargain bins of your local game shop, big box store, or entertainment store can be a gold mine of gaming goodness. Also know that a lot of the game stores now don’t carry older games, but there are alternatives. You can check pawn shops, thrift stores and yard sales. Craigslist can be your friend if you are looking for cheap gaming.


6. Don’t let them cheat.
Cheat codes and code books are for noobs and incise shortcuts in other areas outside of gaming. Don’t promote them. Make them play the game and complete it before cheat codes should be used. Help them to beat it as a last resort. Completing a game on their own gives them a sense of accomplishment. That is what kids need, to see the ending of a game and know that they did it all by themselves.
7. Read about gaming, online or print.
Most of the time people will ask you “why are the kids playing video games instead of reading?” You can learn to read better and also learn some comprehension skills while playing a role playing game. In role playing games you get a great story, character development, and sometimes social commentary. Now while these games will help your child with reading, they are not the only sources of reading material for gamers. There are always gaming magazines, blogs, and websites to insure that your child is doing continuous reading to supplement the skills that they have acquired from school.
8. Games are fantasy not reality.
There are many games with a high degree of realism out there. Now with all the game related crimes going on, you really need to let the kids know that gaming shouldn’t be taken so seriously. There is no reason to get so mad about losing or anything related to playing a game. If they get frustrated with the game tell them to turn it off and find something else to do. Getting away from the game helps them focus. When they go back to play again, their heads will be clear and they are more likely to succeed than before.
Also note, that the content in gaming has changed over the years. Kids need to be taught accordingly. I had to explain to my boys that when you hurt someone in GTA the cops come and shoot at you and you go to jail. In real life it is the same way, but there are no cheat codes and picking up where you left off with a game save. There are serious consequences. Just make sure they know how the world works.


9. Make sure they have fun.
Are we having fun yet? Do you remember what that is? I know it is hard with the real world kicking your ass and all, but gaming should be the escape from all the stress. The most important thing about gaming is the fun factor. Is that not the reason you started gaming in the first place? Start having fun again and stop being so critical of a game all the time. Implement that same mentality to your children. Some gaming journalists have become so cynical of gaming that is sad to read a game review now. These people are so busy picking out the flaws in a game that they don’t even try to enjoy the game and have fun. This is another rant for a later date though.
Bottom line is this. You can have a house full of resourceful, well rounded gamers, or you can have fanboys who only play the top 10 games all the time. Either scenario will work, but being well rounded in your gaming choices only helps everyone in the long run. Keep gaming and remember to ALWAYS have fun.
It’s only a game.

Andre Tipton

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