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Video Games

Space Invaders got an upgrade. A little bit good, A little bit bad

playstation co-op

Pac-Man, Space Invaders and my personal favourites Joust and Dig Dug are games I grew up with. It was the 80s and we took a bag of coins to the ‘arcades’ and had a fab time just like in the shows ‘Pixels’ and ‘Stranger Things’. Then consoles and computers began appearing as gaming machines from a simple game of Pong using a little box plugged into the back of the TV, to the Atari 2600, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Nintendo and Sega Mega Drive. Before long the ‘big guns’ Playstation and Xbox weighed in on the action. And you know what's happened since then.

Now I’m a gaming nerd at heart, not your ‘get a life dude’ type, but I’ve put some hours in across a range of games on a range of platforms. I’ve watched the evolution of video games over the years and it really is impressive how far they’ve come a relatively short time.

But. When I was a kid, games were simplistic, abstract, innocent fun. You could hardly call Pac-man aggressive and violent. In fact I don’t think anyone really considered video games to be violent until the likes of Mortal Combat and Street Fighter came on the scene. But even these were tame by today’s catalogue of realistic, chainsawing monsters or sniping somebody’s head off in a FPS game.

Arcade machines

Not Just for Kids

The average age of a gamer is 35 years old, which shows that it’s not kids who play the most video games but adults, even though the stereotype for a ‘gamer’ is adolescent teens and children.

I remember getting an Atari 2600 When I was just 6. I seem to remember back then they were viewed as children’s toys and were easily more accessible to youngsters due to the simplicity of the game and the one button joystick.

So how is this relevant to the single dad? Well, it's about how your children interact and access video games. If we still have the mindset that games are for children, then we might happy to let them access any games without being too concerned of the content, even though these games come with age ratings in the same way movies do.

Pac-Man game over sign

So Pac-Man is now Having Sex and Committing Mass Murder?

Over the years when I’ve taught children, I’ve been horrified to hear some of them tell me the sort of video games and movies they’re allowed to play and watch.

Having kids of around 10 years old saying they play games age rated 18+ such as Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto 5. Both of which are extremely graphic and violent, the latter including sexual content and a section where you get to physically torture someone with your character. Swearing, doing crime and drug use also feature heavily.

The allure of the game and the taboo nature of it make the game easily appealing to curious youngsters wondering what all the fuss is about. Their accessibility to games of this nature is often too easy much like movies are, through various streaming services, particularly if you don’t have the age restrictions settings suitably applied.

father and son playing video games

Know Thy Enemy

My advice is this. Play any game before your kids do and decide if it is something you want them exposed to based on their age and maturity level. If you can’t play it first without paying for it, then read some reviews or check with, which reviews movies, games and other media specifically for their suitability for kids.

If you co-parent, then it is worth discussing concerns about specific games with the kids’ mother. It’s very easy to fall out over things like this.

Another balancing act arrives when your children’s friends already play a particular video game and they are pressuring your child to get it as well so they can join in on multiplayer. In this instance I’ve had to let my own children play things I ordinarily feel they need to be older for, or risk them being socially outcast and ridiculed for not being allowed. Again, you have to make this judgement call based on your own situation, but getting feedback from other adults in your network is worth doing.

I think some of the best uses of video games comes is when you have a couple of people sitting on a couch playing together (referred to as couch co-op), which is kind of similar to playing a board game with others. At least it’s interactive and usually promotes laughter and bonding, which doesn’t really happen when playing solo.

Taking Control

Now you’re up to speed on the games themselves, let’s talk about how to manage the time factor. Back in the days of Pac-man, the simplicity and repetitiveness of the games tended to help kids self manage time because they took breaks from being bored with the games. However, it’s easy to see with these epic role playing and other addictive games available today that your child could play indefinitely as long as they’re allowed to do so, maybe taking toilet breaks or eating food if you’re lucky. I know, trust me, I was a World of Warcraft addict for a while.

Online gaming brings a new dimension to video gaming and this can be seen as a way of being social with others. To some extent it does, but it certainly shouldnt be the majority of their social interaction. It does also have its pitfalls of leaving your child open to issues of cyber safety if they aren’t just playing with friends they already know. This is something you really need to get your head around and you should check regularly about who they've been interacting with.

But it’s not just the content of the game they’re exposed to or the amount of time that could be spent doing other things, it’s also the need to consider the health implications. Sitting for long periods of time and missing out on physical activity is one aspect that leads to an unhealthy lifestyle, but also the impact on things like posture and eye strain. Just look at your children playing on mobile platform like a phone or iPad to see what I mean.

Managing video games comes back to establishing routines and expectations just like other aspects of the single dad lifestyle.

Here are some management tips:

  • on weekdays, after homework is done, rooms are tidy and any other chores are completed they can have some time. How much is down to the age of the child, with the younger the child, the less time should be spent, as well as what fits into your daily routines.

  • always have a countdown to let them know when their gaming time will end. Saying out loud 10 mins’, then ‘5 mins’, then ‘1 minute’ really works well in preventing the tantrum that can often happen if you abruptly tell them to stop. They are prepared for the time they need to stop.

  • give them a start and stop time. Make them agree to it so there is no, ‘5 more minutes’ negotiations.

  • don’t make empty threats. Yelling ‘Get off that game right now or you won’t be allowed to play for a month!’ is often something we yell in anger but have no intention of following up on. Eventually, kids won’t care because they know you’ll give in. If you are going to make threats like that, make them shorter. Even 24 hours will be enough and is easier to follow through on. A couple of times this happens and they’re more likely to listen in the future.

teenage girl gaming on computer

Health and Safety

So talk with your kids about sensible use of video games in terms of content, time and health so they can make responsible choices. Monitor how much they are spending and what they are accessing and establish some ground rules. Time seems to get lost when playing games. There's times when I tell the kids to stop because they've been playing for 2 hours and they'll be bemused thinking they've only been on for 20 mins.

There are plenty great games to play together as a family or for your kids to play with friends. Some of our favourites include (check which games are suitable for your system) :

  • Mario Kart - Nintendo only

  • Super Smash Bros - Nintendo only

  • Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime

  • Spider Heck

  • Overcooked

  • Bomberman

  • Rocket league

  • Castle Crashers

  • Unravel 2

  • It takes 2

  • Gang Beasts

  • Rayman legends

  • Most Lego games

This list is not exhaustive, but there are some great games on there to get your family all sitting on the couch yelling and laughing with each other.

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As with any of my articles and posts, feel free to contact me with feedback or other ideas about things you'd like to see on my site.

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