Whenever folks hear me talking about family game night, they always get a little uneasy. My wife and I field the same questions time after time: “Aren’t you a little old for video games?” or “Shouldn’t you do more constructive things with the kids?” At that point, I could point out that what I do to spend time with my kids is really none of their business, but instead I elaborate about how family gaming has helped strengthen the bonds our family shares. While that statement always gets strange looks, it could not be more truthful. Whenever we are in front of the television and playing whatever game might be in the Wii, we are one functional unit. We laugh, we sing, we have a great time.
Of course, the right game and system go a long way in using video games to strengthen bonds and ties. We keep the titles age appropriate to the youngest member, in our case my son, who is six. The system of choice is of course the Nintendo Wii. The Wii seems to be a better family fit due the large family friendly content that is release for the console. Not that anything is wrong with a PS3 or Xbox 360, but the amount of buttons on those controllers is a little intimidating to young (and old) hands. We choose games like New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Boom Blox, Rock Band, or Sing It!, and of course, Wii Sports finds itself in heavy rotation two years into the equation.
While we are laughing and having fun, we are learning about supporting and helping each other. Teamwork becomes defined, and critical thinking and problem solving take center stage. Sure skill levels vary widely among the family members, including anyone who shows up to participate, but winning is not really the deciding factors. Everyone has busy lives. There are jobs, school, second jobs, soccer practice, PTO meetings, etc, etc. Being able to take a time out and hang out as a family is a nice grounding mechanism that keeps us focused. Video games work for our family. Sure we play old-fashioned board games from time to time, but inevitably the Wii comes alive and there is a full-blown bowling tournament going on.
Every family has a different set of dynamics, and what works for one is not guaranteed to work for another. But having to rely on someone to play the drums in our band, or make that all impressive triple jump, or figure out exactly what to do with an onscreen item helps us interact in ways many families never do. It just works for us, and better yet: everyone is having a great time. The fact that the kids are picking up skills they will need to develop into adulthood is a big bonus. Plus, the dialogue between everyone is constantly changing and shifting between topics. Especially when the weather turns colder, staying inside with the family and a nice hot cup of coffee can offer a degree of relaxation that is unmatched.
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