Dr. Tracy Bennett
Dr. Tracy Bennett
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Although a lot of parents let their kids play video games, not many co-play. Parents are busy! And for many, video games are unknown territory. Trust me, I’ve seen my mom try to play new video games, and she was beyond lost. But as a kid’s interest in video games increases, your relationship with them may seem to decrease, as if screen time replaces relationship-building. And with newer games like Fortnight, God of War, and Call of Duty, the complexities can drive a wedge between digital immigrants and digital natives. But it doesn’t mean they should! Many games offer teamwork and cooperation and can be fun for the whole family. Gaming might not be as scary as you think. Using hobbies your kids already enjoy is a great start to strengthening family bonds. Check out Dr. Bennett’s Connected Family Course for a guide on balancing screen time, like gaming, with family time. Read on to learn what co-playing has to offer, and why you might want to start gaming with your kids.

What makes co-play important?

The “fear of the unknown” can cause parents to separate themselves from their children’s virtual activities. As a result, kids can become isolated. Parents see this and either reprimand the kid for playing too much or guiltily allow the distance.

When I grew up, my mom provided me with interactive video games that offered entertainment and learning experiences. As a digital native, I started playing more and more online games and would even search some out in hopes that my parents would play with me. But because they were digital immigrants, they never did.

In 2013, researchers Hayes and Siyahhan found that “parents miss a huge opportunity when they walk away from playing video games with their kids.” They elaborated that parents don’t realize that there are many games designed to teach problem-solving, science, or literature. Not only can you learn alongside them, gaming with your kids can also offer countless ways to interact and have teaching moments. Gaming together offers new lines of communication and give them a reason to want to bond with you.[1]

Teaching and Bonding

In 2018, Bingqing Wang’s research on video games and family cooperation showed that family members who play video games together have better family satisfaction and family closeness. They also showed that families with poor family communication can benefit from co-playing.[2]

One benefit of co-play is the opportunity to work together to achieve a common goal. Strategizing and reflecting on executed choices encourages sportsmanship and the value of failure. Rather than the child walking away from a failure disheartened, parents can teach them to analyze the loss and improve on strategy with enthusiasm rather than defeat. Co-play also allows parents to set good examples for setting limits. Ending a gaming session together seems better than being “forced” or “made” to stop playing.[3] Shared experiences are more fun, wins are more fulfilling, and cooperation is much better than isolation.

You may be concerned that, even with effort, you’ll look stupid and won’t “get it.” But if you both played and had fun, they’ll recognize you took the effort to get close to them and better understand why they love to play. You’re not just an outsider trying to limit something they enjoy. Growing up, I had multiple friends who got to play with their parents and bond over the games they liked. They loved talking about it and became even closer, something I missed out on.

What to Play

Which games are family-friendly? Dr. Bennett said her kids asked for a Nintendo Switch so they could return to games they used to play together on the Wii. There are many options that are rated E(for everyone). It also offers parent controls and time limits that allow parents to manage what and how much their kids are playing.

Some fun and family games we at GKIS recommend are:

Mario Kart is a competitive driving game with lots of cute levels, fun characters, and a ton of quality. Race against friends and family in different beloved Mario worlds. Dr. Bennett cautions to start with the cow land…she says she’s spent many hours screeching in agony trying to stay on the slippery Rainbow Road while her kids roared. She says kids can’t get trusted to pick the level…

Just Dance is another Nintendo Switch game that Dr. B says provided hours of fun family co-play. With many popular and even old hits, everybody finds their favorite games to competitively dance to. She says her youngest was delighted by this game, because even when he was little, he could out score her and his older sisters! Plus, everybody worked up a sweat and got a little exercise. No pain, all gain.

Super Mario Party is a game designed for group play and loads of fun. With 80 mini-games, like Bumper Brawl and Croosin’ for a Broosin’, everybody has a favorite. Play with or against your kids with the large board game style platform.

Yoshi’s Island is an fun and simple game for the whole family. Jump around as the adorable Yoshi solving creative puzzles and collecting all the hidden items.

Snipperclips has great games for the whole family don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. This game is designed for communicating and working together to snip your cute little paper characters into the perfect shape for each unique and entertaining puzzle.

Knock ‘Em Down Bowling is a fun one with many game modes like split screen, team matches, and no gutters. With a variety of traditional bowling games and party modes, team work is always a fun possibility.

Forza Motorsport Games for Xbox offers lots of options for fun family car racing in professional-style track racing events.

Scribblenaughts for the Nintendo DS is a fun, emergent puzzle action video game where the players must solve puzzles in order to collect Starlites. Warner Bros. Active Entertainment published this game with the goal of promoting emergent game play by challenging the player through systematically more difficult puzzles.

I’m Jack Riley a GKIS intern. I hope you find the courage to carve the time and try co-play now that you see the pros in family gaming. My parents were never able to do any of this with me and as my interest in games increased, I felt as if our family relationship decreased. Interested in learning about other benefits of video game play? Check out the GKIS article Is Your Child a “Professional Gamer”?

I’m the mom psychologist who will help you GetKidsInternetSafe.

Onward to More Awesome Parenting,
Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.
Mom, Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI Adjunct Faculty

Works Cited

[1] (July 2013). Move over, Monopoly: ASU researchers find families bond over video game play, Arizona State University.edu

[2]Wang, B. (April 2018). Families that play together stay together: Investigating family bonding through video games. Sage Journals.com

[3]Shapiro J.( December 2014). Research Says Parents And Kids Should Play Video Games Together. Forbes.com

Photo Credits

Photo By Kelly Sikkema

“My mini on our PS4” photo by Samantha Sophia

“Two people playing Sony PS4 game console” photo by JESHOOTS

“Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons” photo by Aleks Dorohovich

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