3 Ways to Be a Responsible Gamer Parent
If you've managed to somehow spawn some offspring and you're freaking out, don't worry - there are plenty of ways to be a responsible gamer parent.
Around five months ago, I became a father for the first time ever. Now, most people in this position would immediately put down all their toys and go get a real job or something, but not me: when my daughter was born, my first thoughts were somewhere between I've finally got someone to play co-op Contra with and better start building that Rapunzel tower now. The smoke may have cleared and my wife and I may have settled into the rigors of raising a brand new baby girl, but I haven't put down the controller - and that's because there are plenty of ways to be a responsible gamer parent.
1. A Responsible Gamer Parent Stands Their Ground
You're going to encounter a lot of push back for your decision to not only continue playing video games after becoming a parent but in encouraging your children to pick up the hobby as well. Luckily, most of this resistance isn't going to come from your generation but from older ones - your own parents and grandparents. If you had a tempestuous relationship with your own folks for the amount of time you "wasted" in front of the television with a controller in your hand, they could lose their minds if you tell them you can't wait to get your little boy or girl a an old used NES to cut their teeth on.
The trick here is that you need to stand your ground. Not only are there some great reasons to encourage video game playing in small children (the benefits to developing hand-eye coordination for one), but you're the person that gets to decide what's best for your kid, regardless of what your parents, grandparents, friends, relatives, strangers on the street, or Michelle Obama tells you. Does this mean you ignore the advice you'll be given? Of course not - that's no way to be a responsible gamer parent - but you've got to realize that you have the final say in what you expose your child to and how he or she will develop.
2. A Responsible Gamer Parent Takes an Active Role in a Child's Game Selection
Part of being a responsible gamer parent is knowing what your kid is up to, even if he or she is just plunked down on the couch, controller in hand. You wouldn't allow a young, impressionable child watch a movie featuring nudity, gore, violence, and harsh language, so why would you allow that same child play Grand Theft Auto V?
The important word here, the one to draw attention to, is allow: you're the one in charge, and if you're going to be a responsible gamer parent you're going to need to take an active role in permitting what kinds of experiences you want permeating your child's brain meats while he or she is at home. Since you're a gamer yourself, you've already got a leg up on the older generation: you know whether a game is going to be too violent or suggestive much better than some clueless soccer mom relying on the advice of an apathetic GameStop register monkey. You don't need an ESRB rating to tell you that you'd have to be crazy to let your pre-schooler anywhere near a copy of Bayonetta - that is unless you enjoy explaining to your little boy or girl about the birds and the bees at the tender age of four years old. At that point you might as well just let them watch Miley Cyrus at the VMAs.
3. A Responsible Gamer Parent Plays With - and Against - Their Child
Playing together - especially co-operatively - will teach your child the merits of working together with others towards a common goal. It may be rare to find a current-gen game that features local co-op as a gameplay option short of the rather uneven (and decidedly violent) experience of Resident Evil 6, but that doesn't mean you should just let your child play by him or herself all the time. Your kid will play plenty of single-player games, but encouraging co-op play will instill strong socialization skills in a child and it's part of being a responsible gamer parent to help your child develop these social skills, just as you did - it didn't take long for you to learn that you shouldn't go swiping the pizza while playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with your buddies when someone else needed it more than you, now did it?
This isn't to say that competitive play doesn't have a place either. Instead of whipping little Tommy or Susie's butt in a fighting game, though, consider team-based competitive experiences like Team Fortress 2 or even League of Legends. This will give your child a taste of competition in an environment that also reinforces co-operative team play as well. Besides, most LoL players act like they're around 8 years old anyway, so your kid will fit right in.