Planning a Family Game Night
Among today's most exciting and cutting-edge forms of entertainment, games are a
great way to connect with kids, and make lasting memories, while experiencing a
positive activity that the whole family can enjoy. The best way to begin: Start
planning your own family game night.
"Playing video games with your kids makes them see you as a person, not just a parent,"
says Chasity Hicks, an Oklahoma mother of three. Her household's gaming habits offer a great example of the many types
of family-friendly games available today for different age ranges. She and her
husband play NBA basketball simulations with their 14 year-old son; dancing
game Dance Central
and motion-powered outing Kinect
Sports with their 11 year-old daughter; and virtual pet simulator Kinectimals
with their 6 year-old. "We still get all the benefits of spending time together
and having a great time while doing it." She also likes that games can be
educational, help with hand-eye coordination, and provide a physical workout.
be afraid to look silly in front of your children either, says Mary Heston of Wired Moms, herself a mother of four kids ranging
from 13-21 years of age. "Dancing games are really fun for the entire family,
and definitely provide lots of laughs for the kids when Mom and Dad get up
there to shake their groove thing." Heston's family
plays games on nearly every console available, and even participates in a
family fitness challenge using active, exercise-oriented "exergame"
key for families is obviously finding the right kind of games to play together.
"I know a lot of parents who don't let their children play any type of video
games, but I think that just like a lot of other things, it can be a good thing
if monitored and limited," says Hicks.
parents, it is important for us to find things in common with our kids and
build those connections," agrees Heston. "Playing
video games together is a great equalizer."
That said, those looking for a little Friday evening fun can forget Monopoly, Scrabble, chess, checkers and Old
Maid - at least, the versions that don't run on an Xbox 360 or iPad. Easier to enjoy, and clean up after, today's family
game nights belong to video games. Following are some tips that can help get
you started building your own.
- Console -
Although handhelds like the Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation
Portable/Vita support wireless networking, they're best reserved for
killing time while software loads. Instead, stick with set-top systems
when planning a family game night. The Nintendo Wii and backward
compatible Wii U (which runs original Wii system software) have the
greatest selection of family-friendly offerings to date, but consoles like
the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 also sport a healthy range of choices that
everyone can enjoy. Motion control accessories including Microsoft Kinect
and PlayStation Move further offer compelling family play opportunities
that can be cooperative or competitive, depending on your preference.
- Controllers - It
never hurts to have a few extra gamepads lying around - preferably one for
each player, plus a couple of back-ups. Make sure you look carefully at
each before buying, however. Many sport added features like time-speed,
slow-motion, or rapid-fire functions that can give users an unfair
advantage. And don't forget to have
a good supply of batteries or chargers on-hand as well.
- Snacks - Cheese.
Crackers. Alright... even carrots, celery and juice. Just have something nearby
to nibble; you're sure to work up an appetite jabbing wildly away on the controller
or hopping around the room while hooting and hollering at the screen - and
each other. Rather than junk food though, we always advise serving up a
healthy range of snacks. In a pinch, a range of diet, non-fat or low-fat
alternatives can also help shave pointless calories.
- Pen and Paper -
For keeping track of scores. For many, gaming is all about competition -
the longer you play, the more you're rewarded with points, victories,
collectible items and so forth. Keep a running tally, so you can see how
everyone stacks up. Even if you're all working together, chances are there
will be something worth keeping track of, even if it's just the number of
times Dad accidentally trips over the dog.
THE RIGHT GAMES
First, ask yourself what's appropriate: Are titles featuring cartoon
violence, toy weapons or simulated combat kosher? Then think about what type of
games make sense: Collections of frantic, bite-sized mini-games; teeth-gnashing
head-to-head puzzlers; fist-pumping sports simulations; or grand-scale
strategic engagements? Afterwards, you'll also want to consider which control
schemes you prefer, i.e. titles played on traditional gamepads, or motion
controlled amusements that require you to get up and moving. Once you've picked
the evening's contenders, and set some limits, here are a few genres that make
great choices for group play to consider:
- ACTION/ARCADE -
Butt-bounce your way through titles together via cooperative play options.
Alternately, go head-to-head against loved ones in fast-paced, whimsical
affairs from pumpkin tosses to turkey shoots.
- CARD/CLASSIC -
Virtually all your favorite board and card games are available in
electronic form. Better yet, these titles remain as playable and addictive
now as they did decades ago when first invented.
- MUSIC, RHYTHM AND DANCING -
Burn calories while strumming along or busting a groove to today’s top pop,
rock and rap songs. Such offerings - which may require the use of plastic
instruments or dance mat controllers - let you literally jam to radio's
greatest hits, or shake a leg along with the beat. Many popular music and
dance games offer a great mix of competitive options and cooperative
routines, and some even allow for up to 20 players to play at once.
- PARTY -
Crazy, competitive, and whimsical experiences specifically designed for
the enjoyment of large gatherings are common fixtures at family
gatherings. These titles typically
offer a collection of different mini-games, and require family members to
perform many different quick, hilarious activities in order to score
- PUZZLE -
Test your brainpower and reflexes against one or more opponents; the
quicker you form set shapes or clear screens of blocks, the harder rivals
must work to catch up.
- RACING -
Quench your need for speed zipping along fantasy or real-world courses at
maximum velocity. Most of today's racing options allow up to four players
to compete simultaneously on one screen (still more can play online), and
many even provide the use of zany weapons (turtle shells, bombs, banana
peels) as well.
- SPORTS -
Baseball, football, basketball, hockey, tennis, golf, wrestling... If you
can name it, there's a virtual rendition. Fans will find all sorts of
zany, arcade-style spoofs up for grabs in addition to pro-level
Finally, a few important guidelines worth keeping in mind for any family
sportsmanship pays. Gaming isn't about sour grapes. After all, everyone's
ultimately a winner.
nicely together. Set up a system so everyone takes turns, and gets to
experience titles for an equal amount of time.
kids' performance. Win or lose, any time they give it their all, it's a
job well done.
teamwork. Join forces to surmount obstacles or shut down opponents.
trash talk. If nothing else, it'll keep kids from sassing you after
kicking your sorry butt in a rematch.