How do I get ready to play video games with my kid?
February 11, 2017 5:10 PM   Subscribe

My kid is very young (almost 3) but in the next couple of years he's going to start playing video games and I want to be a part of that. However, the last video game I played was Sonic the Hedgehog in the mid-90s.

I'm clueless about video games but I respect that they're an important part of our cultural fabric. I want his introduction to gaming to come via me. Mainly because it will be fun but also so he can learn how to do things like have a healthy game/life balance. And also so he has a chance to develop some values before he inevitably encounters some of the repulsive, cesspit corners of the gaming world at a friend's house or wherever. In the years leading up to that, how do I get up to speed?

Based on previous asks like this, it sounds like I have two options: a console (which seems to have the most mainstream games?) or PC (which seems like it has more indie options available?).

I lean more towards the indie games. (I've been wanting to try this.) But I looked at Steam and it made my head swim. Aside from reading game reviews how do you find out what's good? I like that there's a physical controller to use with a tv but it doesn't look like you can have two players, like a console. Or are there other ways to play with two people on a tv with a Mac?

As for consoles I have zero idea where to start. Dropping $300-$600 seems nuts when I don't even know what I want to play. The Wii reconditions here and here are dated but sound fun and something we can play together as a family. I like the Nintendo Classic Edition discussed here but I don't know how fun that will remain over the years.

My top priorities are:
-a gaming system that allows us to play together
-something that has game options ranging from what a five-year-old will like to what I would be interested in (I don't see myself playing Wii bowling for more than 5 minutes)
-and if it's a console, something I can buy used.

Or am I just really overthinking this? Do we just play iPad games together until he decides which direction he wants to go?
posted by not_the_water to Technology (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Please wait. Technology is moving FAST. My daughter is 7 and "grew up" on the ipad (and old fashioned tabletop board games because, nerds). She is facile on a computer now but there is SO MUCH for the touch-screen that we can do together. Consoles feel awkward to her.

See what happens in the industry in the next 24-48 months. Unless you're really asking what is cool these days because YOU want to play... in which case, awesome.

Also by the way Sonic and Mario are still cool.
posted by nkknkk at 5:56 PM on February 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

You're seriously overthinking this as well as jumping the gun. He's not even 3 -- he may not get into video games for years. He may never get into video games.

I err on the side of encouraging him to run and bike and play and interact with the world -- hold off on the video games for as long as you can.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:56 PM on February 11, 2017 [16 favorites]

Or am I just really overthinking this?
That's my bet. By the time he's ready for more grown up games, who knows what the technology will be.
Do we just play iPad games together until he decides which direction he wants to go?
Yup. Mobile platforms will have a lot of age-appropriate options too. Also maybe check what's running on computers in the kids section of your local library for ideas.

Also a little time spent with a mouse may actually be useful for school eventually, but all you need for that's any laptop/desktop and a browser.

Unfortunately none of this helps a lot with making it fun for both of you as a lot of these games may be pretty dull for you for now.
posted by floppyroofing at 5:59 PM on February 11, 2017

Oh, I actually think you're not overthinking this at all, and if you want to grow a little gamer, you can share that with your kid right now.

Go to Gamestop and get a used Wii and a few games. My just-turned-3-year-old daughter loves video games. Her favorite is Cooking Mama right now, but we also like the Just Dance games (which she calls "Pup Pup Boogie," lifted from Paw Patrol), Kirby's Epic Yarn, and this bad Barbie and Her Sister's Puppy Rescue game that she insisted I buy. Oh, and she likes watching her dad and I fight each other on Smash Brothers. There's a ton of downloadable content--including a really great Sonic Platformer. Who cares that it's an older system? If your kid takes to gaming, they'll be whining for a new console in 5 years or so anyway.

My kid also gets a little bit of tablet time on occasion and likes the Lego games a lot.

Plus, my husband is a gamer and she likes sitting on his lap while he shoots people in various games. They recently hunted down a crystal in some Final Fantasy MMO and she loved it. But that might just be because it's good daughter-dad bonding time.

Anyway, the Wii is pretty much the perfect starter system for a kid and there will be plenty you like too. Mine is too young to actually play but she sometimes holds a second controller and "helps" and we have a lot of fun with it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:08 PM on February 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

...but also so he can learn how to do things like have a healthy game/life balance.

Actually, I'd say that practicing this yourself will put you in a much better position to model and thereby teach it. As such, why not explore some stuff that looks neat? You don't have to get it exactly right on the first shot: for now, this is just about finding some games you like.
posted by teremala at 6:08 PM on February 11, 2017

Oh, and you can download a ton of classic Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and Sega games on the Wii. You just need a classic controller.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:11 PM on February 11, 2017

Serious answer. any of the lego games. They're amazing for young kids because you can't really "die" and it's amazing for adults because it's complicated enough to be interesting for adults. Me and my son play them for hours. We've gone through a lot of them, lego batman, avengers, Harry Potter, Jurassic park, they're endless. I think he started playing them around 4, and he's almost 7 now and still loves them.
posted by katypickle at 6:44 PM on February 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

If he's like any kid i've known, when he discovers Minecraft, he will live an breath Minecraft for a couple of years. You could get up to speed on how to set up and run a minecraft server.
posted by humboldt32 at 6:48 PM on February 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ipad, toca boca. See where you go from there. Tiny thief is also a delightful one, though check to make sure it still works as it may have been borked by an ios upgrade.

Getting an old ps3 is a good option for a console, as games are cheap and you can get the best ones - ni no kuni is one that my daughter loved and is well suited to younger children.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:20 PM on February 11, 2017

My five-year-old loves Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii; it's never too scary, there are parts easy enough for him to do, the variety of levels is fun and interesting.
posted by daisystomper at 7:41 PM on February 11, 2017

You might find this article interesting about a Dad and how he worked to introduce games to his kid. I always assumed I would do it similarly if/when I have a kid.
posted by FireFountain at 10:55 PM on February 11, 2017

It's great that you want to be able to share the video game experience with your son, it can be a hugely rewarding thing to do - especially if you're not gaming alone. Some of my best gaming experiences have been with local co-op games or online gaming, often with people I know in real life too. This was all on a PS3 console (haven't bought a PS4 yet because I'm gaming less and less - still, this is what I would suggest.)

However, I wonder whether you want to get up to speed with the gaming world for the sake of your son, or because you find yourself curious about gaming and want to explore? If the second reason applies, by al means, go for it! There's a wonderful world to be discovered. But if the first reason applies, I'd suggest: maybe allow your son to eventually bring you up to speed? You can still introduce him to what you loved (i.e. the classic games), but he'll be able to feel like he his actually teaching his dad something - and gaming might be an ideal way for him to have that experience. So I'd say: maybe wait until he gets you to play games with him? But again, if you want to game now, go ahead and enjoy yourself!
posted by Desertshore at 12:07 AM on February 12, 2017

I'm a gaming inclined person (nearly 27 years old). My dad played Atari when he was a kid (in his 50s) and still Xbox 360 and Wii sometimes. My husband plays games (he's nearly 30). My step-mom games more than my dad (shes in her 40s) and I play similar games as her. When they visited we all played Mario Party on the Wii.

If you want to get into gaming. Do it.

But don't assume that your kid will be into it now or in the future, be into those systems, be into those games, be into that platform, or want to play games with you, etc.

I will say that Wii is pretty great for family fun. The Wii Sports (especially Wii sports resort) is really fun and getting a Wii fit board is great for yourself. Plus things like Mario Party and Mario Kart.

1) Do the thing you're interested in. You don't have to justify it for your kid. If they seem interested, by all means get some kids' games.

2) Listen to your kid and their interests. Don't force anything.

I got into gaming because my dad played with me a bit, but mostly he bought systems for me and let me do my own thing. He got me an Xbox Live account when I was 13/14 (Yes, I've had my account since 2003/2004 ish.) When I was a teen I played with my friends and online friends and he was always really supportive (I'm also a lady so less support for lady-gamers back in my day in general.)

AND there's lots of stuff that my dad and I did together as "our thing" such as Mystery Science Theater 3000. But he also took my friends and I shopping, did our hair, and drove us to volleyball practice (uhg, volleyball.)

I don't think you're necessarily overthinking, but right now you have NO idea what your kid is going to be into. I'd worry that you'd get all this stuff "for your kid" and then be disappointed when they weren't into it.

As judge John Hodgman would say, you can't force people to like what you like.

So get the game system, for yourself. Get some family games. Maybe a cheap tablet for the kiddo. See what happens.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:38 AM on February 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also totally agree with PhoBWanKenobi. I didn't mean to sound like I was slamming the gaming community; what I would do is find games YOU like and reverse engineer the thing. But because tech changes so quickly, I wouldn't buy something now with an eye for use in several years.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:05 AM on February 12, 2017

Grab an Xbox then buy the complete Halo series and Forza- it is a fun race game. I played Halo with my kid in my lap since he was born. You will be amazed by the acceleration of their ability to learn the games and how to control it. The kid knew every aspect of the every game available by the time he was 4 years old. By the time he was nine he was competitive with my skills but I could still take him. By the time he was 11 I was losing ground, when he was 13 it was no longer a fair game. And the beat goes on...

TLDR; grab an Xbox console because that is what most kids are playing now a days and have fun. You can watch some YouTube vids if you get stuck.
posted by bkeene12 at 9:06 AM on February 12, 2017

You could do what waxpancake did, and starting with pong, play through the generations of game systems chronologically.
posted by Sophont at 8:11 PM on February 12, 2017

My 3yo likes to help me catch sunshine while I play Plants Vs Zombies 2 on my phone. Starting small!
posted by jillithd at 8:47 AM on February 13, 2017

I'm 37, grew up on NES and every console since, and have attempted to game with my six year old daughter in various ways since she was about four.

She simply did not have the dexterity or attention span to play on a console, save for some very simple minigames. Friends with kids her age or even a bit younger took to it much better, so it can really vary.

She loved collaborating with me on Viva Pinata and generally bossing me around. We had a lot of fun with that. She also likes watching me play games like Rocket League and XCOM.

We got sick of Viva Pinata and have moved onto the Pokemon card game, which she is obsessed with. I'll get back to video games with her if she asks, or if I learn about something that really sounds good. I think I'll try Katamari Damacy with her next if I can find a console to play it on.
posted by look busy at 1:32 PM on February 14, 2017

I also wanted to recommend PBS Kids' games website. My 3yo likes to sit on my lap as we play some of those games together. He's 3.5 and the coordination is really not there yet, so some frustration is to be expected.
posted by jillithd at 2:02 PM on February 14, 2017

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