Respect the game
A video game can really be quite an amazing thing. There are some games out there that are an embodiment of every art form at their most beautiful execution. There are also some games out there that serve absolutely no other purpose than to waste your time and money. The greatest way to figure out which ones you want to allow your kids to play is to play the game with them. Either that, or simply sit and watch them play. Actually watch them play their game and comment in detail. Don't do the parental thing of replying with "oh cool" or "that's nice", because you may miss some content that you might not want your kid experiencing. On the other hand you may also find a game series that you really like your children playing.
These simple little things are often missed and having input to add into your childrens' interests will boast their confidence greatly. In the end, all our children really want is our love and attention. Even if you do not love video games as a parent, identify the fact that your child loves video games and encourage that. My Mom is a standing testament to that as she is no lover of video games. However, she was the supplier to the demand that was my nerdy intentions as a kid. She'd drive for miles to go to that one specific store that had only one copy left of that one specific game that I had wanted so badly. Did she ever sit and play these games with me? No, but she encouraged my interest and understood that video games were important to me.
One of the biggest and most influential parts of playing games with my kids, is to help them identify how they are making themselves and others feel. When a certain situation occurs in a game like Goat Simulator, it can be difficult for Child A to understand why Child B is so ridiculously upset. Child A just wants to get their goat into this house to break some stuff. Child B is insanely pissed off that they're not in the same house breaking the same stuff with Child A. Child B then starts to get angry at Child A for "going without them". Child B doesn't understand that it is not because of the doing of Child A, but because Child B simply doesn't know how to do it as well. If reading all of that is difficult for you to follow, imagine being put into that exact situation and having to figure out exactly how to get your children to calm themselves so they can enjoy the game.
Getting my children to understand that it is no fault of anyone for their current emotional state, has not been easy. They are simply upset because they can't figure out how to do what the other is and more often than not those emotions are blamed outward. I do my best to get them to understand that it's no one's fault, then those same emotions are often redirected at themselves and they become downtrodden. It may seem like a dreary situation, and some parents reading this may be thinking why I would allow my children to get into these predicaments. I view this is as an opportunity to boost some serious self-confidence. I will either try and talk them through it from afar and encourage them to try on their own. Otherwise in these moments I jump in and help them figure out exactly how to achieve their goal. The inability to complete their task is typically due to their small hands on a Playstation 4 controller, or a lack of knowledge as to the controls in the game.
All it takes is helping them calm down with some deep breaths and showing them which button they're missing, or which way to turn the analog stick. The gleam found in their eyes after they've completed their task by themselves is more than noticeable. Even when wiping away tears, they understand that they overcame their emotional state in order to get to where they wanted to be. This really instills a sense of "I can do this!" into your kids. In my experience it has given my daughters the self-motivation to figure out exactly what is upsetting them, why it is upsetting them, and how to resolve the situation. Whether it be turning the game off completely or simply playing a different level, meltdown situations like this have taught my children that they always have options and that they have the ability to control their emotions, even when they themselves are upset.
Any game is significant
I have been playing video games since as long as I can remember. There doesn’t exist a point in time in my childhood of which I do not recall being inundated with one game or another. However, I was also an extremely active child. I have more scars than I can count, and have at least tried almost every sport available to a kid growing up. I've also owned every single game console since the original Nintendo. Knowing when to balance the real world and the virtual one can be a struggle in your own life. When it comes to your children and their love for video games, it’s one of the hardest things to do as a parent who also loves to nerd out.
I would say that a solid 80% of the times when gaming sessions come to an end, my children are screaming bloody murder because “they weren’t done yet.” Often these times also result with me getting irritably frustrated, because I don’t want them to be so focused on video games that they forget how awesome the outdoors, imagination, and general play can be. On the flip side, I love playing games with my kids. It’s one of our favorite things to do together and often I feel like I’m battling with myself along with them. Video games are awesome, and there are so many stories to experience and fun times to be had.
More often than not I am forced to turn off whichever games my kids are playing, simply because they are getting too emotional. A game as simple as Goat Simulator has the potential of leaving one of them in absolute tears. In case you have never played Goat Simulator, know that it is probably the most pointless game in the world. You literally just run around as a Goat in an open world and break stuff. There is no plot or any sort of singular goal in mind. It is purely a game to run around and waste your time in. So how could something like this make a child so upset? Apparently it is when Child A can’t get their goat to where Child B has their goat, and it becomes a war. The kids then start yelling at each other for "getting there first" or "leaving the other behind", and some harsh emotions are thrown around. I'll turn the Playstation off and shots are fired. Screaming is followed by an immense flow of tears, and often I try to distract them with another activity but it just isn’t as fun as “the Goat game”. When these moments happen I open my mouth and my mother’s words come out; “It’s just a game”.
Getting my children to understand that video games will always be there has been an interesting experience. For me, it has taken parenthood to truly understand that video games can be enjoyed thoroughly in small spurts of time just as much as your average gaming session that can last hours at a time. I have found that having less time to play, leads to a better quality of fun derived from playing. The games that I choose to play are very specific and I rarely play anything I don't deem worthy of my time. It is not to say that video games are not important, but to paint the image that the physical world is of the utmost importance.
Whenever there is a beautiful day to be had I encourage my children to spend their time outdoors first, before sitting down and geeking out. It is a constant battle of which I believe I am beginning to win. The tactic that I have tried lately that seems to have the greatest effect is to disallow games at certain times of the day. For example, there are no video games to be played any morning before school. I want my children to focus on the day ahead and to not be distracted. This is something that I need to remind my children of daily, but they understand why the rule is in place. All that I need to say to them when they ask to play something after breakfast, is "No, we don't play games before school." They often give a large "Ugh!" in reply but at least they're comprehending that school comes before video games.
The real world
My children are quite active. We go on bike rides frequently and thoroughly enjoy the outdoors. They love to pick flowers, throw rocks in the nearby lake, or just sit and watch the clouds. They are lovers of the earth and everything on it. They have a deep understanding of our planet for their young age. This is something that I encourage frequently through the turning off of video games. I will allow my children to pretty much do whatever they choose to do in their free time. I may get excited about a new game for us to play together every now and then, yet every single day that we are able to play outside we are often found outdoors. This coming summer, I am planning to bring my children out into the woods for some camping for the first time. I can guarantee you that during that adventure there will not be a single gaming device brought with. They won't be missed beyond the boredom of the car ride. There is so much more to life than video games and children should understand this fact at an early age.
We live in the age of digital technology and there is no escaping the fact that your kids will have some time in front of a screen. Whether it be playing a game or simply watching TV, children need to be taught that those things are not actually real. The controller in their hands is real and the TV in front of them is real, but the images displayed upon them do not physically exist. However they have the ability to mentally and emotionally affect you. This can be a good and bad thing depending on how enthralled you allow your children to become. Difficulty comes into play when you need to pull their mind away from those images and back to the real world. The best way I believe to do so is to get yourself involved and to play some games with your kids.
Encourage and understand that your kids love video games, but more imporantly, teach them the importance of when to shut them off and enjoy the sunshine. Allow yourself to get just as excited as they are about whatever game you're playing together. Teach them hands on and use yourself as an example as to how easily you can pull the plug on the games