So you’ve been a Dad for a little while now, and have managed to balance babies with video games. To an extent you have learnt the tricks and hacks that make having a kid fun. Over the past few years you’ve indulged in plenty of gaming time, even though you didn’t think you would. Now you are wanting to get your kid involved in the hobby that you love, but how the hell do you do that without pushing them into it?
I was so excited when my first son Carter started to talk, and show even a slight interest in my Xbox 360 controllers. I sat back as I watched him constantly go over and grab a controller and thought great, now is the time to start introducing him to games. So I picked him up on my lap, gave him a controller and then grabbed a controller myself. I started up the most kid friendly game I had which was probably Halo (not really appropriate for a two-year old). I started the game hoping to see him moving the analogue sticks around or pressing buttons. He sat on my lap for about 5 minutes before he got bored with the controller and squirmed his way out of my arms. Defeated! I watched as he got down and picked up a Hot Wheels car.
Kids love Disney Infinity
“How in the hell do I get him interested?” I kept thinking to myself. I love video games and always imagined a future of playing them with my kids; having a bonding experience over something I hoped we both would love. This wasn’t the case for the first 4 years of Carter’s life, but that all changed when I was given a Nintendo 3DS from someone at my work. He gave it to me as an act of kindness, but I would have never guessed how grateful and happy I would be for the gift.
I brought the 3DS home and my son, all excited about a new toy, watched me play it for a little. Then, to my surprise, Carter asked if he could play it. Now granted up until this point he had played a few games with me, but he always got bored within ten minutes and went to do something else. I finished up the level I was playing and handed it to him, showed him what buttons do what, and then watched him try to figure everything out. He wasn’t very good but that didn’t seem to bother him. I kept expecting him to get bored and give up, like he did with all the other games he played – but he didn’t! He kept playing and playing. He hadn’t even completed the first level but something about the game had clicked with him, and I could see the joy in his face as he figured out the next part. Who would have guessed that Mario would be the game that brought my son into this hobby? He played for a good thirty minutes that day before dinner, and for the next few days he would ask me to play it as soon as I got home. My excitement was through the roof. My dream of gaming with him was still a reality.
Watching him beat his first level without any of my help, and seeing the joy it brought him was priceless. It reminded me of all the times when I had beaten a difficult level and wanted to jump up for joy. I learnt some valuable lessons from those years of trying to slowly introduce my son to games, the first being that I couldn’t force gaming on him. Secondly, that the choice of game is extremely important. Finally, when it comes to gaming, it won’t happen until it clicks for the person playing.
Now my second son; Noah, is a totally different story. Gaming clicked for him almost since birth. He has always wanted to sit with me and try to play, or grab his own controller and join in (which amusingly, I knew to be a dead controller). It is weird to see the drastic differences in my two boys; how quickly Noah jumped on the visor game wagon, but it took Carter almost two-years longer to catch the bug. Noah is up for almost any game too, it isn’t just ‘kid’ games like LEGO or Disney Infinity for him. What’s more he will watch me play anything; which is a good, but also potentially dangerous (I’ll go in-depth with game ratings in a future installment).
So when it comes to trying to get your kid into gaming my advice is pretty straight forward. Whatever you do don’t force it, and if it isn’t their thing find something else you both enjoy and can bond over. Forcing it would just make them resent it anyways, and that’s the last thing you want. That being said, remember they may just be one game away from catching the bug!