Recently, I read an article about a study that was released confirming what most gaming dads already knew: it does girls good to play video games with their dads.
I've been playing video games with my two girls (5 & 11) for years now. It's good bonding time that I enjoy way more than tea parties, playing Barbies & GI Joes, or watching High School Musical for the 3 millionth time.
In my pre-console gaming days, I had my desktop connected via composite cable to the basement TV. I'd fire up a game and get comfortable while my then-4 year old would settle in on the recliner-couch with a bowl of popcorn and some juice bags. She'd giggle and laugh as I waged war on whatever virtual enemy I chose for the evening. Her favorite was watching me Force-push Stormtroopers to their doom in the classic Jedi Academy First Person Shooter.
When we graduated to the Xbox, I rearranged the old dadcave and we got to both enjoy the couch and a larger TV. My youngest soon joined the party. I even began to play games with the kids. Like the great LEGO series of games.
My latest innovation in family gaming though involves one of my favorites. Cheating.
Not cheating against real people in multiplayer. That would be wrong (and potentially get me banned from Xbox Live). No, I'm talking about online walkthroughs and tips and hints for single player campaigns. In the past, I'd have to pause the games, get on the laptop and try to figure out why the hell I couldn't complete a level. When I was a PC gamer I'd get frustrated and read about doing console commands and making myself invulnerable or giving myself unlimited ammo. The kids always enjoyed it and quite frankly, so did I.
Now though I have cheater co-pilots. In particular, we've been playing Fallout New Vegas, a first person role player that has you criss-crossing the post-apocalyptic Mojave wasteland looking for stuff and helping/killing AI players. My kids love the game, and were quit eager to break out the snacks and backseat-game along with me- pointing out giant, irradiated spiders; offering their opinion on whether I should shoot or negotiate; and face palming when I screwed up and died spectacularly.
But as all casual gamers do, I finally got to points in the game I just couldn't finish on my own. I needed help. I needed an online walkthrough and some maps of hidden locations. Unfortunately, my kids didn't have much patience with me pausing the game for ten minutes or more while I read what the hell was wrong. My eleven year old finally decided to take matters into her own hands.
"When you're ready, daddy," she told me one night, "let me know and I'll look it up." I looked over and there she was on the other end of the couch, the laptop set up on a TV snack stand, notepad and pencil ready.
I've learned that having a gaming co-pilot is quite helpful. Especially one with a detailed online map. Instead of wandering aimlessly in the radioactive wasteland, I can just demand "Where the hell is the Vault 21 entrance?!" In minutes- while I pass the time killing mutated geckos- she's located the coordinates, spun the laptop around and pointed the location out.
My five year old is in on the cheating fun also. While she lacks adequate search-engine skills, she's eager to see the maps as well, and parrot the criticisms my older child gives when I go in the wrong direction.
"No, you're going the wrong way!" older child says.
"You're going the wrong way, daddy!" younger child echoes two milliseconds later. You know, in case I didn't hear the first child.
So if you're a gamer dad who is constantly pestered by your children, or who have children that like to stand between you and the TV screen, don't lose your cool. Put their asses to work. Snack fetching and drink preparation is a great aid to serious gaming. And if they have the skills, set them up to co-pilot on the internet. It's an experience you'll all enjoy.
Just watch your language when die in the game....