Q1. Could you start by telling us a little about your family – how many children do you have, how old are they?
We have two daughters, ages 7 and 10. We also have a dog that just turned 1 last week. The dog actually watches the girls play.
Q2. What are some of your kids’ favorite video games to play, both on their own and together as a family?
On their own, they love Stardew Valley and a version of Slither.io, but as a family we often play Mario Kart, Snipperclips, or 1-2-Switch. We occasionally do some PC gaming together, too. Kerbal Space Program has been a really fun game to play as a family. At one point we all planned a full space mission from ship design to science experiments. KSP has kindled an interest in space and exploration in my kids that has been a joy to watch.
Another one we really enjoyed together was Breath of the Wild. That game was a great “couch” experience. Even though it’s single player, the kids could take control in some parts and switch back if they got stuck. My youngest wanted to explore and loved telling me where to go. My older daughter wanted to play a more active role. They also liked taking out a pencil and paper to help solve some of the puzzles. It was a great mix for all of us and everyone had fun regardless of whether or not they held the controller.
Q3. Tough question: Who is better at the games you play together, the parents or the kids?
I think Mario Kart has some great mechanics to make sure players that are behind can still have a good time. Sometimes parents must capture the essence of the blue shell to make sure it stays fun across all skill levels.
Q4. How often do you play together and why do you do it?
We go through phases. For example, when BotW came out we played a little bit after dinner each night. After we beat that, they had some shows on Netflix they wanted to watch, so playing games took a back seat for a bit. But it’s a nice time whenever we game together. It’s a more communicative experience than movie night.
Q5. Have you learned anything about your kids playing video games with them that you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise?
Well, my oldest is ultra-competitive. I’ve known this for a while, but it has provided a good training ground for how to handle winning and losing. I’ve learned that my youngest needs a little encouragement to take control. She’s happier to observe sometimes.
Q6. Are there benefits you’ve found to playing video games together? Are there benefits to the time your kids spend playing on their own?
Playing together is quality time, full stop. We’re talking. We’re encouraging each other at times and competing at others. I’m sure I’ll miss it when they move out. I think it’s good for them to game solo, too. In my opinion, it keeps their brains active and it’s easier to keep track of what they’re doing versus randomly surfing the internet.
Q7. If you had to pick one, what video game would you recommend parents play with their kids?
Kerbal Space Program if parents have the patience to learn it, Breath of the Wild otherwise. This may seem odd because they are both single-player games, but we’ve really enjoyed controller and keyboard passing. It allows us to play things together even if we’re all at different skill levels.
Bill Garrity is the Senior Vice President of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, a non-profit, self-regulatory body that assigns age and content ratings for video games and mobile apps so parents can make informed choices.