Creative Games, Racing Games, Shooter Games — A Mum Shares Some Pros and Cons…
Our boys were aged 6 and 8 when they first started gaming. They started with the Lego games which I agreed to, despite not being a huge games fan. (There are storylines and characters, challenges and team work… You can read more about them here.)
A couple of years on and our boys have started playing other games. I can see the value in some of them. Others, I’m less convinced by, but we maintain an open conversation. I communicate why I might find some games less appealing than others. The boys, in turn, share why they enjoy the games. Some games last a season while others are around to stay…
Here’s my take on what can be a difficult to navigate landscape. I hope it provides newbies or noobs as they are known in the gaming community, some insight into the pros and cons of different games.
Creative games — Minecraft
This is an awesome game! It differs from Lego games in that you are not directed. It’s all about imaginative play and creativity. The important thing to know is that there are essentially two different game modes — creative and survival. In the beginning, set your child’s world to creative so that they can let their imagination run wild. They can build anything and you’ll be surprised by what they come up with! One summer, the boys built oversized animal sculptures. They were full of character; just brilliant. I’ve not been to burning man, but their world reminded me of those oversized statues, but with a huge dose of humour and no drugs!
I love the creativity and the open-ended play. It’s also great when you have children of different ages and mixed ability. They can play together in the same world and each make their own creations.
As time passes, they will want to try survival mode. As the name suggests, it’s about survival and there are some grisly creatures or even other players out to get you. This can upset younger ones, but they soon learn that they can “re-spawn” and continue the game. Make sure you discuss and set the ground rules in advance to prevent any disputes.
In survival mode you can also take up the challenge to get to the Nether and defeat the Ender Dragon — or not. It’s your world after all!
Racing games — Sonic
Sonic has the reputation in our home for being the game that destroyed the graphics card on Dad’s computer. Beware of this one! Make sure your graphics card can handle it or better yet, play on a console! The children enjoyed this for a season and I’ve noticed that they return to it when there is a group of children together. It is loads of fun. Each racer chooses a crazy car and they’re all completely engaged and focussed. There’s a lot of screeching, cheering and laughter. A fun game for a crowd.
Shooter games — Plant vs Zombies
I’m reluctant to allow my boys to play shooter games so this is the first one they were exposed to when they started to become persistent. Plants vs zombies can’t be that bad — can it? Again, I do not understand why this game captivates children. There are some fun word plays which I appreciate (on the plant team, you’ll find Pea Shooter and Kernel Corn), but other than that it doesn’t do much for me! I am, however, not the target audience. The boys enjoyed it at first, but I have noticed that they play it only occasionally. It was a good choice in terms of allowing them a shooting game…
Shooter games — Worms
My husband introduced this game to the boys as it’s a game he remembers from childhood. The premise is that you choose a weapon and blow up your opposition. Different weapons create a different amount of damage so there’s a certain amount of strategy involved in protecting your own guys and destroying the enemy.
I was a little horrified by how quickly my children learnt the terminology of war. Words which they had never heard before were quickly assimilated — hand grenades, marked for death, concrete donkey, super sheep, bazookas… It made me wonder whether we could teach children complicated vocabulary through games. Do you think it would work?
Anyway, the trivialisation of war made me sad. No one else quite understood. They reminded me that it’s just a game — one which thankfully remained a favourite for a short season. The boys liked the noises of the game and also, the fact that they could name their own team. This was very creative and quite funny too.
Sport fiction games: Rocket League
Rocket League is the game of the moment. Now, I may not be able to understand why car football is so compelling, but it is. I am so grateful my husband enjoys games too. This little revelation may well impact his cred, but I have seen him practise without the boys so that he is (sort-of) competitive too!
Sport games: FIFA
I can see the value in this one. Children learn the names of all the players as easily as breathing in and breathing out, the rules of the game and also, how the league works.
History/ strategy games — Civilisation
Our eldest loves Civilisation and I was surprised by how very much he learnt through playing this game. So much in fact, that I’d recommend it to History teachers. Each time you play, you choose to be a different ruler from History. You build your empire considering where to build your cities and how to manage your resources. It takes children through time, through all the impactful inventions, the great architectural feats and it even introduces them to the different styles of governance. He was besotted with Civilisation for a time and still returns to it now and again. You can up the level of difficulty as you become more familiar with the game.
A balanced philosophy…
It’s been an odd time what with the lockdown and restrictions on our usual sports and holidays. I have noticed that it is increasingly difficult to come up with something more compelling than a good game. We all need some distraction during these times! So, as long as we know we’re using the game to have some fun and completely disengage from the present, go for it I say!
Then again, it’s well worth putting a time limit on gaming. The boys will sometimes say: “But there’s nothing else to do!” This is not true — of course. There’s just nothing quite as compelling! Fortunately I have a couple of psychologist friends who are huge proponents of boredom. It is meant to be incredibly healthy for creative development. So, if you need a good reason for your eloquent pre-teen who is starting to push the boundaries, you too can let them know that a dose of boredom will do them good!