Clever First – To be considered for play in our house, a game must be clever. This is the most important aspect of the game. Now clever is defined in numerous ways, which I will attempt to list below.
Puzzle – This can be anything from the puzzle of solving a dungeon to the basic brainteaser variety.
Spatial – Depending on the game, this could be platforming, messing with gravity, using portals, going back and forth between 2D and 3D, and anything else that causes you to think through a game in some way other than how you interact with the real world.
Musical – From rhythm to playing music, anytime a game includes music in its gameplay.
Strategy – This could be the strategy of diplomacy and/or conquering the world, or it could be thinking quick on your feet in a battle.
Humor – Some games simply don’t take themselves too seriously. Often these are fantastic games.
Art – If a game has endeavored to use an art form for its method of showing its story, rather than realistic images, I will always be intrigued.
Action – You have to be brave and face your fears to conquer these style of games.
Thoroughness – Being able to keep a map of where you have been and what you need to do next in your head is a talent worth developing. For those who can’t, maps help. But seeking and finding all the extras or finishing all (or most) of the side quests can really flesh out a game’s story and feel.
Grit – The game challenges you? Awesome. Keep trying.
Time Management – Planning is always a good skill.
No Competition – A long time ago, before we had our second child, I was recommended a book about sibling rivalry (Siblings Without Rivalry). It’s a really good book and had many great points, but what stuck out for me here in the gaming world was that the boys needed to be a team. It needed to be the two of them against the world. I can remember the first game they played cooperatively. They had always gotten along well together, but this bond of reliance and looking out for each other started cementing as they played through the game with each other. In order to keep that, strengthen that, they needed to not see each other as the other side. Yes, this meant no sports games, unless they could be a team against the game. But it also kept them out of any competitive side of any co-op game. The youngest often tried to break this rule, and I could always hear the change in tone between the two of them. As they got older, I relaxed this restriction some. But I keep an ear out for the signs that the gaming has turned unfriendly. I’m not going to save my kids from getting their feelings hurt, but I will keep them from unintentionally damaging their brother bond.
No Lapping – When you have kids, and your gaming systems are in the main living space, you will find that they want to play whatever they see you playing. And, as mom’s often do, I find myself deferring my gametime to them. After all, I can play when they are asleep or at school, so I often give up the system and let them play whatever game I was playing even when I really, really want more gametime. This does, however, present two issues. If you choose to stay and watch them play, you may see parts of the story of a game you hadn’t played through yet. This is especially bad in a puzzle game, but it can ruin plot twists as well. Even if you decide to leave the room, some kids cannot keep themselves from sharing enthusiastically everything that occurred in the game while you were doing laundry. Thus the No Lapping rule. If mom owns the game, you cannot pass her progress. This rule may also be invoked by the kids for games they own.
No Spoiling – See above.
No FPS (for now) – It’s not the first person so much as the shooter part.
No Guns – Personal preference here, but also from having read the science of the violent side of video games. Oh, the kids will defeat enemies and they may have laser guns or various projectile weapons, but they will not have games with guns until they are matured to adulthood. (Space saved for tag of future article on the science of video game violence.)
No Human Enemies – You can have enemies plenty, you can have huge monsters even, but until you’re an adult you will not be killing humans in this house.
No Systems Upstairs – This goes for phones, 3DS, computers, and, of course, our consoles, which live in the living room. Gaming is social for us. We watch each other play, hop in with each others games, comment on each others games, laugh at each others fails and silliness. As a way to be transparent with our gaming interactions, and keep the kids safe, we do not allow anything to be stored in bedrooms. Likewise, we do not allow phones to be brought to bedrooms overnight. There are occasions when we permit a phone conversation to be held upstairs or even a gaming session. Generally those times are because of my need for quiet.
No Rated M for Mature Games – We follow the rating systems, with mom having the final say. There are T for Teen games that I allow for both kids, but they must be vetted by me first.
There are Exceptions to every Rule – Every single one of them.