Do remember one thing: If your goal as a parent is to connect with your kids, then the more common ground you share, the better. Fortunately, you have more freedom to indulge than ever before. With so many free-to-play games out there today, purchasing games and paying for subscriptions doesn't have to be a sticking point. There are bound to be a number of games where you and the kids can find common ground, as well as the inevitable choices that will appeal only to your 16-year-old daughter or strictly to your 10-year-old son. Be open to all the variations and combinations.
- Is your current game of choice kid-friendly? Would the kids like to join you there?
- If your favorite MMO isn't particularly child-friendly but the kids really want to join in, can you find ways to play (such as starting new characters together or enjoying holiday events) that would make things work for them, too?
- If you like one type of game and your kids prefer another, can you find a third type of game where you can meet in the middle for mutual fun?
- What about the games your kids love? Are there any you wouldn't mind joining in on?
- Why do you enjoy gaming? If it's an escape valve after a pressure cooker of a day, you may not want an in-game groupfest – but then again, jetting around Kings Row with the kids might be just the steam valve you need.
- What about parallel play – playing the same game but at different levels or in different ways, "separately but together"?
- How often do you enjoy playing together? Your six-year-old might enjoy "helping" you do quests every single afternoon, but your teenager might only be in the mood to pop some aliens with you on the occasional Saturday morning. Pick a game that matches the pace.
If it seems as if I'm encouraging gaming parents to game with
their kids, at least some of the time, that's because I am. It's ok to enjoy playing games that aren't appropriate for the kids, and it's ok if your kids squee with joy over games so sticky-sweet they'd make your teeth fall out. But there's nothing like having fun together to generate the proverbial group hug.
There are plenty of reasons why you should seize the chance to play MMOs along with your kids. Model cooperation.
You're demonstrating your values every time you pass on a really sweet drop that someone else in the group wants even more fervently ... Every time you drop what you're doing to help some poor little guy who keeps getting killed over and over trying to finish his quest ... Every time you hand over the platinum you spent weeks farming up when your spouse's dream armor finally pops up for sale. Teach good manners.
How do you invite others to a group? Do you thank them before you drop? How do you react to flame wars in general chat? The kids are watching; use that to your advantage. Instill respect.
It's all fine and good to indulge in good-natured trash-talking among friends. Too many young gamers today, however, routinely put down players who have less experience or weaker gear. Show your kids that you are just as proud of your level 32 warrior as you are your level 80 mage – and show them that the way you treat other players isn't linked to the number over their head or the color of the gear names in their inventories. Develop self-sufficiency.
Be a partner, a safety net and a facilitator, not a tour director who leads all the groups, directs all the quests and trains all the skills. It's fun to do things as a team, but don't forget to give kids a chance to stretch their wings.Promote computer skills.
Kids don't type yet? Play MMOs long enough, and they will. Build confidence.
Scary monsters are – well, downright scary. Defeating a scary monster or going into a creepy zone by themselves can be a major hurdle for young kids. Don't brush off small achievements that represent real milestones to your child. Some kids need to take things in smaller bites. Encourage failure in order to encourage success.
Gaming offers an unparalleled opportunity for children to indulge in "safe" risk-taking. Give kids room to mess up spectacularly and completely: die horribly in an inaccessible location, lose the quest piece on step 11 of 12, wipe the raid, waste 500 gold. Then give them encouragement, support and finally the space to try again. Parenting doesn't get any better than this.