Interview: The Dad Who Wants His Daughter To Play More Games

Just Dance

Get Connected Gamer Profile 2Chad Sapieha was worried he might ruffle some feathers when he posted a piece about telling his tween daughter to play more video games. We interviewed him on gaming with his daughter, and here’s what he had to say!

Do you ever play video games with your daughter (co-op mode, multiplayer, or over-the-shoulder gaming)?

My daughter and I play games together often, typically in co-op modes but occasionally in competitive multiplayer. I’d rather we play games together than the two of us sitting around passively watching TV. I’ve found they promote thought and interaction—not just with the game, but with each other. It can be a highly social activity. 

Do you play video games on your own?

I’ve played games all my life. One of my favorite pictures shows my sibling and me opening a Christmas present together containing a ColecoVision in 1982.

I’ve always been passionate about storytelling media—books, movies, ballads—and games evolved as I grew up to become one of our culture’s most innovative methods of expressing dramatic narrative. Even political and social commentary.

It helps that part of my job as a technology journalist involves playing and writing about interactive entertainment. 🙂

When did your daughter start gaming?

I suppose that depends on what counts as a game. She’s been playing little alphabet and number games on touch-screen devices since she was two or three. Her first traditional games were the Dora the Explorer and Go Diego Go games for Wii, which had wonderfully intuitive motion-based controls and no real way of losing, so she couldn’t get frustrated. Her love of games grew from there.

What are your daughter’s favorite games?

They change pretty frequently, but she’s never grown tired of the TT Games Lego titles, which provide a great mix of familiarity, accessibility, and creativity.

She also loves music and rhythm games, like the Just Dance Kids titles, which let her express her love of dance at home (she takes three weekly dance classes at a local studio).

The new Zoo Tycoon, with its beautiful creatures and educational zoo-opedia, does a good job of feeding her love of and interest in animals.

She’s also spent hours with the two Scribblenauts games for Wii U, which promote imagination by letting kids conjure up pretty much any creature, person, or object they’re able to spell (I partially credit these games for her recent improvement on spelling tests).

She barely went a day over Christmas holidays without playing my copy of Tearaway on my PlayStation Vita, which led me to go to the craft store and pick up a bunch of supplies so the two of us could spend a few afternoons making some of the papercraft models featured in the game.

And, of course, there are the staples for kids her age, including Minecraft, Mario platformers, and the occasional My Little Pony or Adventure Time game on her iPod Touch.

When you’re in the market for a new video game for kids, what do you look out for?

The first thing I do is check the ESRB descriptors. I don’t always follow the age recommendations, which I find can be overly cautious, but the descriptors are helpful in letting you know straight away if there’s strong language, nudity, gore, or anything else obviously inappropriate for a tween.

Assuming the content isn’t too iffy, I try to determine what the game will have her doing. I like to set her up with games that have a creative aspect, an educational element, or some sort of physical activity component. That’s not to say I won’t let her play games just for fun—I think kids just having fun is highly underrated by many of today’s parents—but if they can be fun and creative or educational or physical then it’s a significant bonus.

Is it ever hard to talk to other parents who don’t game or don’t understand gaming? Have you gotten any negative feedback over your article?

Honestly, sometimes I feel like most of my contemporaries have aged 10 or 20 years more quickly than I have. Strangers I meet at parties and get-togethers often can’t conceive why I would want to play and review games for a living, and look lost when I try to explain the wonders of the medium, why one game made me cry or another warmed my heart.

I’ve learned my lesson. I generally don’t bring games up with people my age unless I’m directly asked about them. Or unless they’re friends or colleagues who also play games.

Given my experiences with strangers my age, I figured my article about gently prodding my daughter to play more games would be met with derision from parents. Imagine my surprise when it wasn’t. I received almost nothing but positive feedback from other parents—and not all of them gamers. Some have simply seen for themselves the positive impact of games on their children’s lives.

It gives me hope that perhaps one day games will cease being looked upon as the outcast member of the modern media family.

Is there something you wish all parents knew about video games?

Games can be a healthy part of a balanced diet of media that also includes books, films, television, and music. They can offer an outlet for imagination, express moving stories, help kids stay active on cold winter days (and we’ve had a lot of those up here in Canada this winter), and enhance education.

They key, of course, is moderation and supervision. Make sure you know what your kids are playing and, if you’re interested, join them. They’ll love it, and you’ll create some great memories in the process. I’m pretty lucky in that my kid does a pretty good job of naturally self moderating. But if you think your kids are playing to the point of obsession, simply set some rules about play time.

It’s all just common sense, really. Any parents who understand games and their potential probably know all of this already.

[download file=”http://www.pixelkin.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Get-Connected.pdf” title=”Get Connected: A Pixelkin Guide to Family Gaming”]

Keezy Young

About Keezy Young

Keezy is a gamer, illustrator, and designer. Her background is in teaching and tutoring kids from ages 9 to 19, and she's led workshops for young women in STEM. She is also holds a certificate in teaching English. Her first memory of gaming is when her dad taught her to play the first Warcraft when she was five. You can find her at Key of Zee and on Twitter @KeezyBees.