I have a secret for all of you: I like to play video games. A wide variety of them, and some way more than others, but generally, I like a variety.
I also am a parent, one of those sad, swooning, gushing ones who people are afraid of, who probably thinks her kid is cooler than most other people do. This may or may not be true, and may or may not be a result of several years of single parenting with the aid of other like-minded adults, most of whom were also gamers.
Most people I know never imagined that those two parts of my life could fit together, but gaming has always been a big part of my life. I love few things better than a nice, friendly, competitive night of frivolity among friends and family, be it cards, or a game of Taboo that rose to shouting. Where I'm from in the Midwest, getting together for meals and a night of games is pretty routine.
It probably goes without saying that I find gaming, in its many forms, to be a positive experience, one that can be enjoyed by single people of any age, by couples, and by families with children. My dive back into dedicated gaming was a result of my being bored while my partner was raiding or PVP-ing (playing a MMORPG player versus player), and soon we enjoyed running through Azeroth together. We now have a nice collection of games that can be enjoyed by more than two people, and which we like to play with friends and our kid in social settings.
In my mind, gaming has become akin to what the family board game night was when I was younger, for people who grew up with families who made or had time to do those things. You gather together, choose a game, and laugh and chat during that precious time together. It's not uncommon for us to toss together a pencil and paper D&D game, giving our daughter a character of her own design to play, gently guiding her through the rules. She also enjoys taking us each on, one at a time, in Wii boxing (sadly, she is the house champ), and several of us were even thrilled when we had time to oversee her through World of Warcraft to ensure she was safe while online.
During my chat with Ashley Soriano we talked a little bit about how most people don't think of the average gamer as a family-friendly person. Many don't think of gamers hanging out with loved ones clearing columns in Tetris as part of a mother-daughter afternoon, or pwning n00bs together as a couple. This, however, is how things are in our family, and other families that we know.
The ESA says that 64% of parents see gaming as a positive experience for their children. I think that if we, as gamers, continue to demand better games of the industry, we may see the stigma of how video games are harmful for children washed away. It would be awfully nice if video games were not blamed for every horrible act, then Jack Thompson could stop calling games "murder simulators" and go back to being irrelevant.
Even though they're responsible for the destruction of gaming and all that is apparently sacred, the industry has been pretty good to those of us social gamers or gamer parents. We now have dancing games for grownups and kids alike, multiplayer games of almost any flavor, educational games, games to help us exercise (if those don't yell at us), and even board games converted to console. The video or electronic game can and has moved up to a place that can really bring people together in more situations. Fewer people are finding this odd, and that makes me kind of giddy.
It is certainly another reason why I think that it is important to keep critiquing games. I want games to be better, but not just for me. I want them to be better because I want my kid to keep enjoying them. I want them to be something that more families enjoy in social settings. I want gamers to stop living under the stereotype that we are ruining our lives or isolating ourselves by indulging in a hobby.