Game Time

Menstuff® has compiled the following information on the trends in family games - from board games to computer games.

Adult Gamers and Their Ulterior Motives for Gaming


The Philly Inquirer is running a nice little article about why parents game with their children. Seems that adult gamers are still on the rise." From the article: "In a national survey released in January, 35 percent of 501 parents living with children age 2 to 17 said they played computer or video games, according to the Entertainment Software Association. Of those, 80 percent also played with their children. On average, these fathers and mothers - yes, almost half were women - spent 9.1 hours a month gaming with the children."
Source: games.slashdot.org/games/06/03/05/1638222.shtml

Passing the joystick to a new generation


Rosanne Corcoran's thumbs fly around the purple GameCube controller at warp speed.

"Gotcha!" she gloats, as her alter ego, Bowser, throws Mario out at third in an intense game of Mario Superstar Baseball in the family room of her Trappe home.

"Darn," mutters 8-year-old Rosemary Corcoran, staring at the 52-inch TV. Her fingers mash buttons as she scrambles to help Mario recover.

Rosemary really wants the bragging rights that will accompany this win. Rosanne, you see, isn't just another child glued to a console.

Rosanne, a woman who's got game, is Rosemary's 38-year-old mother. A generation of children who have played video games, like, forever, has come of age - as gamer parents.

As these mothers and fathers enter the real world of Little League and parent conferences and dance recitals, they are not putting down their joysticks. They are escorting their children into the land of pixels.

Like television and radio for an earlier generation, and cards and board games before that, video games are now a staple of family entertainment, say industry observers.

It's a development that burnishes the image of a medium often criticized since its arrival more than 30 years ago.

"People are starting to figure out there is more to this than violent shoot-'em-ups," said Daniel Morris, associate publisher of PC Gamer magazine.

In a national survey released in January, 35 percent of 501 parents living with children age 2 to 17 said they played computer or video games, according to the Entertainment Software Association.

Of those, 80 percent also played with their children. On average, these fathers and mothers - yes, almost half were women - spent 9.1 hours a month gaming with the children.

It was the first time the association had probed the habits of parents, many of whom became gamers back when that meant Pong at the arcade.

And why not? The oldest of the original Nintendo generation - the console debuted in the United States in 1985 - are now about 30, prime breeding years. They remain enthusiastic about the medium. Last year, the average age of a gamer was 30, up from 28 in 2000, according to Peter D. Hart Research Associates, based in Washington.

At GamerDad.com, parents seek advice on consoles, on family-friendly titles, and on when their progeny will have the dexterity to handle a joystick. Launched in 2003, the site has 60,000 unique visitors a month, said founder Andrew Bub, 35.

Tammy McCoy, 37, of Findlay, Ohio, belongs to 2old2play.com, which bills itself as "a Web site for gamers over 25." In fact, the average visitor is 33, and more than half have children.

McCoy loves playing video games, but has an ulterior motive for competing with her son, 15. "I like to see the content he's seeing," she said.

At WomenGamers.com, mothers often say they started their children young and play with them all the time, said Phaedra Boinodiris, 33, the site's cofounder. Chats cover content and concern about the amount of time families spend at consoles.

"They talk about balance," said Boinodiris. "They use [video games] as a tool, a toy."

The video game industry - which last year generated $10.5 billion in sales, according to market researchers the NPD Group - has taken note of the medium's changed status within the family. The commercial success of all-ages games is strong motivation.

Only one of last year's 10 top-selling video games was restricted to players 13 or older. Most were OK for even young children. Titles in the children and family entertainment categories represented 10 percent of total units sold in 2005, up from 8 percent in 2002, according to NPD, of Port Washington, N.Y.

Microsoft is going after the intergenerational market "in a much, much bigger way," said Aaron Greenberg, group marketing manager for Xbox Live, the online component of the company's Xbox 360, which was introduced in November. Gamers can limit their play to Xbox Live's new "family zone," where clean language and good sportsmanship are required.

The company, whose Xbox 360 has been a favorite among fans of shooting games, intends to create more family-friendly titles like its Kameo: Elements of Power, a new fantasy action-adventure that lets two characters play cooperatively at one time, Greenberg said. It is rated for gamers 13 and older.

For most of their existence, video games have been vilified as "a precursor to a society of alienated, socially incompetent automatons," Heather Chaplin and Aaron Ruby write in Smartbomb: The Quest for Art, Entertainment, and Big Bucks in the Videogame Revolution, published in November.

That image is so yesterday. In 18th-century America, "people thought the novel was going to lead to the moral decay of society," Chaplin, 34, said in an interview. Video games are making the novel's transition to the mainstream, she said.

Gamer parents are on the front lines. Rosanne Corcoran, like many of her generation, fell in love with the console through Missile Command, Space Invaders and Pong, all played on Atari. She was 10.

When she was a child, recreation involved two alternatives: "You played outside. You played Atari," said Corcoran, a Realtor.

When her daughter Rosemary asked for a GameCube a year ago, she did not hesitate.

"It's great," Corcoran said of family game time. Corcoran plays World War II shooting games - Call of Duty 2 was a Christmas present - after Rosemary and her sister, Erin, 4, go to bed.

The girls have no time limit to their video game play. "It's not like it's exclusive of reading, or playing, or arts and crafts," Corcoran said.

What does Grandmom think?

"My mother," she said. "It cracks her up. 'You're still playing those games?' "

The girls, however, give Mom the high score for coolness.

"You're in first place," Rosemary said, none too pleased as mother and daughter raced to the finish line in Mario Cart Double Dash.

"What was that?" teased Corcoran, who took a beating in Mario Superstar Baseball. "First? F-I-R-S-T? As in No. 1?"

That kind of trash talk is part of the fun, said Peer Schneider, an executive at IGN Entertainment, which provides gaming news and reviews on the Internet.

"Games aren't the solitary experience they were," he said. "What happens outside the game is just as important as what happens inside the game."

At the Bonner home in Haddon Township, Mom, Dad and their five children, age 1, 7, 10, 11 and 13, crowd the backroom PlayStation 2 on a Friday night. It's Karaoke Revolution Party time!

As each belts a tune ("Pieces of Me," for one) into a mike, an on-screen audience reacts to the performance. Louder cheers equal more points.

Kyle Bonner, 13, won until his voice began to change. Now Danielle Bonner, 33, his stepmother, rules. His father, Jerry Bonner, 34, usually crashes within minutes. Kaela, Alexa and Steve DeJesus, his step-siblings, vie for second. And toddler Bridget Bonner, his half-sister, drools on the mike and bounces to the music.

"It's a big part of our lives," said Jerry Bonner, a sleep-clinic technologist.

As a toddler, Kyle would sit in Bonner's lap, "holding a controller and pretending he was playing... . I think any quality time you spend with kids, they'll look back on fondly. It's like pulling out the glove and having a catch, like my dad did."

Some of the children play M-rated Halo with Jerry on occasion. "There's violence," he said, but "you're fighting [space] aliens."

Much of the fun is derived from the sophistication of the games. "They require a lot of thought, strategy, puzzle solving," said David Riley, senior manager for the NPD Group.

It sounds as good for you as eating your broccoli. Well, that depends, cautioned David Walsh, president of Minneapolis-based National Institute on Media and the Family.

"When I hear about parents playing good strategy games with the kids, that's a great activity," said Walsh. "When I hear about parents playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas with a third grader - and I just heard that - I'm wondering, 'What are they thinking?' "

In addition to watching the content, parents should let children win sometimes, psychologists suggest. "That gives a slight balance to the relationship," said Michael C. Smith of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

Not a problem for Ron Breining, 30, of Barrington, who mostly plays sports games with son Ronny, 9. "My son kills me," he said.

And even an enthusiastic gamer-parent like Breining has limits. He hasn't ventured near Ronny's GameBoy Advanced portable.

"That screen," he said, "is way too small for me."
Source: By Lini S. KadabaInquirer, www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/front/14022254.htm

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