For this week's session of Weekend Reading, I went and got a few questions in with Mike, the managing editor of GamerDad.com. The site has features and game reviews with a focus on the family and issues that impact the family as a whole when it comes to gaming. I got to meet him through Goozex, and so we exchanged a few questions over e-mail about managing his gaming and his kids.
So, who is he? Well, first off, he's the father of two boys, aged 9 and 10, as well as an Optical Physicist for a semiconductor material company. I can barely comprehend the level of work that the job takes, and so he's got quite a bit on his plate, managing a family life, work, writing on a website, and playing video games. I can barely manage writing on two blogs, so I have to give him plenty of credit. Check out the interview and the site if you've got some kids.
DMV: So, what do you have in your home?
Mike: I'm predominantly a PC gamer, but also love handheld gaming. My family had Pong in the mid 70's and some sort of early Atari system, but I was too busy with everything else in life to get into that. So now I own several high end laptops for gaming (Mac & PC), DS Lite, PSP and GBA. My kids have GBA's and DS (Phat), as well as having a GameCube and Wii.
Games (including computer based things like 'Club Penguin' or 'Webkins World) are a 'by permission' thing in our house. The boys need to ask permission to play, and may or may not get permission based on what else is happening. When there is time they get ~30 minutes each per day. However, it is usually more like a couple of hours a week in one or two sessions.
As for game ratings, We use the game ratings as a broad guideline, but look beyond just a single letter. That is largely what brought me to GamerDad - I had two little kids and wanted to introduce them to video games. I let them watch the intro movie to Jedi Knight and one thought it was great and the other was terrified ... I knew I lacked perspective - and my wife is a non-gamer bordering on anti-gamer (though she does try, I must say). Since I'm very involved with the gaming world I have a better feel for what content is in games.
Another thing I do in terms of games for my kids is limit by genre - for now first-person shooters in general are a 'no'. As I put it - when you've run out of all of the other games in your collection let me know and we'll discuss Metroid again...
I have loads of M rated games for the PC, PSP and even the DS. I do keep them stored away - the PC is easy since we have all of the computers in the house password locked with tons of security features. The PSP is also pretty easy since it is always with me, and the boys are very good about asking to play stuff. My older son is more curious, but my younger son gets freaked out and is quite happy with the DS collection. As of now I don't have anything M rated for the
'Cube or Wii since I really don't play it - and anything we play as a family is stuff like Wii Sports or Mario Party.
DMV: Do you limit the amount of time your kids have to play games? Why or why not?
Mike: We do in general terms, but not in the same way we did when they were younger. Part of this is the time factor - there just isn't enough time for them to have hours to game away. There are a couple of things we are strict about - no gaming before school, on the bus, or before bed.
We strongly believe in balance - they have friends who get up at 5AM to get in 3 hours of RuneScape before school. Of course they are also the ones who have soda and twinkees for lunch and have no limits in general! Balance for us means that they should enjoy everything in
moderation - we won't be pleased if they are reading at 10PM either. So they get plenty of outdoor activities, reading, games, TV, and so on. But coming home and plopping on the couch for a few hours of Zelda on the Wii without having done their homework? Not going to
DMV: Being a father, you've got additional responsibilities with your children. What's your time management like for handling both kids and gaming?
Mike: Time management is a nightmare - I work a ~50 or so hour week with a 45-minute commute each way. Fortunately I'm a morning person - I get up at 4AM and run 5 miles, then do a couple of chores around the house before getting to work at around 6AM. I try to leave by 4PM or so, which allows for us to have dinner as a family every night. I also am leader / manager for a number of activities for them ... it makes for a crazy life! There are activities pretty much every night, and my wife and I work hard to make sure there is 'us' time in there as well.
So where does gaming fit in that mess? That is a reason I'm almost entirely a single player gamer (aside from preferring those game types)! I like handheld games because I can squeeze in a quick round of something while the car warms up in the morning or while I'm waiting for an oil change or whatever. But PC gaming is my primary love, which tends to mean late nights and little sleep. That is something I have always just dealt with, but I really enjoy the hobby and my wife has always been accepting of that.
DMV: Do you play many games with your kids? If so, what are some of your favorites?
Mike: I love playing games of all sorts with my kids - whether it is basketball, tennis, Heroscape or other board games, or video games. The stuff we tend to share is either DS or GameCube / Wii - things like Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros, Mario Party, Cooking Mama, Wii Sports, Star Wars Rebel Strike and anything that lets us team up and/or go against each other.