Video games, regardless of the console you choose to play them on or the decade from which said console originates, are pretty timeless. Personally, I can go from playing Super Mario Bros. on my Super Nintendo to playing Mario Maker on my Wii U, one right after the other, and have the same sort of fun with both. Because, well, video games. But who would have thought that the positive effects of video games aren't as few and far between as our parents once claimed them to be? You know, telling us that over stimulation from watching TV would rot our brains, etc. Joke's on you, guys! There's actually a lot of good to be gained from chillin' out max and relaxin' all cool in front of the tube.
In a 2012 TED Talk, video game designer Jane McGonigal stressed the importance of putting aside the time to engage in video games of pretty much any kind for your mind to both relax from the daily grind and work to solve puzzles or stay connected to others socially. And also, to stay connected to your kids:
Parents who spend more time playing video games with their kids have much stronger real-life relationships with them.
And not only that, but the positive effects of video games extend beyond bonding with your kids and relaxing your brain — video games can actually make your parenting skills stronger. They can teach you things like, oh I don't know, how to have an insane amount of patience, which is necessary both when dealing with whiny kids and end-of-the-level bosses who need to be taken down. Or how it's OK to ask for help as a parent, whether it be from a partner, family member, or friend.
All around, despite what negative perceptions you might have about video games and the quality of parenting displayed by the adults who play them, video games can seriously teach you some of these choice things about parenting that make you into a better parent entirely.
You know, like when you're waiting for that gigantic bee in Donkey Kong to just stop buzzing around your barrel before shooting out? And then getting stung anyway and needing to start all over again? And then three more times after that? It's kind of like dealing with a cranky toddler or irate adolescent. Just wait for them to chill the eff out before risking getting stung.
As in, not giving up on your kid's potty training just like you never gave up on that ship level of Golden Eye.
You know, for catching that bottle that you see out of the corner of your eye right before it collides with the kitchen floor after your toddler climbed up on the counter right after you told him not to.
When you're playing video games, you basically have to play a level twice just to get a lay of the land and see what works, and then finally work toward beating it. Kind of like seeing which foods your kid is going to eat this week, despite their previous week-long obsession with hot dogs (that now seem to disgust them).
I don't know about you, but I never got anywhere in Super Mario Bros. or Zelda by working alone. Usually it was my brother tagging me out for a breather, and now it's my husband on the team. Just like it's my husband on my parenting team, with us working as a force to get our kid out of diapers and into a toddler bed.
In video games, not everyone gets to be the hero all the time. Like, someone has to be Luigi. It's fine. Luigi is important. And even when you're Batman, sometimes Batman is just, like, creepin' down the street instead of flying from the top of a building, and that's important too. Seriously, sometimes it's cool to just be brave and slink through the levels (and real-life through life obstacles) without being showy but still getting things done. If you can be brave in your kids' eyes without being an unattainable hero, you're kind of a hero on their level.
And no, it isn't saving Princess Peach from Bowser.
Because no kid is interested in playing video games with a parent who is reminding them at the end of every level that they still have homework to do. When it's video game time, you're a kid again. Not only will you benefit from that break, but your child will too. Growing up with video games can stick with you, making you ready to pass on that love and be able to bond with your kid without forcing it.
Instead of resorting to the sort of shouting matches you didn't realize you were even capable of having with a 3-year-old.
Immersing yourself in video games is sometimes like slipping into a whole other world, especially when you've got a 4-hour gaming marathon going on. But it also teaches you from a young age to use that imagination and run wild with it. In fact, video games teach you that sometimes, that is the only way to succeed at something. As a parent, being able to promote using your imagination instead of pouting about having nothing to do can be the difference between a kid building forts in their room and a kid doing the Charlie Brown slouched-shoulders walk through the house about how bored they are.
Being able to relax with some video games alongside your kid is an easy alternative to coming home from work and slouching down on the couch to complain about the day you just had. Instead, playing video games teaches you how to let lose and just not care, if only for an hour. Plus, you get to have quality time with your kid.
You may have only beat the boss in your video game, but that feat and the journey there kind of makes you feel like you can accomplish anything. And as a parent, that is the sort of mentality we could all stand to have.
There is no other word for what makes you keep going back to the video game that's been kicking your ass, but having self-discipline as a parent also makes it possible to take a breather when your kid is being a total jerk, and come back to them later.
While it may not seem like the biggest deal to find your way through intricate levels across a gaming universe that is as complicated as the real one, doing so requires you to use your whole brain to succeed. And that sort of strategic planning in the game-verse translates to your real-life planning for your family, your kids, and yourself.