Like any form of entertainment you have in your home, video games can be a distraction for you, your children, or anybody else who lives with you. Most of the time, that distraction is a pleasant one. It’s a chance to take your mind off things for a few hours or to get your blood rushing if you’re playing an especially exciting or adventurous game. The problem is that video games aren’t always fit for the whole family, and that video games console that sits in your front room can be a portal to all kinds of video nasties if you don’t keep your eyes on it.
The fact of the matter is that video games aren’t as sweet and innocent as they used to be. There wasn’t much to worry about thirty or forty years ago when games were little more than a few pixels on the screen in something like Pac Man or Space Invaders. Things have moved on significantly since then, and an R-rated video game can be every bit as inappropriate for the younger members of your household as any horror movie. There are even occasional panic stories about children who’ve played something like Grand Theft Auto and then gone on the rampage – which is something we’re sure you wouldn’t want to run the risk of repeating!
Ultimately, any gaming platform can be unsafe if you don’t pay attention to what’s being loaded or installed on it, and it’s not the responsibility of gaming companies to ensure that their products stay out of the hands of children – it’s yours. A teenage child could borrow your iPad and log on to an online slots site, but that would be your fault for lending them the iPad. Online slots companies don’t open themselves up to teenagers, but nor can they envision every route by which one might try to access their products. The same is true of companies that make R-rated games – they can put labels on their products, but they can’t control what happens to them once they’re in your house. Online slots and extreme horror games wouldn’t make good choices for a family gaming evening, so what would?
This is where we’re happy to help out. There are plenty of video games that are fun for all the family, and you don’t have to go thirty years back in time to find them! In fact, every game we’re about to mention has been released within the past five years. Check them out and see what you think!
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
If you’re somewhere between the ages of 30 and 40 and you were a gamer when you were younger, Mario Kart was probably one of your favourites. It could still be one of your favourites today. This is the same game you remember – just faster, better-looking, and packed with more options. You can even design your own character to get behind the wheel if you so desire! The game is available for the Nintendo Switch, which you’re likely to have been pestered to buy for much of the past three years if you have a young child. By connecting the Switch to your television, up to four people can play at once. Should you have more than one Switch in your house, you can increase that up to a maximum of twelve!
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
You should have heard about this game even if you know nothing about gaming. It’s one of a handful of new releases from the past few years that have crossed over from gaming to become a pop culture sensation. At one point in 2020, around eleven million people played Animal Crossing: New Horizons every day. It’s not quite as popular now, but it’s still a very big deal. This adorably cute game lets you and your family build and run a town together on a paradise island. It’s easy to pick up and play and has a shallow learning curve, so anyone from five to ninety years old should be able to enjoy it. No previous gaming experience is necessary – it’s all very intuitive!
Minecraft is getting pretty long in the tooth now, but that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t look any more dated than it did on the day it was released because it was already dated then. This is a simple building block game limited only by the extent of your imagination. If you want to build yourself a cute little house out of about twenty bricks, you’re welcome to do so. If you want to invest the next few months into making a scale model of the Golden Gate Bridge, you’re free to do that as well. The tutorial is easy to follow and makes the potential of the game clear from the moment you start, and you might surprise yourself with how quickly you become a skilled builder and engineer! People never know how Minecraft hooks people until they try it themselves – and instantly become hooked. You and your family might be next!
The simple idea of rocket league is that it’s soccer but played with cars. Once you’ve got your head around that bizarre-but-brilliant idea, you automatically know how to play Rocket League. The game isn’t clever – and would never claim to be – but it’s a lot of harmless fun, and it’s very easy to get to grips with. The difficulties that come with mastering the controls of “proper” racing games don’t apply here. So long as you can point your car in the right direction and use it to drive the ball towards the opposing goal, you’re in with a chance of winning. You could team up with your family and play against the computer or real people somewhere else in the world, or you could play against each other for bragging rights! There’s some paid content in Rocket League, but you’re under no obligation to buy it. It’s available on the Nintendo Switch and both the current and previous versions of the PlayStation and Xbox.
Retro games packages are also available on most platforms, as are parental controls. Games don’t have to be something that children play on their own, and you have to be constantly vigilant about – they can be something you join in with! Whether you’re reliving your youth in Mario Kart or trying to build something new in Minecraft, get off the sidelines and get involved!