Gaming as a Parent

Being a parent has made me think differently about games.

The board games I’ve played tend to be longer, complex and immersive experiences. My favorite game right now is Spirit Island, which I haven’t played since Fiona was born. My other favorite game, The Resistance, is a social deception game, but it requires a long time commitment as well. You have to be paying attention every moment. The last game night I had with fellow parents, we played Pictionary. In between rounds, we snacked and took care of the babies. Finishing the game was not really important, and we may have switched teams at some point. So I need games that are more interruptible — discrete actions are shorter and you don’t have to pay so much attention the whole time, so there are more natural breaks — and/or ones where players can drop in and out more easily. Usually, dropping in and out would break the game. With Resistance, everything would be immediately imbalanced; it wouldn’t work. It’s probably be easier to accomplish this with a co-op game. The best game for dropping in and out is something like Codenames. As long as you still have one teammate, something can still happen. You can easily come back by being reminded of the clue. You may miss some context (like if the other team was contemplating a card so you want to avoid it), but it’s easy for teammates to provide when needed.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about asymmetry. A lot of board games are designed either as complex games for adults or easy games for children. Cartoons will sometimes have jokes only parents can appreciate, or good stories that work for both parents and adults. So, if I have a board game, are there games that have complex strategy for the parents and fun tasks for children. One time we played Codenames, we improvised and let a kid do the pointing; it’d be nice to have this kind of thing built-in. The same applies to video games. Fighting games tend to favor the more skilled, and they introduce balance with more randomness (like turning items on) which isn’t fun for those who want to hone their skills. Co-op platformer games are less forgiving for those who aren’t as good. They’ll have to be carried and can get bored. Or they have different characters that do different things but are still balanced. I want a game less balanced. For example, let one character work hard and let one character be basically invincible so the kid can play too.

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