If you’re a parent and not much of a gamer yourself, it can be challenging to connect with your gamer. It can feel like there’s a tremendous gulf between you and your kiddo. On the one hand, you have your kiddo is very much into their hobby. Games are their passion. On the other hand, when they try and talk to you about it, there’s so much there that you can’t follow. It can be confusing and frustrating.
So, how with all that, how can you connect with your gamer?
The good news is. It’s not just you. The reality of it is, there is an immense amount of obscure knowledge. There’s confusing vocabulary that carries across many games that is second nature to the players but can sound like an entirely different language to someone who doesn’t play games.
Then, beyond the general knowledge and vocabulary about games as a whole. there’s more. Parents also have to understand all the details about the individual games themselves. On top of that, knowing what systems those games are played on, single player & multiplayer games, game genres, and more. Whew…
It can be overwhelming for a parent. It can make it difficult and frustrating for both the parents and kiddos when trying to understand and talk about an important aspect of your kiddo’s life. Thankfully, as a parent, you don’t have to know the ins and outs of every aspect of gaming and gaming culture to be able to better understand and connect with your child on the topic.
There are many resources available that can give you information (including this very blog). Beyond that, though, there are a few simple things you can learn and follow to be able to talk and connect with your gamer.
Let’s take a look at them..
1. Understand What Platform They Play On
When I was a kid, every game of every type was played on an “intendo”. Parents nowadays seem generally more up to speed with the multiple consoles on the market. That said, do you really know what your kiddos play their games on? Do they play on a PlayStation 4 or a Nintendo Switch? Do they play mostly on their computer? Knowing what your kiddo plays on helps you know what types of games to buy (for example, many games come out for multiple systems. But if you buy the one for an XBox One, it won’t play on a PlayStation 4).
Another good reason for knowing what system your kiddo plays on is it makes it easier to connect with your gamer and get them to open up and talk. It’s difficult for your kiddo to take you seriously in your desire to know more about their hobby if you don’t know the basic platform they play on. You’re more likely to get eye-rolls than genuine conversation.
Current Major Platforms
- PlayStation 4
- XBox One
- Nintendo Switch
- PC or Mac
2. Understand What Types of Games They Play
Just like with books or movies, there’s are many many different types or genres of games. So, knowing the types of games your kids play is incredibly important to connect with your gamer about their hobby. Do they like puzzle games like Tetris or sandbox games like Minecraft? Do they like Battleroyale games like Fortnite?
It’s unlikely your kiddos will only like games in one specific genre, but there’s likely that most of their favorite games will fall into 3 or 4. We’ll talk a bit about the major genres here to give you some general understanding and context to help you better follow when your kiddo gets excited and starts going on and on about RPGs. That said, this is just a primer – and nowadays, many games straddle multiple genres, so things can get a bit blurry, so it’s best to consider it a starting point for asking questions and starting conversations with your gamer.
FPS Games (First Person Shooter)
Many very popular games fall in this genre. Halo, Overwatch, Call of Duty… you can trace the lineage and popularity of this genre way way back to the early 90’s with Castle Wolfenstein and Doom. At a high level, FPS Games put the player in the role of a weapon-wielding superstar. The game is presented from the “point of view” of your kiddo’s character. So, in the game, you’ll often see the weapon, but not the character itself.
Something to note: These types of games tend to be pretty violent and many are rated M. If your kiddos love these types of games, you may want to dig in a little to understand what the content is and determine if it’s appropriate for your child.
RPGs (Role Playing Games)
There are many types and subgenres of RPGs, so this one is a bit hard to quantify. In general, these games are expansive, feature large-scale storylines. They also usually involve the player growing more powerful over time. This is a very gross simplification, though. It’s a good idea to consider all that as general guidelines and ask your kiddo about details on the specific RPGs they play.
Something to note: RPG elements can also be found in many other games. For example, the idea of “leveling up” (meaning as you play, you gain experience, and go up in rank) can even be found in sports games. So, your kiddo may talk about RPG concepts in their favorite game, even if that game is not “traditionally” classified as an RPG.
MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena)
MOBAs are extremely popular. They offer great gameplay and an amazing competitive scene – usually for free. The biggest games in the genre, League of Legends, DOTA2, and Heroes of the Storm have millions of players. Millions of Players who play every day. Games of all ages love these games. In a typical MOBA, the player joins a team of 5. They select a Hero (who fulfills a specific role) and face off against another team of 5. The goal of the game is to destroy the opposition’s “core”.
Something to note: MOBAs are competitive online games, they cannot be paused once a match begins. Leaving in the middle of a match has some consequences. If it happens too often, the developer will ban the player. Matches typically last 20-50 minutes, so it’s something to keep in mind if your kiddo plays these games.
Sandbox games are a really really good introduction to gaming. Violence is generally minimal. On top of that, Sandbox box games foster creativity and teach players many basic concepts that will be used in almost all games. They have large communities that will let them connect with other gamers and learn about their hobby.
There are many other genres as well, like Racing Games, Fighting Games, Social Games, Platformers, and more… There are also innumerable Sub-Genres. For example, in RPGs there’s JRPGs, Open World RPGs, Tactical RPGs, Multiplayer RPGs, Turn-Based RPGs, Action RPGs, and the list goes on.
3. Know the Big Games of The Season
Just like with movies, each year there’s a handful of huge “blockbuster” games that dominate the space. Many of these are “franchise” titles, so the latest Madden, the latest Call of Duty, the latest Halo. That said, each year there’s also surprise hits that are first entries in new franchises. Others simply strike at the right time and go viral. At the time of this writing, Fortnite fits this category.
What this means is, if you’re looking to connect with your gamer, it’s a good idea to know what the big games are for the year. While your kiddo may not play all of them, chances are they’re familiar with them. It’s also likely they have friends that play.
Being able to talk to your kiddo about the latest games is a fantastic way to get them to open up and talk about their hobby. It also gives you a way to understand what they’re playing and why.
4. Understand Why They Like To Play
Gamers play games for a wide variety of reasons. Of course, one of those is simply, “it’s fun” but there are other reasons beyond that. These get down to the why games are fun for your particular gamer. Knowing why your kiddo loves playing will help you understand why they like the particular games that they do. This helps you ask better questions about their hobby, and gives you more ways to connect with your gamer.
For example, your kiddo may really like to compete and enjoy competitive and e-sports style games. In these games, players face off, primarily, against other players. These gamers love the thrill of competition.
But, for other kiddos, their main driver is achievement. Achievement-Driven players find fun in overcoming the challenges and mastering games. For them, finding an incredibly difficult secret or defeating and an exceptionally challenging encounter is why they play.
Maybe your kiddo really really enjoys the social aspect of gaming. They enjoy grouping up, working with other players, and engaging in other social aspects of games. You’ll often find these types of players running through challenging raids in Massively Multiplayer Role Playing games. Here, they can coordinate their efforts with anywhere from 7 to 15 to sometimes 32 other players to complete a dungeon run
Finally, some kiddos love games because they offer an avenue for exploration. They love running through all the areas of a game. For Exploration-Driven Players, a large part of their fun comes from finding secrets and absorbing the scenes and environments. These kiddos will gravitate to open world and sandbox game. In those games, the sky’s the limit and they really do have a whole world to explore.
But Keep In Mind…
None of these are “absolute”. All of the above is a spectrum, and gamers fall somewhere in an intersection of all of them. All gamers are some combination of Competitive, Achievement, Socal, and Exploration Driven. That said, most do have a “dominant” style of play, which impacts the games they most enjoy and how they go about their games.
Knowing where your kiddo falls on these scales gives you a more directed opening when talking about games. If, for example, your kiddo is primarily an “Explorer” you can open them up by asking them about the most exciting things they’ve seen or discovered in a game. For an achievement-driven player, you can get a lot of mileage out of asking them to tell you about some of the most challenging encounters they’ve faced in a game.
In the end, knowing why your kiddo likes to play really allows you to connect with and understand your kiddos hobby.
5. Think About Timing and Approach
One last thing, if you want to connect with your gamer. The best time to do that is NOT when they’re actually playing. It’s true that many (though not all) games can be paused, and of course, any game can simply be turned off. That said, if your goal is to really connect, communicate, and understand your gaming kiddo, it’s best to wait until they’re not actively playing. As with any other hobby, one you’re playing and in the flow of things, your focus is intently centered on the task (in this case the game) at hand.
An ideal time is shortly after they’ve finished playing. If you can get them not-to-long after a play session, you can use many of the suggestions here to get them to open up about the game they were just playing.
Gaming is an amazing and exciting hobby for players of all ages. Our kiddos, though, can dive into it with passion and fervor. As with many aspects of your kiddos lives, it’s good to understand and be able to communicate with them about that what’s going on in their world. I hope the tools and information here will help you to connect with your gamer about their favorite hobby, and to better understand why they love it so much.
If you’re looking for more information, please scout around this blog – or drop me a comment if there’s something specific you’d like more information on.