Video and computer games are helping parents rediscover ways of bonding with their new-age children, writes Prince Frederick

They peddle violent images. They draw children into a hermetic world of make-believe. They sap the desire to build relationships. They are responsible for falling grades at school. Video games are being attacked viciously. But, they will stay. Because, for every parent who thinks video games can do no good, there is another who thinks it unites the family.

Video and computer games are popular in families where parents work late hours and still want to take part in children's games. “When someone returns home at nine in the evening, kicking the football with his young son is out of question. It is natural for him to want to curl up on a couch. And, what's the game you can play without exerting much energy?” asks Benedict Nirmal, who has become his son's playmate through the week, thanks to video games.

Nirmal, whose son Karston Valentino is just four years old, knows how compulsive gaming can affect small children. “The eye sight of kids addicted to video games can get affected; it is important for parents to restrict the time their children spend on video games. This becomes easier if parents are also interested in this form of entertainment,” says Nirmal.

The idea that play unites families is not new. In the past, the family got around board games. Video games have not replaced board games, but they have become a popular choice for family entertainment.

“Board games such as Scrabble combine entertainment and education. Then, why don't they draw the younger generation? When you play board games, you don't pretend to be somebody else. But, in video games, you invariably assume the character of a super-hero. Or, you zip around on a bike, lead a combat team and do many other interesting things. That's the reason video games are addictive,” says Kravmaga instructor Sreeram.

Prevent addiction

Sreeram has seen lives damaged by this addiction. “Two of my students were addicted to video and online games. Since they starved themselves of sleep, their health deteriorated. Their education suffered. They became incapable of social interaction. They got into martial arts to rid themselves of this addiction.” And so, he advises one of two courses for parents. “Prevent your children from getting into video and online games. Or else, get involved. Be their playmate and monitor what and how long they play. Children who play video games with no company can slip into an introversion that can scar their personalities.”

An increasing number of parents are opting for the second course. “Many of our customers are parents looking for games they can play with their children. The gaming community is sensitive to such a demand. For example, Nintendo's Wii games pertaining to physical conditioning and exercise abound in the market. Since they stress on good habits, parents are happy to buy them for the family,” says M.S. Moosa of Moosa Games.

Multi-player games, across platforms, are popular with those seeking family entertainment. When a parent and a child team up and assume alien characters in Ben10 Alien Force (PlayStation) and take on the evil drones, the generation gap is bridged without effort. When a family is immersed in a world of adventure, treasure-hunt and intrigue, through Unchartered 2 (PlayStation 3), differences are buried.

Connecting online

What's more, gaming also enables parents to be their children's buddies even after they have flown the nest. Captain Vasudevan logs on to gamezer.com so that he can play snooker online with his daughter Jyotsna, who works in Hyderabad. “Both of us look forward to these online sessions,” says the happy father.

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