Perhaps I never should have been a parent because I'm the kind of parent most parents HATE.
When my kids were 2 months old I started putting a little cereal in their bottle at night so they would sleep through the night (and they did). At 3 months old I fed them baby food. As soon as they got their first teeth I was feeding them Rice and Beans. I think my oldest had her first slice of Pizza before she turned 1.
This attitude spread to other things as they got older. I actively encouraged my kids to watch TV. Barney, The Rugrats, Dora the Explorer, and everything in between on PBS and Nickelodeon as they got older then they added Cartoon Network.
I always heard people saying you shouldn't let your kids watch TV when they are little, and you should read to them every night and blah blah blah. But me, I don't listen, I let them watch TV, LOTS of TV.
My oldest daughter is now 10. When she was 1 she would talk your ear off telling you stories. When she was 2 she would tell EVERYONE she ran into stories (including embarrassing ones about grandma needing to go potty, but that’s a story for later). One day I was in a a waiting room and my daughter was walking around yapping to anyone and another mom leans over and asks me how old she is. I tell her a little over 2. She looks at me with surprise and says, "My goodness, she speaks so well and in full sentences! My daughter is the same age and only says a few basic words like 'ball' 'mama' and 'cookie'. I don't know what the problem is I NEVER let her watch TV and I read to her all the time. How did you teach your daughter so much so fast”?
I looked at her and said "TV. She watches LOTS of TV." The mom gave me a tight smile and and then turned away and didn't speak to me again.
What does this have to do with games? I'm getting there.
When I was a kid my dad got me a Colecovision followed by an Atari 2600. I played a little here and there but I was more into books and Barbie dolls. Eventually my dad bought me an NES and a Sega master System. I still didn't really care; I was still into Barbies and books.
When I was 17 I bought myself a gameboy, mostly out of curiosity. I fell in love with Link's Awakening and Stargate. But it was something I played once in a blue moon, and then I forgot about it.
When I was 20 I played the N64 for the first time and I finished Mario64 and bought Ocarina of Time when it came out. I tore through Ocarina of Time and bought Majora's Mask. I hated it and as quickly as I had started playing I stopped.
Life went on, Games came and went, and I didn't care. Then the gamecube came out and new Zelda games. I remembered how much I loved my GB and N64 Zelda games and asked my husband for a Gamecube for Christmas. He had asked me for a PS2 for Christmas. Before meeting me my husband was into playing Resident Evil and Mortal Kombat and football games.
So that Christmas He got his PS2 and I got my Gamecube, I was happy with my gamecube and he was happy with his PS2 and neither one touched the others console. Then I saw Prince of Persia Sands of Time. I bought it for the PS2 and the first time I put it in the console, that console became mine...all mine.
Games became a huge part of my life, I fell in love and I started collecting and playing A LOT.
Being a hoarder I still had every console I had ever owned and their games so I went back and played some old stuff as well.
Now I'm 32, I own tons of consoles and handhelds. I collect games and action figures, I write game reviews for the library system's Teen Blog in my town. And I encourage game play in my family.
A few years back Vtech came out with a console for kids, the V-Smile. Gaming and education, sounded good to me. I bought my kids one for Christmas and they loved it, they would play for hours. The next Christmas, I got them the V-Flash; it was another learning console, a step up from the V-smile, a sort of educational starter Playstation. By the time I got it though my girls had moved on to PS2 and Gamecube, but my son Loved playing the V-Tech consoles.
By the time birthdays rolled around they all wanted GBAs. And there we go. I had turned my kids into gamers. I was so proud! My husband was sort of amused by my glee. I swore up and down that gaming was good for them; he just smiled at me and shook his head slowly.
From Gameboys they graduated to DSs and borrowing my PSP. Each one has a clear gaming identity as well.
My oldest daughter likes Girly games. Makeups, animals, dress up and she also likes JRPGs.
My middle child, an 8-year-old girl is a bit harder to place. She can play the dress up thing and she loves cooking mama and animal games but she's not above a little Zombie shooting in House of the Dead.
My son...My son... Before I talk about him let me just throw in that I even got my mom into games. She loves Wii sports and good lord you should hear her smack talk while playing Soul Calibur. (Her favorite is SC 3 because she likes the character creation. She has a shirtless Ninja she named Jackie Chan)
Ok back to my son.
My son is a 5-year-old MAN. The boy LOVES girls and cars. So I started him with racing games. (By the way he is quite proficient at Midnight Club 3, except he needs a stack of books to reach the pedals.)
From racing games he moved on to Mario games and His favorite "Drawn to Life Spongebob edition".
Recently Scribblenauts came out and I got it for the girls and myself. I didn't bother getting it for my son because at 5 he really can't read very well...actually he's having a lot of trouble at school.
I got their progress reports right before thanksgiving and besides having a fan club of girls, he also likes to throw things at people who annoy him and ignore the teacher, and he also has trouble with reading and writing. I have been stressed and worried about it for days. Then it happened....
We were watching TV and he was a scribblenauts commercial. He said, "I wanna play that" I said, "but sweetie you can't read" He looked so dejected so I figured what the heck, let him try and I'll help him along.
It’s been 2 days since he started playing; He's already learned to spell about 10 words. The first night we sat together and he would tell me what he wanted, I would spell it for him, he'd type it and then he would squeal with glee when his items appeared on screen.
Of course, as much as I enjoyed playing it with him, I can't sit all day doing it so I decided to make him a "cheat sheet" I wrote out in all caps the things he had asked to make the most and I gave it to him. I read each word to him and told him if he needed more words then he could come to me and I'd add them to the list.
I started with about 10 words and now I'm on page 2 and he's spelling words on his own! He doesn't actually play the game he just stays at the beginning screen making things and seeing what happens when they interact.
Brain Age, Style Savvy, Scribblenauts and so many other games are teaching my kids so many things, helping them learn without them even realizing it. Heck even the JRPGs have helped my daughter immensely. Unlike me, my daughter has never cared for reading, what she doesn't realize is that while playing JRPGs she's reading so much text her reading has improved immensely and she's enjoying it.
Like me, my kids carry their DSs wherever they go; they play every chance they get. When they aren't playing DS they're playing any of the other consoles we own. We play Guitar Hero together and Singstar. We play Champions of Norrath and we teach them how to cooperate, how to share the spoils they pick up, how much money they need for an item, and which weapon is better between the weapon with a high attack and one with a lower attack but +20 Lightning Damage.
I encourage their game play, I buy them as many games as I can afford. I teach them how to play mine or sit in and watch.
Recently my 10yr old started to play Oblivion...I'm so proud.
I don't know if I'm a good parent or not. I know a lot of people wouldn't approve of how much TV they watch and Games they play. Maybe they're right, I don't know. All I know is that my daughters are both straight A/B students. They have a huge vocabulary, and know Cloud is overrated as a Hero. All three of them also know all the words to "Still Alive"
Oh and in the time it took me to type this, I'm on page 3 of words for my son.
I think any game can be educational to a certain extent if you talk about it to your kids and encourage them to ask questions (and you answer them honestly).
Perceptions and Misconceptions about games runs rampant but slowly people are realizing the good they can do.
East Side High in New York has discovered that Beaterator is a wonderful digital music tool and will be implementing it in their music program. The Japanese already use DSs in the classroom and my son is learning to read and spell thanks to Scribblenauts and learning faster than he has learned anything since school started.
So my kids game A LOT and I am damn proud of that.
The media and people at large attack gaming constantly. It teaches Violence, it makes kids lazy and unhealthy, it causes addiction.
I say it teaches hand eye coordination, cooperation, sometimes a touch of history, math, reading, encourages artistic expression, relieves stress and is just plain fun.
By the textbook definition I guess they are addicts, sometimes gaming for most of the day. However, I have yet to find how this has impacted them negatively.
Oh yeah, You can hear my ridiculous voice below. I sound like I'm 12 and have laryngitis lol