26/04/2021 Jo Robertson2 years ago Author:
It’s easy to assume video games are entertainment for children that (we hope and pray) they will outgrow. The reality is that games are played by people of all ages and many children will likely play their whole lives -- just as we have continued reading books and watching films as we have got older. This means that an important aspect of caring for a child who loves video games is to try some games for ourselves so we know what they are like.
I wouldn’t really include myself with the rest of the family as a gamer but since I have started working on Family Video Game Database I realise how many games I have played over the years. Ok, a lot of these were having a go to keep the kids (and husband) happy. But still, I have fond memories of playing The Legend of Zelda The Wind Waker with a sleeping baby in my arms, or Wii Sports when the kids were small.
However, something I hadn’t done until now was play games just for me.
If you don’t have a history of playing video games or your experience doesn't go beyond family fun with the kids, where do you start first if you want to try something for you? It’s a bit like deciding to get into reading and going into a book shop to choose a novel. There is an overwhelming array of options of different styles and genres to choose from. It’s a very personal choice; some people like crime, some sci-fi, others prefer something light and romantic. Video games aren’t that different.
I know most 40-something women wouldn’t think about choosing a video game in the same way as a book for their book club. But this is actually a really good way to look at it, once you have somewhere to go (like the Family Video Game Database) which helps you make that choice.
I have recently been reading The Bee Keeper of Aleppo, a heartbreakingly beautiful tale about the journey of Syrian refugees through Europe. It reminded me of the game Bury Me My Love which I played through a couple of years ago. The smartphone game follows a young woman fleeing Syria. She leaves her partner behind and you watch their story unfold and make decisions for them by interacting via a whatsapp-style text conversation. It happens in real-time, so you don't hear from the female character, Nour, for hours or days at a time. It’s an amazingly real and engaging game to play through and like the book it was based on real life experiences.
Many of the books I read are dramatic and heartbreaking. About unexpected death, loss and relationships. Maybe that’s the kind of story I am drawn to but perhaps those kinds of stories are written for a reason. Video games can engage us in similar ways.
The game That Dragon Cancer follows the story of a family of a child with terminal brain cancer and their journey through all the pain and difficulty this brings for them. When I first heard about it I felt surprised that this kind of story was in a video game. I still thought about video games as entertainment. To be playing a game about a family’s heartbreaking loss seemed crass and inappropriate.
But playing the game I was surprised how appropriate this felt, essential even. Stepping into the game, let me experience the family’s heartbreaking journey not as an outsider but as something like a friend. Unlike reading about these stories, or watching a film about them, in the game I was participating.
There’s one moment, where you are in hospital with the family and the father pops his head around the door to ask if you could look after their child while he takes a shower. You are left, literally, holding the baby. An experience that is both unnerving and a beautiful privilege. It’s a minute of game-play, but one that still stays with me today.
Hopefully this shed some light on why games are worth giving a go. If you think of games like stories, novels, films or even poetry they start to make more sense, and suddenly a whole new way to think about games (and the world around us) unfolds.
As Andy Robertson writes in Taming Gaming book, “games offer children a way into something they can’t fully understand or explain. For adults video games offer unusual, experiential perspectives on familiar topics that get under the skin in unexpected ways.”
So if you want to find video games to enjoy for yourself but like standing in that bookshop, you aren’t sure where to start, here’s a list of games to try. Some tell stories, some are calming explorations, others have puzzles and mysteries to solve.
You can also search the database using the categories Your First Video Game, Single Player and PEGI 16+.
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