Updated: Apr 28, 2020
Sure, I had a PlayStation growing up and had plenty of fun playing Crash Bandicoot with friends. But truth be told I was never much of a gamer. I mean who didn't have a PlayStation in the ’90s? I know all my friends did. There wasn’t much else going on in old Alabama. We didn't have cool phones back then. Social media was meeting at the mall or grocery store parking lot. I had always thought video games were a complete waste of my time. This belief and feeling that time could be much better spent I have always held off buying a gaming system for my kids (Yes, I’m that mom). However this year we bit the bullet and bought the boys a Nintendo Switch for Christmas. Well,
you wouldn’t believe it, but I quickly found out, I LOVE VIDEO GAMES. Not all games but certain games that I could play along with my kids. As it turns out there are some benefits to playing video games after all. Wait, before you think I’ve lost my mind, let me explain!
So, after our boys had a great week at both school and home, dad decided to splurge on a Friday afternoon getting the boys a new game. While the boys were distracted with toys in Target he snuck away and bought the boys Luigi’s Haunted Mansion. I wish you could have seen the excitement on the boys’ faces! They were ecstatic! Once we got home that night, we got it out with the intention of helping them set it up and learn the game. We told them that was all we were going to do, or so we thought.
Once we got into the game, we learned that you had to make it so far in story mode before you’re able to activate 2 player mode getting “Gooigi” a squishy sidekick that squeezes into spaces Luigi can’t. I know some people probably don't care about the details, but as parents, it was important to take it upon ourselves to help get them to 2 player mode. Plus you know, of course, we needed to monitor it. Not really. But you get the point. I was looking on as Doug played for them supporting him along the way and offering my 2 cents where I saw fit. Stuff like; Hey, that picture opens! Throw the ghost in the opposite direction! You need to get the coins! Look at a secret door! Just give me the remote! I’m sure you can imagine where it went from there. I am was hooked! Maybe it was the game and how they constructed it or maybe I found a new love. Either way here I am two hours later with my husband on this game with two very frustrated boys looking on and a happy 3-year-old with an old game remote that didn’t even work. (Brilliant idea parents) We decided, to go ahead and save our precious file since we had put in so much time and hard work into it. We kindly told the boys they better not play our file or there grounded till there dead. No, I am kidding. but not really. They had to start their own file and figure it out for themselves. This was the beginning of something that became a great comfort during a very challenging season of my life. A season with a new baby, three busy boys and a tough battle with postpartum depression. We can get into the depression at another time. I had no idea that a game had the power to push me into the next part of my journey.
Quickly this game became a favorite of ours, conquering levels late at night after the kids went to bed and on weekends. We couldn't afford a fancy date night or a babysitter for our four kids, but we could get takeout and laugh playing a silly game. We beat the ghosts, level after level growing closer as we did. You can only imagine how great and accomplished I felt when we beat the whole game! So amazing! At the end of the game, I couldn’t help but think how can something that has such a bad reputation be so fulfilling for me? Then it came to me! If I could beat this game, loving every minute of figuring it out like a puzzle: Why can't I make my own website? Why can't I make the Podcast the Lord put on my heart? See, I had a very big dream fueled by a strong desire, but two obstacles stood in my way, I was depressed and broke. But because of this game, I had a renewed sense of confidence to move into the next step of my Godly dream. I took a step I never thought I could, I set out to make a website step by step, learning as I went, like I did to beat the game, and I loved every minute of it. Something so simple, and even little. But with such a big God who meets us where we are.
SO WHY ARE VIDEO GAMES BENEFICIAL?
I have heard many parents criticize other parents about their kids having too much screen time or playing too many video games telling them how both can stunt a child's development and can be an introduction to an unhealthy habit. We hear things like; “I won't let video games or tablets become a babysitter for my kids!” “My kids won't play those games!” “Do kids play outside anymore?” “All we had as kids were sticks and dirt and we weren’t bored!”. I get it! And you know what? I totally agree on some levels. But what if we did some things differently? Not totally different but different none the less. What if we play video games with our kids? After all we believe in playing board games together, we believe in conversation and eating dinner together as a family. So, I say “if you can't beat them join them”. But really join them, and here's why!
The first obvious reason, of course, is because you get to be kind of nosy. But in a good way and your kids don’t realize you’re doing it; you’d be amazed at what comes up in conversation while playing a game. Remember the two-player mode? It forms a great bonding experience over a common goal. You get to see exactly how your children interact and work through things while seeing what they are up to! Now, I am not saying to go for it and let them play any game they desire, you’ll soon find out there are some games that are total trash. It being trash in its content and language, I would caution you about letting that stuff in your home. But if your kids are playing, ask for a remote and get in on the fun.
Reason number two is that in doing this it will make you seem somewhat cool and relevant as parents. As if that matters right? This will go hand and hand with the first reason. When they think you’re cool it’s a lot easier to be nosy. We as parents shouldn't just condone the gaming world that kids love so much but be a part of it in some respects. Go in that big world and help them, see what it is your kids love about it. There are so many benefits. People say that a puzzle can be therapeutic, well there are a lot of games out there that are just like a fun puzzle to complete. If you say you don't have time, I will ask you; How much time do you spend on social media? How much time do you spend on your phone? How much time do you spend watching This is Us? My point is that you can find the time somewhere and you may actually like it.
Thirdly maybe you don't have kids or maybe you have a little one that doesn't know how to use their fingers for anything but putting them in their mouths! Well, friends, there is something else games are good for! Date night baby! That's right you and your husband can learn a lot about each other while playing a little Mario. Communication is something we all need to learn. Well here is your learning opportunity. Want to flirt or see what's it like to be a team this can be a great asset! Maybe you're engaged. Well, let me introduce you to gaming marriage counseling. My husband and I learned some serious love and respect for doing this.
The fourth reason is that it’s a chance to learn a new skill. Want to build a website? Well, as crazy as that one sounded for me, beating a game gave me the confidence to try! I found building a website was like a puzzle accomplished a piece at a time. People often like to say that video games can make us stupid or like zombies and I agree they can if played too much. But they can also motivate us to learn a new skill while learning to relax in a different way. They help us learn new ways to expand our brains and new technology skills. Or even how to wind down. Have you seen those remotes? I am telling you they are serious business. That game helped me discover something in myself I didn't know I had. When I thought I was up against a wall, God showed me how to tear it down brick by brick. It's funny thinking back but it’s also a beautiful thing.
Lastly, if you are in a season where you are constantly home with kiddos, or you have so much going on its hard to keep straight, I will be the first to tell you it’s okay to shut down. Turn off the distractions and turn on a game. There’s no reason to feel guilty. Dealing with postpartum depression and learning to give myself grace this was helpful to me when I couldn't get the energy or my mindset to do much else. God uses so many things to help us and Louigi's Haunted Mansion helped me. There is a certain connection that can be found through a video game. They’re not that bad friends. Here is to more gaming, more connection and hopefully shooting you into confidence in something you didn't think you could do.