Maximizing Your Kids’ Video Games During Home Quarantine

After a few weeks of home quarantine, you may find your kids getting restless and saying they’ve already played all their video games. While many parents have “screen time” rules, they may be more relaxed these days to help keep the kids occupied. But what do you do when they’ve played everything?

As a parent – whether you’re a gamer or not – there are a lot of ways to breathe new life into an old game, as well as easily and affordably find new games! Let’s look at ways to make an old game fun again.

Breathing New Life Into An Old Game

Your child may have been playing a game by themselves or with siblings. Don’t underestimate the fun a child will have playing against Mom or Dad – which is to say, mercilessly beating their parents.

Another lap in Mario Kart is much more fun when your child laps you and giggles every time you fall off the edge of the track! The same goes for fighting games. Your kids know all the cool moves and combos. They’ll love pummeling you in both family-friendly Arms and titles like Street Fighter. You may be surprised by the new laughs.

If your kids have been playing video games by themselves, encourage them to reach out to friends for online multi-player games. Many games have online components for gamers to play against random strangers or their own chosen friends. They may not be able to leave the house, but encourage them to “escape” with friends in their favorite multi-player video games.

Rhythm and exercise games can have new life when the parental challenge is on. Many rhythm games, like Just Dance, have a mix of music for all ages and from many eras. Get everyone moving, dancing and singing along! And don’t underestimate that fitness “game” you bought for yourself when the kids wanted a new game console. Many of them have an actual game element that your kids have never seen. Make it fun. And they’ll be challenged when Mom does more sit-ups than they can.

Most modern video game titles have difficulty levels. Many of them default to an easy or moderate difficulty level and the kids simply dive in and play. When they say they are bored with a game, boost the difficulty to the highest setting. The result you’re aiming for is laughter, not additional challenge. Most games set to the highest level become so ridiculously hard, it’s just plain funny.

You may want to make this adjustment without your kids knowing. Then ask them to show you the game they are so bored with. Steer their frustration to laughter and see who can progress the farthest on an insane difficulty setting!

Purchase New Games Online For Cheap Money

With so many people at home, video game developers are doing everything they can to showcase their games to those bored at home. One trick to garnering your attention is price. On Nintendo’s Eshop, there are quite a few games costing less than $1 and even more for less than $5! I’ve even seen several for less than five cents! They may not all be stellar games, but they are new and you might be able to spin their fun specific to your home routine with the kids.

Download a game for three cents and whoever gets the highest score doesn’t have to take out the trash or dry the dishes. Don’t let the game be the focus. Use those pennies to get a new game that will engage them for as long as they don’t want to do chores! Don’t be afraid to introduce the same silly game each day for an opportunity to opt out of chores.

At the same time there are some great games at amazing prices. I bought Hive Jump for Nintendo’s Switch for 99 cents. It’s a fun platformer title. As you peruse titles, read online reviews and check out YouTube videos showing the game play to see if it’s right for your family. You can certainly buy any number of AAA titles for $60, but it’s really not necessary with a bit of creativity as we endure the quarantine.

Show Them a Truly Old Game

Maybe your were a gamer long ago and have an old Atari or Nintendo console tucked away in the attic or basement. Colecovision or Intellivision? Go get it! Very often an old, properly stored, game console will still work decades later. I still use the Atari 2600 my parents bought me when I was 12!

Even if your kids have a high-tech modern game console, don’t fret about those blocky old pixels. In my experience, kids see the challenge in these retro games because they are much different from modern games. Older retro games are often fast-paced and reactionary making them quick and fun.

Just because it’s old and out of date, doesn’t mean the fun you had playing Donkey Kong, Rad Racer, or Pac-Man won’t also be fun for your kids! They won’t give up their Playstation, but I’ll bet they’ll frequently want to go back to “those old games Dad played.”

Mobile Games on Phones and Tablets

While dedicated game consoles often play more robust and engaging games – without ads – on your large living room TV, there are thousands of mobile games for phones and tablets. A large percentage of these are free to play. Like console games, you can find many mobile games that allow a group of friends to play together remotely.

Reduce Screen Time With Your Digital Assistant

While many parents have probably relaxed screen time restrictions to keep kids occupied, not all games require a screen. Do you talk to Alexa on your Echo assistant? Do you have a Google Home or similar device? While I love the way these devices automate tasks and provide recipes, celebrity info, and weather reports – they’ll also play games with you. From trivia to interactive stories, these devices are portals into all sorts of fun!

I recently tried the Spongebob Challenge for Amazon’s Echo. It’s a fun memory game where you try to fulfill orders at the Krusty Krab restaurant. My son and I liked the Runescape Quests interactive stories. And hardly a day goes by where I don’t ask Alexa to “tell me a dinosaur joke.”

Why not create your own trivia game about things significant to your family? Let everyone contribute questions about Cape Cod and it’s historic sites, pirates and beaches. Then guess the answers and let the kids query your home assistant for the correct answers. Get creative and let these digital devices entertain you in ways you may not have thought about.

Board Games

While you may own one of the many family game night-style video games, nothing reduces screen time like an actual board game. Many of us have a stack of old board games. Break them out. If you encounter groans at the thought of a nine-hour Monopoly marathon, make up your own fun rules to make it livelier. Forget about Free Parking – make players do a dance when they roll a “6.”

Even an old board game your kids have outgrown can be fun if you make up some new rules. Get creative with that old Chutes and Ladders game you still have.

As you keep busy, partially by squeezing all the fun you can from your stash of games, remember we’re all in this together. Call an elderly neighbor to check in and say hello. Do the same with remote friends and family. Stay home. Stay safe.

By Pete Schmeck
737 West Main Street
Hyannis, MA 02601
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