One of the driving forces for Gaming with Sidekicks as a group and a presence in the gaming community for me has been to do exactly what our motto is: “Games we like with people we love”. When I look at gaming in this perspective it makes it all about playing games with family, friends and new friends and engaging in the social aspects. But as a Dad, one question that lingers for me is this-how do I know which games to draw the line at when it comes to playing with kids?
First, some background. I have a 14 and 11 year old at home and friends with kids that range in all ages. My wife and I play a lot of games together but we also love to play them with the kids. Some games are universal and easy -I can’t say that Chess,Ticket to Ride, Loopin Chewie, Tenzi or other games of the like have proven to be a challenge. But there are a few out there that have been a challenge to navigate. So when it comes to setting guidelines with gaming, I have had to look at it in the context of two avenues-gaming with just my family and gaming with others.
Our own family:
Within our own family this has been an easier question to maneuver. I know games with excessive sexual or violent content are out. Anything labeled “NSFW edition” or “After Dark” or “Adult Content” are a quick no from me. If the publisher has identified their audience as adult oriented I am definitely going to follow suit with their warning. To me it’s like an R-rated movie,there is a reason it has a certain label. I am not going to stop others from playing them, they just aren’t for me.
The gray area becomes the games that fall into that movie range of PG to PG-13. Unlike movies I don’t have the same rating system to follow so I have to use a few different resources. For myself, these are the resources I use:
*My gaming friends. Does anyone I know have the game? What did they think and more importantly how did it go with their kids? Would they play it again or do they want to sit it out for their family.
*FLGS. I trust the people I buy games from, and the observations that they make in their profession. How does this game sell? Who buys it? What do they specifically know about it? Any of those things may help me.
*Internet. Here is where you need to know your sources. I use www.boardgamegeek.com and a few different Facebook groups to see what people are saying or just throw the question out there to measure reactions. There are a few different users on other social media platforms I trust as well, and they can often be the go-to for me to see what would work and what wouldn’t work for my family.
*YouTube. The internet is full of opinions, and one of my favorite things on YouTube are the unboxings, playthroughs and how to play videos. In these you can see all the things in the box and get an idea of what goes into the gameplay.
*Podcasts. There are a ton out there and I would recommend trying to find ones that match up to your tastes. It’s fine to listen to a variety of casts but I really want to listen to ones that are similar in my interests so I hear about games I might be want to bring to the table with my family.
Our friends and others:
This is where the challenge starts to happen. It’s kind of like addressing issues with your friends and their kids-how do you know when you should say something and how do you say it?
For our friends it helps that we game with families that we do life with. By doing so, we match up to similar tastes and restrictions. Inasmuch, I have not had any issues with this in our immediate playgroup.
I have seen where it can come up though. Cash and Guns is a lighthearted game involving criminals, robbery and pointing foam guns at each other and possibly shooting them. I love the game, but I have friends who don’t like the premise and the idea of playing it because of what guns and shooting bring to the table. And I respect that and chose not to play it with them or their children and try not to drag anyone into it that is uncomfortable with it. I have a wide variety of games to pick from, so why dwell on one when there are so many others we can play?
Another way to get around this is to set up a “playlist”. When we travel with other gaming friends we have a group where we can say things like “ I am bringing games X, Y and Z”. It helps for us not to all bring copies of the same game, but it also helps give a heads-up to what may be available, and if there are games we don’t want to see played we can have that conversation before the box is sitting in front of my kids.
Ultimately it all comes down to communication. When I sit down at a table to play games with friends, family, new friends I haven’t met yet-I want to be able to clearly and authentically communicate to them what I expect and hear what they expect when it comes to games. And when we have so many awesome games out there in the world to pick from it always seems like the easy thing to me to find one we can all agree is appropriate for the situation and crowd. Because in the end, the games bring us to the table to hang out with the people we love-and that’s worth more than anything else to me.