How video games helped me bond with my kids — and become a better father
I have four kids, and I've played video games with every one of them. It's given me a way to bond with each of them in a unique way. Thanks to video games, I've learned more about each of my sons and daughters, and about myself as a father.
My oldest son and I live in different states, but we've had numerous battles against each other in Madden and NBA 2K over the years. I still remember the look on his face when I gave him an Xbox One for Christmas.
My daughters aren't huge gamers, but every once in a while I can get them engaged. One Christmas, I bought them a GameCube and The Bible Game. They played that and Shrek like each was the second coming of Metroid Prime and Super Mario.
"I still remember the look on his face when I gave him an Xbox One for Christmas."
The oldest girl likes fighting games these days, and she's a pretty good button masher. She'll luck up on a win from time to time, and she'll even talk some trash.
My younger girl plays the least, but when she does play, she likes games with vibrant colors. There was a game for PS4 near its launch called Flower that she enjoyed. If I'm being honest, the game was so boring I couldn't stand it, but I got a kick out of watching her chase that flower through a valley.
My youngest is a boy and he's just like his dad. He's a hardcore gamer. We play all the time, and while the relationship is a little different, our gaming time is a lot like the countless hours my big brother James and I spent together growing up.
James and I played Atari, Odyssey 2, Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis and Sega Dreamcast. Then he got married and we played a lot less. That was cool — we'd already played enough to establish a lifetime of memories.
When I was a kid, my brother was everything to me. I thought he could do anything and that he was the coolest guy in the world. He was a couple shades darker than me, so I remember thinking, "when I grow up, I wanna be black just like James."
I almost got there.
We could talk about anything and he always knew how to give me advice. Many of those talks and counseling sessions took place while we were gaming. When you've played a game a couple hundred times, you can carry on a full-fledged conversation without skipping a beat.
I know because James and I used to do it all the time. Little did I know, history would repeat itself.
My youngest son watched me play video games ever since he was an infant. He used to grab the controller, slobber on it and press all the buttons in an attempt to emulate me. I thought it was the cutest thing. I knew one day he and I would share a love for gaming and some of the same types of moments my big brother and I had.
I could tell you hundreds of cool stories about the times my son and I have spent gaming, but the first one is the most important.
He was 3 years old and we were playing a fighting game of some kind. He was so content. He felt like a big boy because I was allowing him to play with me.
He looked at me and said, "Dad, you're my best friend." It kind of came out of nowhere. I didn't even know he knew what a best friend was — let alone being conscious enough to pick me for the position.
My priorities in life at that point were to be a good husband and father, and a 3-year-old had somehow made me feel as though I'd accomplished half of my mission with a five-word sentence.
He looked at me while we played a fighting game and said, "Dad, you're my best friend." I didn't even know he knew what a best friend was.
I held back the tears and said, "I love you, kiddo." He smiled, looked back at the television screen and started mashing away at the buttons.
For years, he and I have been going head-to-head and playing co-op style in a variety of video games, but most of the time it's a sports game.
My son is 11 now, and we both love it when my wife and my other kids join in to play the game with us. I can bond with each of my kids in different ways, but when it comes to gaming, the youngest and I speak the same language.
We talk about what would be cool in games that currently exist and even brainstorm about titles that we'd like to create. In fact, our conversations are often the seeds for my articles.
We even share our adventures and competitions in videos on my YouTube channel. My YouTube alias is FranchisePlay and many of my followers refer to my son as FP Jr.
We also have those meaningful talks. I've done my best to teach him about sportsmanship, being an upstanding man and how do deal with adversity.
You'd be surprised what subjects can come up while playing a game of NBA 2K or Madden. I feel blessed to be able to capitalize on these teaching moments.
On this Father's Day, I'm thankful for many things: my four beautiful, smart and healthy children; my wife; my health; our shelter and more.
I'm also thankful for video games. The work of countless developers, designers and engineers has provided my family with thousands of hours of entertainment and fellowship.
Gaming has been good to us.
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