Fun for the Whole Family | Games, Gamers, & Gaming, October 15, 2016

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Video games are a natural fit for family fun, but it’s not always easy to find games that are both suitable for kids and engaging enough for adults. Still, there are numerous all-ages-appropriate games out there with substantial game play.

For the kid in all of us

If your patrons are looking for family enter­tainment, Nintendo should be your go-to source. By building its brand on colorful, family-friendly titles, Nintendo has alienated many so-called “hard-core” gamers, but for every gamer lost in the past ten years, ten new devoted fans have been gained. The original Wii deserves credit for attracting untold numbers of players and was the highest-selling console from the last generation. The Wii U carries on that legacy, appealing to people of all ages.

Despite their reputation for being dumbed down, Nintendo games are actually quite complex. They strike an ideal balance between letting new gamers experiment with controls and mash buttons and letting experienced players use precision and skill to achieve victory.

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U has the intensity and technique of fighting games such as Street Fighter V and Mortal Kombat X but trades the violence and adult-oriented imagery for cartoonish slapstick, interactive levels, and a focus on teamwork. Starring familiar characters like Mario, Link, and Kirby, the game supports up to eight players at a time and allows for both free-for-all and team-based competition.

Nintendo has also put its own spin on the racing genre with Mario Kart 8 in which the company’s signature characters compete in go-kart races. There are a wide variety of tracks of varying challenge levels and customizable vehicles to be had, but the series is more known for the power-ups participants can pick up and use during a race. Whether it’s leaving behind a banana peel for others to slip on or slamming an opponent with the dreaded Red Shell, every race is a white-knuckle contest in which any player can take the lead at any moment.

If younger patrons want to play shooter games, but their parents are concerned about content, try Nintendo’s Splatoon. While primarily an online competitive shooter game, it also has a fun single-player and an entertaining one-on-one offline mode. Its fast-paced action will be a crowd-pleaser for family game night, where variety and engagement is ­paramount.

The family that slays together…

Perhaps your patrons have older kids—or no kids at all—and are looking for a more mature experience that they can still enjoy with a group whose sensitivities may vary. Massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) are a great place to start for these family circles. Many of them are rated no higher than T for Teen, and while they feature violence, it’s more of the fantastical and heroic type.

Guild War 2 is my most highly recommended title. There is no subscription fee, and all content is available for anyone who purchases the game. It’s bright and colorful, with an optimistic story line that still feels epic in scope, and has some of the most balanced game play in an MMORPG. No matter how players build their characters, they can aid their comrades, as the character progression system allows for any number of possibilities and lacks the “holy trinity” of most games of this type: one deals damage, one defends, and one heals, with all characters filling all roles. Form a family guild and get to adventuring together!

There are also MMORPGs based on the “Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars” franchises, but some content for these games is locked behind a paywall. Marvel Heroes is a great free-to-play game for comics fans and allows for deep character customization. Some of its options require purchase, but gamers can play from beginning to end gratis.

Overwatch, Blizzard’s most recent release, is a team-based first-person shooter that offers up the action and excitement of titles such as Call of Duty without the graphic, realistic violence. Characters work together to achieve a common goal, with everyone serving an important role. Working together is extremely rewarding and even more so with family.

Get Moving!

Mobile gaming, with its accessibility, variety, and low cost, is a great family option. First, of course, there’s Pokémon GO. Nothing beats an outing that combines exploration and exercise with being fun and social. Many mobile games, such as Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds, allow players to join social networks, build friend lists, and challenge fellow gamers, giving families an option for gaming together even when they’re not physically in the same place. Mobile gaming isn’t just restricted to smartphones, of course: the Nintendo DS offers just as much family-friendly game play as the Wii U.

Gaming is a rewarding activity made even more enjoyable when it’s social. Playing games together is a great way for families to bond, to rekindle old connections, and even to settle disputes (at least in my household).

Until next time, keep telling yourself: just one more level!

M. Brandon Robbins is Media Coordinator, Goldsboro High School, NC, and a member of the 2011 class of the American Library Association’s Emerging Leaders

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M. Brandon Robbins About M. Brandon Robbins

M. Brandon Robbins (mbrandon.robbins@gmail.com) is the Media Coordinator at Goldsboro High School in Goldsboro, NC. He's a member of the 2011 class of ALA Emerging Leaders.

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