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Video games popular with parents and children

By Mike Augustin

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Unless you’ve been hiding under a technology-free rock, you’ve most likely heard the buzz about the hugely popular Nintendo Wii video game system.

One factor driving its popularity is the Wii’s ability to knock down generational barriers, real or imagined, that have surrounded video gaming for decades.

What makes the Wii accessible to the young and their parents has much to do with Nintendo’s innovative motion-sensing controls that make game play intuitive and approachable. Entry-level games on the Wii minimize confusion many novices feel when facing video games — just move you’re arms like your swinging a golf club and you’re golfing.

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The young, old and in-between are picking up on the Wii, and in many cases they’re doing it together. Since release in November 2006, the Wii has been flying off store shelves and into the hands of folks way outside the stereotypical gaming demographic of teenage boys.

The parent

The Wii is still hard to find in stores sometimes. But Chris Hunt, Wii owner and Rochester dad of James, 6, and Charlotte, 4, got one last year before Christmas.

Hunt purchased the Wii with kids in mind, but found the whole family enjoys playing Wii games together. He likes how using the Wii to play games is different from traditional video game systems that were more about pushing buttons and staring at the screen. Instead, users can create caricatures of themselves to participate in onscreen games using real body movement not buttons.

"The kids play is active — they get sweaty, especially when boxing. Fortunately James hasn’t knocked over the TV yet," says Hunt, laughing.

Wii Sports, game software included with the purchase of the Wii, allows you to swing a baseball bat by holding the remote like a bat and swinging away. To roll a bowling ball, use your best three-step delivery perfected at Monday night leagues, with Wii controller standing in for the ball.

Hunt said the Wii has changed how his family spends time together. "There are times when James might be playing and I walk by and get caught up in playing with him, instead of him playing alone while I do something else," Hunt says. "I think that’s different from how video games used to be."

The child

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James is a young man of few words, letting his dad do most of the talking. He moves about the video game store at Apache Mall wide-eyed, examining brightly packaged gaming software lining the walls from floor to ceiling.

James enjoys playing Wii Sports with his dad. His favorites? Bowling and boxing. When asked if he ever knocks his dad out in the boxing ring James, nodding, says, "yeah, a lot."

But can the Wii maintain cross-generational appeal as young gamers like James grow older and demand a more sophisticated gaming experience? Yes, depending on what they enjoy doing, according to Emily Schroder, spokesperson for Best Buy. Music-related games such as Guitar Hero, Dance Dance Revolution and Rock Band are popular with teens.

Nintendo has included many vintage songs titles on its music-based games that Schroder speculates could lead to parental connection and reminiscing, showing teens a side of parents they might not normally see.

"The Wii winds up being a great cross-generational gaming platform," Schroder says. "Kids, moms and dads, even grandparents, are together and active, laughing and talking."

For more, go to Postbulletin.com/weblinks.

A Wii bit o’ tips

Tips for parents about family video-game usage, from Emily Schroder, spokesperson for Best Buy:

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  • Set time limits and boundaries for children.
  • Learn to use parental controls and timers.
  • Know what children are playing.
  • Keep an eye on games’ ratings.

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http://www.bestbuy.com/familygaming

http://www.ESRB.org

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