Co-op Parenting

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By Dale Johns

Playing video games with your children is not just a great bonding opportunity and a way to monitor the content and themes in their games; it can also be a lot of fun. Despite what reservations you may have over the medium, the industry has grown large enough to cater to anyone covering a wide variety of themes and for the luddites amongst us there are titles that even you can master.

Here are a few examples of games that would be a good choice for a parent to play with their children:


Portal 2

Depending on your aptitude with video games you may find some initial difficulty in co-ordination as you control both the camera and movement simultaneously, however unlike shooters no one’s trying to kill you, so you can take your time getting used to the controls.

The game itself is a puzzle game; you both take control of a robot in a testing facility armed with a gun but instead of bullets they shoot portals connected to each other. So for example: if you’re standing on one side of a ravine you can fire your first portal next to you and your second to the other side allowing you to pass through.

The challenge comes in the form of trying to figure out how to navigate the maze of obstacles relying on ingenuity and your handy portal guns. The game also does a great job of gradually introducing new mechanics so there’s no need to be worried about suddenly facing something you’ve never seen before.

This game is a great tool to teach children problem solving as players are required to take in large amounts of information and use the various tools at their disposal to pass each level. Also, by playing co-operatively, it teaches team work and communication as the obstacles are impossible to overcome individually and require the players to discuss and explain their solutions.

Available on PC, Mac, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3


Orcs must Die 2

Unlike other games in this list, Orcs must Die is targeted at an older audience and as the title may suggest it does feature more violence as the goal of the game is obviously to kill orcs. However the violence is not grotesque; eschewing realism for cartoon violence, but still parental digression is advised.

The game is very challenging and like Portal 2 it requires the player to control both the movement and camera view simultaneously. So whilst it may not be suitable for a total beginner, the initial difficulty and pace is quite approachable and only slowly builds to more complex and demanding game play.

The actual game play involves setting traps and obstacles to deal with waves of orcs and monsters with various abilities that are trying to get to the portal (or portals) you are tasked with defending for each level, and as a last ditched effort you can also attack the monsters yourself. The wide variety of levels, skills, monsters and traps teaches you problem solving and planning as your success is dependent on placing the right traps in the right places for the right monsters. Later levels also require the player to learn how to prioritise and multi task, as you have less time to prepare and not enough resources to build as many traps as you would like, so you have to quickly decide on your top priorities and best solutions.

Overall it is a fast paced game that slowly builds up to a complex and challenging game that maintains a humorous tone throughout, and with the ability to play co-operatively it is a great option for parents with older children looking for an activity to do together.

Available on PC


Lego games

There are a whole series of Lego games designed for kids using trademarks from popular movies, in particular: Pirates of the Caribbean, Batman, Star Wars, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. These games are well known for their sense of humour and charm and much like Disney and Pixar films they manage to appeal to adults and children at the same time.

The games are targeted towards a younger audience with no graphic violence, instead using the Lego aesthetic of having parts and bricks breaking apart in the action scenes. The controls are also quite simple using fixed camera perspective so you only have to control your characters movement. The actual game play is quite varied, but for the most part it involves very basic combat and simple puzzles utilising the skills of various characters, which you can switch between. The games also have a tendency of focusing on collectables enabling you to unlock more characters and levels allowing for a lot of replay value.

Overall they are very charming and funny games that are best suited for younger children, as an adult you may not get as much enjoyment from the actual game play but you’ll still be entertained and it is a great joint activity.

Available on various platforms, refer to individual titles


New Super Mario Bros Wii and New Super Mario Bros U

By now you would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t played a Mario game but if you are the rare individual; the basic premise is a plumber in a magical kingdom that is tasked with rescuing a princess from an evil dragon turtle, what could be simpler, and with its bright colours and cartoon aesthetics it is a timeless classic that appeals to children across the world.

The controls couldn’t be easier: left, right and jump, occasionally getting power ups giving you access to a few skills such as throwing fireballs and flying. Jump from platform to platform as you navigate each level, avoiding hazards, collecting coins and jumping on top of any enemies that happen to get in your way.

Traditionally a single player game these new versions, although essentially the same as the old game, hark back to allow for up to four players, perfect for parents with a number of children. Although most obstacles can be overcome individually it does require players to share when it comes to power ups and health. There is a reason why Mario has become a mainstay even though it has less depth to it than other games mentioned here; because it’s fun. So while it might not have intricate teamwork and complex problem solving, it still fosters co-operation, hand eye coordination and a certain degree of lateral thinking, but mostly it’s just a fun and wholesome game to play together with your kids and is definitely one not to be missed.

Available on Wii and Wii U respectively


Motion Control Games

Motion controls are both an old and relatively new concept with the technology existing for quite some time but only recently becoming prominent in the public consciousness. Essentially they allow for your natural movements to be the controls, so to dance you’ll just dance and to play tennis you would swing your arm as if you were actually playing. As such it is quite simple for people completely foreign to video games to adapt to the control scheme since they imitate natural actions. These types of games have even become quite popular with the elderly as they’re easy to learn, require a low level of physical activity and are very social, so even if you weren’t born with a computer you have no excuse for not giving it a go.

It should be noted that depending on the platform you’re using you may have to purchase an additional device in order to play motion control games. That is, if you’re using an Xbox 360 you will also need a Microsoft Kinect and if you’re using a Playstation 3 you will need a Playstation Move, however if you’re using a Nintendo Wii you will not need any extra peripherals apart from a few select titles.

As mentioned earlier motion control games have only gained popularity recently and as such the industry has yet to establish how best to use the technology, because of this there are a number of games that although different in appearance are essentially the same game. So for example: if you have Wii Sports it probably won’t benefit you much getting Kinect Sports.

Motion Control games are predominately multi-player experiences and are great party games requiring everyone to get up and look a bit silly, so it’s great for all ages and perfect for the whole family. So if you’re looking a great family game here are some options.


Just Dance and Dance Central

As the names would suggest these games are about dancing. Using motion controls you dance to popular songs so prepare to look silly and maybe even work up a sweat. These games have been around for a while and as such there are multiple sequels available.

Just Dance, various titles available on multiple platforms including Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii

Dance Central is available on Xbox 360


Wii Sports, Kinect Sports and Sports Champions

These games feature a variety of mini sports based games including bowling, archery, tennis and more. They highlight the versatility of motion controls with the games varying in difficulty and complexity. These type of games are among the most popular and also have sequels available that introduce new sports.

Available on Wii, Xbox 360 with Kinect and Playstation 3

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