• November 28, 2022

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I’ve been writing about families and video games for almost 20 years. Over that time I’ve seen all manner of family gaming initiatives unveiled at Expos like Comic Con, Gamescon and E3. Running the Family Gaming Area at the recent London Comic Con, the penny dropped that we need to re-think how we help parents discover games at these events.

Before the London event I’d spent a lot of time sourcing some amazing games to have on our stand, from big blockbusters to novel indies we had a killer line up of games. But by the end of the first day I was becoming frustrated. Families would walk onto the stand, make a beeline for games they already knew, watch their kids play for 10 minutes and then leave before even glancing at anything new. All these beautiful gems we had for parents and children to play together didn’t even register.

The next day we took a different approach. Rather than seeing the space like a fast-food outlet, we started treating it like a restaurant.

When a family arrived, we’d greet them at the entrance. “How many of you are looking to play? Table for two?” We’d joke, before getting them seated at a console.

Next we’d take them through the games on the menu, introducing each with a bit of back story. “You’re working an a warehouse”, for Wilmot’s Warehouse. “You’re helping a monster navigate an island archipelago”, for Monster’s Expedition. “You’re exploring and island resort”, for Go Vacation.

Often a parent would be reluctant to play. Many of them, it turned out, had never actually played a video game and were apprehensive. Gently encouraging them to have a go, we’d give them some space with their child once they got started.

Then, five minutes later we’d pop back and see how they were getting on. “How’s that working for you”, we’d ask. Often they were away and having fun, but if not it was a chance to suggest something else from our menu of games.

The results on that second day were night-and-day from day one. Time after time, non-gaming parents would end up playing with their child for a good half an hour. We had countless conversations about what games they’d like to play when they were back home. There was both excitement and relief from these parents, that they had a way to engage and a space to try things for themselves.

Having had some time to reflect on this a week later, I’m convinced that this approach is essential to engage parents, and often overlooked in favour of rows of game kiosks at Expos.

Creating a truly welcoming Family Gaming Area isn’t just about the number of games or age ratings or even number of players. It’s about creating space that treats video games like a good meal out.

This needs front-of-house people to host the space in the form of a restaurant rather than fast-food outlet. After all, video games are nourishing, health-giving and lovingly crafted, they deserve the space to be all they can be.

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