Xbox for the Whole Family

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    I’m an avid gamer- well, I used to be. Before I had kids. Not that I don’t love my kids, but they take up a lot of my time. It seems like when I’m not mowing the yard or fixing something they’ve broken in the house, I’m sitting there patiently, watching SpongeBob, hoping I’ll get my turn at the TV.

    I got my first Xbox about five years ago. It long since RROD’d on me, and it had to be replaced. At first it was just something for me and the eldest daughter to do together. I quickly hogged it, enjoying the online conversations with my other dad friends. See, we can’t always get out of the house and go do stuff, but we dads can put on our headsets and yuck it up for hours on end. Until we’re needed to change a diaper, take the dog out or find out why the kids are having a
    steel cage match in the kitchen.

    I have nothing against other gaming systems- we also own a PS2, a PSP and three Nintendos for the girls to fight over. But Xbox is what I quickly became attached to years ago- migrating from my computer desk to the comfy couch. And a much bigger screen.

    Originally, the eldest complained, because she wanted to watch TV. It didn’t matter we had other TVs in the house. The old Dadcave is the coolest place in the house, and she wanted to watch TV there.

    I managed to overcome this protest by making Xbox a spectator sport.

    It’s very easy to do. First, you’ve got to pick the right game. If your kids like zombie movies (mine do) you get “Left For Dead” or “Dead Island”. If they like space operas, pick up LAMO, I mean, HALO. Something that if it were a TV show, they’d watch it.

    Next up, you have snacks ready. Yes, some of them are for me, but I find that if I give the girls a major sugar fix, they’ll crash hard later in the night and I’ll be able to guffaw and yell with my buddies as we ‘Box together.

    (I’ll also note that when the kids are present, you can have them bring you your snacks and refills. Your mileage may vary on this- younger kids always seem more willing to play waitress.)

    Dim the lights and break out the pillows and blankets. Let the kids put their feet up, or even inflate an air mattress on the floor- like a trip to the drive in. The more comfy they are, the more likely they will eventually doze off. Kids have an amazing ability to sleep through noise when they’re tired.

    Finally, when the game comes on, it’s time to be funny. Break out your best lines from Mystery Science Theater 3000 and mock that game. Mock your friends. And do it all on a level grade school kids can understand. That’s right, make them laugh when you decapitate that zombie, or stick a grenade to a virtual terrorist so he explodes as he runs away. It’s all in good fun.

    And make sure you laugh at their jokes when they join in.

    If you’re brave, you can have the headsets for the game route the audio through the surround sound speakers. Of course, some of your single friends may let fly a few curse words or inappropriate humor at some point. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

    If your kids tire of the riffing and long play sessions, get them semi involved. You can greatly benefit from some co-piloting. Even my seven year old loves being assigned the task to watch a specific area of the screen for bad guys. Yes, I see them too, but it’s fun to hear her call out a sighting and then enthusiastically tell me to “get ’em, get ’em, get ’em!”

    Of course, the best co-piloting is the online kind. Put that computer-savvy kid next to you with a laptop or tablet and have them look up cheat codes or walkthroughs for those really hard levels. Or let them figure out the puzzles sometimes.

    If the all night gaming marathons aren’t your thing, dont despair. You can still get your Xbox time with the kids’ approval. Make it episodic. Buy a game like “Borderlands 2” or “Fallout: New Vegas” and only play a few missions at a time. Call for a vote from the juvenile audience as to how to spend the experience you earn in the game or for which weapons to sell. Make it interactive.

    For me though, the absolute best aspect of spectator Xboxxing is the emergency tag-team aspect. Some games, like “Left for Dead”, have a handy feature where you can let the Xbox play for you while you see what the wife is yelling about or you have to hit the bathroom. Most don’t have this super feature. That’s where a well-trained kid comes in handy. Give them the controller and headset and simple instructions, like “hide somewhere on the map and don’t get me killed” or “tell the guys I have to go potty”. Or you can be like some of my friends and covertly hand off the controller to your teenager, who’s reflexes are so superior they’ll play rings
    around me and the other guys (Cheater- you know who I’m talking about).

    Bottom line, the Xbox connects to a big TV. Instead of hearing the kids whine about you hogging said TV, get them involved. Cause you just can’t concentrate on your gaming with all that noise.

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