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11/09/2007 Family Family Gamer Article
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Successful family-gaming of the more solitary variety is inevitably all about finding those moments in the day which you can steal for some play-time. Whilst hard-core gamers often have great swaths of time they can devote to gaming, those of us with more responsibilities and, dare I say, people in our lives have to be a little bit more creative.

Once you start keeping an eye out for them, all sorts of gaming opportunities crop up throughout a day. Much has already been said about the benefit of porcelain gaming (toilet gaming for our more crass readers), redeeming those minutes spent sat in the toilet on your own. Find the right game for these moments and you may find that half an hour has flown by with your lower garments around your ankles. I'm sure there are some medical reasons why this isn't a good idea, but not enough to worry the dedicated gamer. Although, I've not yet suffered badly having been gaming on the john since the early 90s with my original Gameboy.

I recently twigged that I had an exactly slot for some gaming whilst I give my two kids their baths of an evening. We alternate their baths each day, so they get a wash every other day, unless they have managed to get particularly grubby (not sure what we'll do when the third one arrives, but I'll save those thoughts for elsewhere). Each bath takes a good 20 minutes and needs someone to be in the room, to make sure they don't drown or pour too much water out onto the floor, so I'm quid's in for my gaming slot. At first they were intrigued as to what daddy was doing sat by the door with my DS or GBA Micro in hand, but they soon lost interest with the distraction of their bubbles.

Those 20 minutes really recharge my batteries so I'm ready to wrestle them into pyjamas, before coaxing them into their room with an ever increasing number of stories.

I have to say this has been like a breath of fresh air and something of a highlight of their bedtime routine for me. Those 20 minutes really recharge my batteries so I'm ready to wrestle them into pyjamas, before coaxing them into their room with an ever increasing number of stories. Which as an aside makes me wonder if we might see a DS StoryTime game of sorts before too long?

Over the last few months I have managed to work through a number of games I'd previously neglected in my DS's back catalogue. Those with short levels are best, or at least with a save point. I've found that the sleep function, whilst good, often gets forgotten about once shut and subsequently runs out of battery before the next day's play. Daily training games such as Brain Training fit the bill perfectly, with my recent favourite being PicrossDS. And the kids are quite happy with the set-up as they get a far longer time to play in the bath than they otherwise would.

Once you have found a slot of time like this, you often wonder when else you could slot in a game, or how to maximise your time to play. To this end, I am seriously thinking about getting a waterproof bag for the DS so I can play during my baths as well as the kids. If you've not seen these before they essentially look like a zip-lock style see through back that you pop your DS into to ensure that wet fingers or unplanned drops don't end up with a broken piece of hardware. Now, because I run my gaming on a family budget I am also wondering if the same result could be achieved with a normal zip-lock bag from Sainsbury's. Is what they are selling on their web site just a clever repackaging of a common-all-garden product or is there something more water proof about them? I'm quite sure they wouldn't come with a guarantee in case of leeks, so maybe I'd be just as well off with the home-made variety.

I'm sure there are also some opportunities for other bathroom games accessories to further enable some gaming time. How about a DS come Toilet-Roll holder combination, so you have somewhere to hide the handheld away while you're not using it. Or maybe a toiletry cupboard with some games storage built in. You may laugh, but stranger things have happened.

All-in-all the bathroom is certainly turning out to be an ideal place to catch a few gaming minutes, whether it's on my own while sat on the thrown, with the kids enjoying their bath time, or relaxing in a bubbly hot tub myself. Ah, bring on the weekend.

Written by Andy Robertson

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Andy Robertson writes the Family Gamer column.

"Videogame reviews for the whole family, not just the kids. I dig out videogame experiences to intrigue and interest grownups and children. This is post-hardcore gaming where accessibility, emotion and storytelling are as important as realism, explosions and bravado."

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