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Family Gamer UK had a surprising boost in traffic last week. Adding my parent's rough guides was a small step but one that proved to connect with mums, dads, kids and even aunties.
I've been playing games for a long time, so when I got married and had kids I wanted to share my hobby. However, grabbed a game from a store shelf that reported to be suitable for my family often resulted in an ill fitting experience. Sometime the games were too difficult to control for the kids, or addressed issues they weren't interested in, or failed to engage the other adults in our brood - namely my other half.
The games had been well vetted for a whole host of different aspects that (we are told) may offend, damage or shock a sensitive family audience. But no work had been done to communicate how experienced players should be to enjoy the game, or of incidental scenes and topics that may unsettle little minds, or how long the game took to play and how much space was needed. Along with these negatives, there are also a raft of positive details that games should be telling family audiences. For example, games that raise interesting topics and themes for families, or help family groups play together, or even introduce new potential hobbies and sports into the home.
When I got married and had kids I wanted to share my hobby.
No matter I thought, Wikipedia will come to my aid with some niche information to fill in these gaps. But here too I seemed to slip into the gap between hardcore gamers and issue bashing auditors. Fan sites espoused every last graphical detail and game play mechanic whilst censorship sites provided long vague lists of unhelpful aspects of games.
A few months ago I had been asked by one or two friends for family game recommendations, in the absence of any decent British family game guides online I simply emailed out my thoughts on recent games. They loved them! What's more they came back asking for more and for details on specific games they were thinking of buying. This grew into a bit of a mailing list with people coming back to add their comments once playing the games themselves. We've enjoyed this little community for the last few months.
Being the games writer I am, after putting a few of these emails together it simply made sense to put them up on a webpage. What's more this would enable my family crew to comment and discuss on each guide, adding their own thoughts.
But here too I seemed to slip into the gap between hardcore gamers and issue bashing auditors.
Much to our surprise, for our little UK family gamer page it was a revelation. Traffic tripled overnight - big for us although not in the grand scheme of things. There we have it In a nutshell, that's how my parent's rough guides to games were born.
I don't profess to be particularly expert in the games I write about, apart from playing them with a family. It's this blindness to other gaming concerns that means I can ask the questions other families want to know. The blind leading the blind as it were - although here it turns out to be not a bad thing at all.
As such these guides introduce the basics about each game, to give both a taste and a gauge of the experiences they deliver. They are aimed at other novice gamers, or those looking for guidance for their kids. The guides are here to provide information to help families make informed choices and get the most out of their video games.
It's this blindness to other gaming concerns that means I can ask the questions other families want to know.
Each guide answers the following questions about each game:
They doen't answer the following questions:
Well, that's it for another couple of weeks from me - back to the dust and mess of my loft conversion. If you are hungry for more you can keep track of my gaming in my mini blog.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: