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Planning a Family Game Night

Among today's most exciting and cutting-edge forms of entertainment, games are a great way to connect with kids, and make lasting memories, while experiencing a positive activity that the whole family can enjoy. The best way to begin: Start planning your own family game night.

"Playing video games with your kids makes them see you as a person, not just a parent," says Chasity Hicks, an Oklahoma mother of three. Her household's gaming habits offer a great example of the many types of family-friendly games available today for different age ranges. She and her husband play NBA basketball simulations with their 14 year-old son; dancing game Dance Central and motion-powered outing Kinect Sports with their 11 year-old daughter; and virtual pet simulator Kinectimals with their 6 year-old. "We still get all the benefits of spending time together and having a great time while doing it." She also likes that games can be educational, help with hand-eye coordination, and provide a physical workout.

Don't be afraid to look silly in front of your children either, says Mary Heston of Wired Moms, herself a mother of four kids ranging from 13-21 years of age. "Dancing games are really fun for the entire family, and definitely provide lots of laughs for the kids when Mom and Dad get up there to shake their groove thing." Heston's family plays games on nearly every console available, and even participates in a family fitness challenge using active, exercise-oriented "exergame" Wii Fit.

The key for families is obviously finding the right kind of games to play together. "I know a lot of parents who don't let their children play any type of video games, but I think that just like a lot of other things, it can be a good thing if monitored and limited," says Hicks.

"As parents, it is important for us to find things in common with our kids and build those connections," agrees Heston. "Playing video games together is a great equalizer."

That said, those looking for a little Friday evening fun can forget Monopoly, Scrabble, chess, checkers and Old Maid - at least, the versions that don't run on an Xbox 360 or iPad. Easier to enjoy, and clean up after, today's family game nights belong to video games. Following are some tips that can help get you started building your own.



First, ask yourself what's appropriate: Are titles featuring cartoon violence, toy weapons or simulated combat kosher? Then think about what type of games make sense: Collections of frantic, bite-sized mini-games; teeth-gnashing head-to-head puzzlers; fist-pumping sports simulations; or grand-scale strategic engagements? Afterwards, you'll also want to consider which control schemes you prefer, i.e. titles played on traditional gamepads, or motion controlled amusements that require you to get up and moving. Once you've picked the evening's contenders, and set some limits, here are a few genres that make great choices for group play to consider:


Finally, a few important guidelines worth keeping in mind for any family game night:

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