November 16, 2007 - It is no surprise that parents have been caught a little off-guard by their children’s love of video games. Some don’t understand it, but worse, some don’t try to understand it. They see it as just some nonsensical electronic hobby that their kids will grow out of. Many parents don’t see the overwhelming possibilities of video games bringing families together. Like any other entertainment out there, video games can be experienced as a family, and can amount to some real quality time that will be both fun for kids, and maybe even a little fun for parents as well.
One of the big genres that lend itself to family gaming is the automotive genre. There’s no real need for expertise in automotive games aimed at the younger crowd, there’s always multiplayer, and automotive games are almost always fun. Probably the most famous example of a racing game that is fun to play with children is the Mario Kart series. The most recent console itineration of this series was Mario Kart: Double Dash for the GameCube (which is also playable on the Wii through its backwards compatibility), but the newest version, Mario Kart Wii, is on its way sometime early next year. This series is extremely simple, but excels in both its simplicity and its overall fun. Children will enjoy the fun settings, as well as racing with their favorite characters. Parents will enjoy the simplicity of play, as well as the extremely kid-friendly gameplay. Parents and children can play against each other or on a team for cooperative fun.
A more recent game that incorporates the fun of racing games is Viva Piñata: Party Animals. Although this game has a large focus on party-style minigames, it also includes a foot-race type racing mode. Essentially you will take the form of a piñata with a need for speed. You can use several candy power-ups to both boost your speed and set traps for your competitors. The real unique thing about this game is how it incorporates the racing genre, but without cars. Families who play this game will definitely have fun playing as the different piñatas, and young children especially will probably get a kick out of the colorful characters.
If your child is more interested in movies or enjoys movie-based games, one of the most excellent franchises out there is the Cars franchise. Based on the original Cars movie from Disney Pixar, both the original Cars and its recent follow-up Cars Mater-National bring some fun family gameplay in the form of a more diverse, yet still simplistic, automotive-based game. Essentially the way that both of these games play is through an open world interface. What this basically means is that when you start up the game, you’ll have to drive around the world of the game to find different missions. The real strength of the Cars series is its variation in gameplay. The missions in the game aren’t solely based on who can get to the finish line first; they also involve strategy and other intriguing forms of gameplay. For instance, there are situations where you have to drive around and find gas cans to fuel your tank. The person who can find the most and keep their car going the longest is the winner. There are also team-based activities, including relay racing, that involve working cooperatively to win a race. Kids will love the Cars-based locations and characters, as well as the many forms of gameplay. Parents will also appreciate the many different forms of gameplay and the familiar subject material.
Families with children who do not own a video game console, but are still interested in automotive games should also know that there are options in the realm of PC-based gaming as well. A great example of a family friendly automotive series is the Midtown Madness series. Although the two Midtown Madness games are a little on the vintage side (released in 1999 and 2000), they are still widely available and still serve as great racing games. The game features several real-model cars and international racing tracks. The game is a little more advanced as far as control and gaming modes are concerned, so this title is great for families with children who are in the early preteen phase. There is also an online multiplayer component to the game, which will delight children who love to compete. In addition to the online functions, kids will also enjoy the various locations and real-life cars. Parents will appreciate the safe online modes (via Microsoft’s GamingZone) and the more advanced gameplay options.