While we're all stuck inside during the quarantine, looks like the "B" word is getting thrown around a lot. No, not that "B" word. The one I'm referring to is...gasp...the word bond!
Bonding might conjure up images of a father and son fishing or playing catch. Country songs and films certainly depict such scenes with regular frequency. But that’s not the primary way I bonded with my father when I was a kid. For the most part, we would play games with one another. We would fish and play catch on occasion. Admittedly, I have a greater interest in video games than the other two things and might be a bit biased, but it still seems that gaming is one of the best ways people can bond.
Now obviously, bonding isn’t just something that happens between a father and son, but I’m going to stick with that relationship for a moment. My father and I live very, very far from one another. It would be hard to play catch, because I am not the kind of prodigy who can throw a ball over a dozen state borders. But I can meet up with him to go a few rounds in FIFA after we’ve both finished work. It doesn’t get in the way of regular conversation and we can still talk about whatever is on our mind, but we’re being competitive/cooperative, sharing an experience, and building new stories. Simple conversations rarely come with that sort of benefit.
In fact, the online component of gaming is how I stay in touch with most of my friends. People rarely just pick up a phone and call people these days, but jumping into an Xbox Live Party is effortless. Hell, you can see someone already playing something, then join up with them without the need for a formal invite. Gaming offers one of the easiest gateways to hanging out that we’ve ever seen, especially when we consider the accessibility of mobile devices.
The Nintendo Switch depicted its system as a social experience in its earliest marketing. As unlikely as it seemed for a bunch of young people to bring their console to a New York City roof top party, I have seen the console have that kind of utility. With a kickstand and easy controls, it’s a blast to pull out Super Mario Party or Mario Tennis for a few quick rounds. Games like the Jackbox Party Pack, which allow large groups of people to play social games using their phones, work especially well on the Nintendo Switch.
Often, material designed for kids isn’t always fun for adults. Here’s another way gaming has a neat bonus to bonding. Without gaming, a person might have to sit down and try to engage with material that they dislike. I have nothing but respect for people who do in the interest of taking an interest in their kid’s interests, but with gaming, the focus isn’t always on the franchise or intellectual property so much as it is on the concept of playing.
You might loathe Animal Crossing, but playing a game with your kid is probably a pretty fun time. Same goes for games like the LEGO series, which are fun and silly platformers that allow players to cooperate to solve puzzles and traverse stages. It reminds me of Goof Troop for the Super Nintendo, which is a fantastic game that feels like a Disney-fied The Legend of Zelda. My father and I would indulge in cartoon violence, kick around blocks to solve puzzles, slide around on virtual ice, and generally just have a blast. I doubt that he cares too much about the characters all that much, although I will say that it is fitting that the characters themselves were a father and son.
Gaming also doesn’t require a whole lot of effort physically and is a hobby that you can bring with you into old age. Nintendo Wii’s were a common staple in nursing homes for a bit and it’s easy to see why; people who couldn’t go bowling could still experience the spirit of the sport with one another.
Video games are everywhere and are a large part of our culture. We enjoy playing them, talking about them, sharing them, and watching them. I think it’s worth taking a step back to notice the potential they have to bring us all together from time to time. But, as always, enjoy all things in moderation. Fishing trips and catch are still fun ways to spend some time too.