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Have We Become a Gaming Family?


Christmas 2020 looked super different for our family, and as parents, my husband and I did something that we probably wouldn’t have done otherwise. We fulfilled our nine-year-old’s request for a gaming system, specifically a Nintendo Switch. She had been asking for it throughout the pandemic saying everyone she knew had one, but it felt too expensive and one more screen to fight over. 

And of course, earlier in the year, the Switches were pretty hard to come by. I’m a great deal shopper, even online–scoring Clorox wipes when they were scarce and Lysol for my friend who had COVID in July. But I didn’t want to activate my shopping powers for something we weren’t sure we could handle as a family or to pay too much just because it was hard to find in stock.

But a good deal that was available for pickup and our daughter’s persistence led us to make the purchase in early December. It was SO HARD to not tell her once it was in the house because we’d said “no” so many times, including for her ninth birthday in November. I don’t like misleading my girls, but it felt OK to hold back the news for this Christmas joy surprise.

We opened all other gifts first, knowing that once the Switch was opened she wouldn’t want to look at anything else (or eat or Zoom with family). So after lunch on Christmas, my husband “found” one last gift hidden behind a toy box in the living room. He’d actually set up the system on Christmas Eve–connecting it to the TV and playing a couple games himself to make sure everything was charged and working. The wrapped gift was just a separate controller we’d bought so they could both play together. It took a few minutes for the girls to even register the gift and see it in the TV cabinet, but once she realized her heart’s desire had been fulfilled our oldest jumped for joy!

My family got the original Nintendo system when I was about my daughter’s age, and although I never mastered a single game, I spent plenty of hours watching others play–my cousins at my grandparents as a kid and a grad school friend while we were killing time in the newsroom. The girls had been playing some older Nintendo games on an emulator with their dad on his computer, but the Switch has opened up more current possibilities for all three of them.

We did purchase additional controllers so we can all play some together. We’re still staying home for the most part, other than in-person school for the girls, so there’s plenty of time in the afternoons and weekends for a family battle of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. That’s the one game I will actually play so far, and I am terrible but have fun trying. I love doing something together that still feels novel in this neverending pandemic sameness. Also now we have all the Mario characters in our family lexicon, which opens up more shared jokes. My favorite so far: What room is too big for Mario to fit inside of? A mush-room!

Do you have a Nintendo Switch or other gaming system? We’re thinking about other games to procure too. I’m particularly drawn to Animal Crossing for myself, but worry I’d get unhealthily obsessed! Let me know if you have any games that your kids love–especially if there are any targeted for a younger gamer (we have a four-year-old who is doing her best to keep up). 

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22 Jan 2021


By Mari Walker

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