Your mom plays video games

Spotlight, Work — By

Madison mom and gamer Sheryl Hurley talks to us about what she plays, what she lets her kids play, and the role of gaming in the family dynamic.

Tell me about your family.

I am 41 years old, with 2 boys, ages 6 and 9, and my husband is 41.  I train people how to use their computers. My husband is a freelance web developer. We moved to Madison about three years ago when my oldest was about to start school ⎯ we primarily moved here for the good schools.

What kind of video games do you like to play and how often?

My favorite video games are sims [simulation-type games] and RPGs ⎯ I love the “Harvest Moon,” “Final Fantasy,” and “Silent Hill” series. We don’t get to play as often as we’d like; real life intrudes often.  Lately I have been playing a great deal of games on the iPhone, it’s quick and portable.  I have been playing “Final Fantasy I” on the iPhone, along with “Pocket Frogs” and “We Rule,” and I am about to start the new “Kingdom Hearts” on the PSP.

How long have you been playing video games?

I have been playing video games since they came out.  I remember being at the airport with my dad waiting for his flight to leave and playing “Pong” with him.  (It was all they had.) Then when arcade games became prevalent, I would spend every free moment at the convenience store down the street playing “PacMan,” “Qbert,” “Defender,” you name it.  I lived for the arcade. I got an Atari 7600 when I was in middle school and I have been a nut for console games ever since.

As a mom, how do you feel about incorporating video games into your daily routine?

It has become a bit of a side activity.  The consoles don’t get as much use as they used to.  I play the iPhone games fairly often ⎯ I’ll sneak some “Pocket Frogs” while making dinner, and after the kids are in bed ⎯ I have to balance chores and games. But those two things are just about all I do between kids’ bedtime and my bedtime.

How important is it to you that your children play video games?

I limit their screen time, or that would be all that they do, but I feel that video games are less detrimental than TV.  At least they are engaged with something and not just passively watching.

Do you have any concerns about the content of the games?

We don’t let them play any games with real violence. Pokémon battles are about as violent as they get. They like the “Lego” games, and those have some fighting, but fairly innocuous.

Do you see any educational value in games?

Some games yes, some no.  There’s often a moral, so that’s somewhat helpful.  My little guy has a Leapster, and I love those.  He learned a lot of basic math skills, and writing using that.  Also, I feel that games are good for fine motor skills, especially the stylus games.  They also promote logical reasoning, something that kids are notoriously short on.

What about your kids’ game preferences?

They like the ones with dinosaurs. (Laughs.) They really like Lego games, and they seem to like Sim games. They play “We Rule” and “We Farm” on the iPhone, and are always asking me, “Mom, can I check my stuff on your iPhone?”

Are there any restrictions on when they are allowed to play?

They get an hour of screen per day. They can split that between games, or TV.  They usually choose games.

Do you try to strike a balance between gaming and other activities, such as music or sports?

We do.  They love to role-play with their toys and stuffed animals, and they have a little band called the Legendary Dragons ⎯ they even cut a CD for my Christmas present last year! We also kick them outside when the weather is nice.  My oldest loves to play with Legos, and will spend hours in his room building and listening to his iPod on a speaker dock.

Has gaming ever been involved in punishments, or as a bargaining tool?

Oh, boy, yes. “If you do that one more time, kids, you’ll have no screen today!”  It’s pretty effective.

Do you ever play as a family?

We do. We were playing “Little Big Planet” pretty heavily for a while, and we get games from the library and play them.  The kids love playing with Mom and Dad.

Anything else you may want to add?

Video games are to kids today what TV was to my Generations X and Y.  I had a TV in my room, and I am sure my parents worried about content, development, etc.  I grew up to be a fine, upstanding moral citizen.  I saw people shooting each other on TV all the time, and y’know what?  I haven’t shot anyone.  I talk to my kids about pretend and real life, and the separation.  I know violence is a concern with games, but I think with the proper parental preparation, as kids grow into adolescence, games can become a way to let off steam, to immerse oneself into a fantasy world and work out real life stresses, and just to have a bit of fun, and not carry over into one’s real life actions.

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