Throwing Games: Letting your kids win, sometimes

A few months back I was listening to the Gamers with Jobs podcast and the episode was from the PAX East panel. After the main panel discussion concluded there was a period for audience questions, and one gentleman came up to the mic and asked about whether we as parents should 'throw' games for our kids, ie. let them win. He has a six year old son, who is very competitive, and speaking about fighting games specifically (Marvel vs. Capcom), he said that sometimes his son gets things right, and he can win, but most of the time his son loses to him. His son cries when he loses, and the dad was wondering if it was ok to take it easy on our kids or not? From his own experience he recalled his days in the arcade, getting beaten in Mortal Kombat and walking away thinking "that sucked". He wanted his son to recognize that sometimes you're going to lose, but on the other hand he wants his son to still have fun. "I feel like I'm cheating him if I let him win all the time," he concluded.

I don't know why this question still resonates with me the way it does, but I wanted to put some thoughts down about it. If you listen to the podcast, Julian Murdoch answers the question in the affirmative: "I just give my kids a good game. I don't destroy them just because I can. The real question is, do I throw games for your kids? The answer is, f*ck yeah, of course I throw games for my kids."

There are two quotes which came to my mind, the first is from "Daughters" by John Mayer. "Boys you can break / you'll find out how much they can take / Boys will be strong / and boys soldier on..." The second is from Ephesians 6:4 in the Bible: "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."

Now how does this apply to video games? From my experience, I don't have boys. I have two daughters, and what I feel about them is perhaps different from parents with boys. Maybe boys are tougher, maybe they can handle more. But I've experienced my share of my kid bursting into tears because they didn't win against me in some Mario Party minigame, and conversely, having a child also say, "don't take it easy on me this time, ok daddy?"

If you're so competitive that you simply beat your kids at games all the time, then of course your kids are going to be frustrated. It's no fun to lose all the time and never win. But on the flip side, both losing and winning are part of playing the game, and as kids grow up, as parents we do have to help them learn how to handle losing, as well as handle winning, I think.

Posted on September 3, 2012 and filed under Article.