Christmas is a fantastic time of year, bringing family and friends together and (secretly more important) enjoying truckloads of great food and drink. As much fun as playing that 1975 edition of Monopoly can be, today’s technology offers a whole bunch of ways to bring the family together in different ways, many won’t even cost that much if you already own game consoles and home computers.
We’re going to take a look at some different ideas sectioned into the basic technological requirements, but remember these basic few rules for bringing the whole family into the tech world.
Not everyone will have the same affinity for technology, this holds especially true for older generations. Be patient with family and teach them at the same time as playing, consider how they could come away from the experience wanting to learn more.
Be Playfully Competitive
If gaming, remember you’re with your family not in the 2011 Winter Wii Bowling World Championship. Keep in mind not everyone will have played everything before and you’re trying to show them how the experience is fun.
Set up and test things before you call 15 people in front of the TV, people are usually tired after that 12 course Christmas dinner and patience can rapidly wear thin.
Laptop, Tablet or PC
Although they may not seem it Laptops and PCs are just as good as bringing you together as some of the more popular games consoles, why not use one of these ideas;
It’s a sure thing that not all your family will be there on the day, many know people who have emigrated or maybe they are at the other half’s this year. Almost everyone these days has a laptop, PC or tablet with Skype video call capabilities. Take the time before hand and set up an account or two and make a time for a specific call, get everyone around the laptop for a nice Christmas chat. This could even be a good way to get your elder relations interested in using more advanced computer communications.
You can even play some games over Skype, guessing games like Pictionary or Guess Who work fine over a webcam.
This takes a little setup but is totally worth it. Email members of your family who are coming down beforehand (and maybe ones who cannot make it!) and get them to send you a specific number (say 30) photos of the different places they’ve visited or stuff they’ve done this year. Collect them all up and use your tablet or laptop to hook up to your TV and play the photos in a slideshow so each of your family can talk about the exciting stuff they have done this year. If they don’t have photos any picture will do, it’s more to give the family an overview of all they managed to achieve in the year!
It may sound a little boring but it works out really well, especially for families that don’t see each other too much and the best thing is you can keep the slideshows for future or to send to other family members. If you lack the tech to hook right up to your TV consider using a game consoles slideshow feature or burning a DVD one, a takeaway DVD even makes a great pressie!
OK you have a PS3 and want few fun things to do together? Here are my suggestions;
PS Move + Tumble
Tumble was an overlooked classic on the PlayStation Network and comes in relatively cheap, considering all you need is one Move controller and it’s a hell of a lot of family fun for relatively cheap. Passing the pad through a big group works well and since the game is basically advanced Jenga it’s not complicated or difficult to explain. There is also a really good, friendly tutorial to get everyone started.
Many people would not consider this a family game but I disagree, LBP is easy to play, simply to control (maybe with the exception of advanced grappling) and is a lot of fun multiplayer. If you have a move controller mixing in Sackboy’s Prehistoric moves or the LBP2 Move Pack is excellent fun. Best of all you can customise the experience to your family, if you have an Eyetoy why not consider snapping some photos of people, pets and other family things before hand and building a level with them? You can even build a level together with your family, all pitch in ideas and create something together!
You don’t get much simpler than Buzz for a multiplayer game, it’s fast, it’s fun and best of all it takes no gaming ability to get to grips with or win. If you have too many players it’s easy to organise teams or even run a small tournament. Ensuring you have a range of categories (may cost you more for expansions) means a larger cross section of people will enjoy it. I honestly think Buzz is the most overlooked family game.
Other Recommendations: Modnation Racers, the Shoot, Lego Batman/Indiana Jones/Star Wars and Burnout Crash
If you, like 98% of the Western world, own a Wii then you’re already set for family gaming. My personal recommendations for family nights are;
This will probably already be on most festive itineraries. It’s a great family game as it carries the mantle of being fun for both gamers and non gamers alike. It works well on simultaneous multiplayer and pass the pad, you can’t ask for much more than this. I recommend buying the newer one where possible; it has some fun new modes.
WarioWare Smooth Moves
For some reason this game isn’t nearly as popular as Wii Sports even though in many ways, it way more fun. If you’ve not played a WarioWare game before all you need to know is that it’s a huge collection of minigames that only last a few seconds each. The basic idea is that you get given a task which you must complete quickly or you fail. There are some fun multiplayer modes that utilise Mii’s and work in some really interesting party game tricks. Since this was a launch game it will be cheap by now, I strongly recommend you pick it up.
Mario Party 8
It’s hard to have a Wii party game list without Mario Party. It’s a bit more complex than Smooth Moves or Wii Sports but if you’ve got a younger family who all know basic gaming with you it’s likely a much more suitable candidate. Another collection of minigames this time spread across a virtual board game they often take a little more skill but are significantly more fun. I really enjoyed some of the 3 vs. 1 and 2 vs. 2 minigames on here to give a break from the 4 player all out stuff.
Other Recommendations: Mario Kart, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, Just Dance, Rayman Raving Rabbids
Microsoft have really pushed the family gaming boast out with Kinect, it’s expensive but can be a lot of fun if you have the living room for it! I have a limited Xbox experience so:
A great family game that should certainly bring a lot of laughs to the family gathering. A bit more active because it’s based around the Kinect but can be easily enjoyed by younger families and has plenty of variety to keep you going. Maybe leave this one until everyone’s food has gone down though…
Viva Piñata is a great game, especially for younger children and families but it’s kind of hard to describe what it’s really about. You basically have to create special gardens for different creatures to live in, it’s not so much multiplayer but works really well with everyone working together to come up with ideas and solutions to the game. Definitely one for people with younger children but fun none the less.
Hasbro Family Games Knight
A game literally made for these situations. The main limitation is that its only 4 player but it features a huge range of board game classics and you can set different themes and options for them all. Board games can be a lot of fun but this eliminates all the setting up, clearing up and potential cheating from leaving your Dad in charge of the Bank…
Other Recommendations: Lego Game Series (Star War is especially good), Disney Universe, Child of Eden
What About Rock Band?!
Look, it may seem easy to all of us but Rock Band is really, really, not a beginner level gaming experience. At best you are all going to laugh at people failing to do it, at worst you’re going to get a piece of £50 hardware broken. Rock Band and its ilk are great games but think carefully before passing your Grandma the second controller.
Hopefully you will take a few ideas away from this post to sort with your family this Christmas, remember the rules and try to help your family learn as well as enjoy themselves over the festive period.
This guest post was written by Craig Parker from the Guardian Force gaming & technology blog. Craig is a long time gamer, technology enthusiast and guitar player. You can catch him out and about the Mansfield/Nottingham area or read more of his posts on Guardian Force UK.