Ready Player Two (or Three)

People who grew up playing video games are now introducing their children to the popular pastime.

Seventy-seven percent of parents are gaming with their kids, a sharp increase from two years ago, according to research commissioned by the Entertainment Software Association, an industry group. Here, three dads reflect on passing the controller.
“My wife and I make a conscious decision not to introduce our daughter to things based on gender. We introduce her to things — sports, dolls, princess clothes – and see what she takes to. She really took to video games. As a kid, I had a knock-off Atari. We were the first on my block to have one, so all the kids would come over and play at my house.”
“My daughter was adopted – I’m white, she is Black and Latina. Identity is at the forefront of our parenting. We want to make sure she’s comfortable in her identity. What’s great about the games she plays is that she can alter her avatar however she feels. In Animal Crossing, some days she’ll wear a dress, some days a hockey uniform.”
“Super Mario Galaxy is about Mario rescuing the princess. My daughter’s not interested in that. Her favorite game is Splatoon. You’re a humanoid squid character. It’s fairly balanced from a gender perspective.” —Luke Ward, 45, freelance advertising writer, stay-at-home dad, Montclair, N.J.
“Since I can remember I’ve been playing video games. If it had Mario in it, I probably played it. You know Mario? The plumber in the red hat.”
“My 3-year-old plays video games now. I love sharing that with him. It’s an easy way to sit and talk. You can learn a lot from video games: hand-eye coordination and being able to lose. I want him to learn that it’s OK to lose.”
“In August 2020, I stumbled upon a Facebook group called The Dad Gaming (moms are members too). Facebook groups can be supernegative. That doesn’t happen in this group. I think a big part of that is because it’s mostly parents. We’re all in the same boat. We have kids, we have lives, we have jobs.” —Hector Ivan Reyes Jr. 30, middle school teacher, Charleston, S.C.
“I wouldn’t call myself an avid gamer, but growing up we always had the latest system, up until Sega Dreamcast. I started playing again during the pandemic because we were home. I have two kids and we play together.”
“We’re an antigun household, more so now than ever. We don’t do shooting games. But I don’t see the correlation between video game violence and real violence as acutely as some people do. My wife definitely feels there’s a correlation. I grew up playing Contra, which was a shooting game. I also grew up playing Mario. It didn’t make me want to jump on animals and be a plumber. It’s entertainment.”
“With my kids, I play this game called Overcooked 2, where you’re a group of chefs preparing meals. You have to work together as a team.” —John Domingos, 38, talent liaison for comic book company, Brooklyn

Julia Rothman is an illustrator. Shaina Feinberg is a writer and filmmaker. Both live in Brooklyn.

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