The book was funded thanks to the hundreds of parents, carers and guardians who enthusiastically supported it, along with a range of video game regulators, academics, developers and platform-holders, not-for-profit organisations and many schools. In their financial support, this broad coalition enabled me to spend the time I needed to gather, sift and present this crucial information that parents need. The views expressed are my own and do not represent any particular supporter.
Taming Gaming is an unflinching look at the impact of gaming on family life by journalist and parent Andy Robertson, drawn from years of covering this topic for newspapers, radio and TV. It compiles the latest research and advice from psychologists, industry experts, parents, schools and children’s charities.
Discover what really happens when a child plays a video game. Face fears about screen time and start steering your child’s gaming from violence, expense and addiction towards fulfilling, connecting, affordable experiences.
You don’t need to be a gamer, or want to play games but to guide your child to gaming health you need to understand the actual benefits and dangers of gaming rather than the worrying headlines and reactionary news.
The second half of the book (and this online game advice library) offers simple to follow, tried and tested Family Gaming Recipes. They are a super-easy way to discover games that are beneficial rather than stressful for your family.
Each beautifully laid out recipe tells you everything you need to know with jargon-free instructions that take the guesswork out of gaming together. Accessing this broad diet of cutting edge games your children will love, enables you to help them navigate this unavoidable part of life.
Taming Gaming sets the bar high for your child’s video game health, with insights from the latest video game research. It helps you tame the games your child plays, by equipping you to make informed decisions, engage in this area of life and guide their gaming diet.
Foreword - Sonia Livingstone OBE, LSE Professor
I recently overheard a lively conversation about playing the online video game Diabolo – which characters did you choose, what level have you reached, did your chosen tactics work out? You might think I was listening to a couple of children but in fact it was my 60-something partner and our 30-something son. They have been having this conversation now for a couple of decades, and it is deeply embedded in their relationship.
Parent-child conversations are often unequal in knowledge and power, but talk about video games allows a way of relating to each other that is egalitarian, as well as committed, lively and thoughtful. Tactics can be developed collaboratively, experiences become mutual, and a part of children’s lives that is often closed to parents can instead be recognised and valued.
Insights such as these underpin Taming Gaming. The book is sympathetic to parents’ struggles and worries, informed about the gaming world, and strongly committed to understanding and benefiting children’s lives. While it was written before COVID-19, present circumstances make the book more relevant than ever. Children’s screen time has surged, because their reliance on all things digital is no longer a matter of choice but one of necessity. Guidance for parents on enabling the benefits and avoiding the harms is, in consequence, more vital than ever.
Fifteen years of writing about video games, listening to children and working with families as they play games and argue about them, has given Andy Robertson a wealth of experience and expertise to pour into this book. He shows convincingly how video games, like other kinds of games children play, offer fun, first and foremost, as well as opportunities to be creative, to learn, to share and collaborate with others, to face challenges, solve problems and extend their imagination and understanding, to make mistakes and recover themselves, gaining resilience, digital expertise and confidence. Video games are not only an online experience but also contribute offline - to sibling relations, relations among friends, and if you let them, a positive relationship between parent and child.
I wish I had known all this when my son was young. Echoing the book’s introduction, I too remember wanting to shut the video games in a locked cupboard, even once in anger hiding the extension cord into which the computer and, it seemed, my son, was constantly plugged. I suspect many parents need encouragement to give up on the dominant (and dominating) language of controlling, even policing the technology and, by implication, our children too.
Taming Gaming invites us instead to think in terms of actively engaging with video games in ways that are informed by evidence, balanced according to practical circumstances, and respectful of family values and children’s interests. The approach is optimistic, but not naively so. The purpose is to guide parents and children living in a now-inescapably digital world, while not becoming overwhelmed by digital challenges, or forgetting about the rest of life.
Of course there are the downsides – excessive video game time, violent and other problematic contents, bullying and hostile peer exchanges, commercial exploitation and more. Taming Gaming attends to these with care, and points to a wealth of resources to help parents navigate the landscape of video games so as to find what is best and avoid the difficulties. While I believe it is vital for regulators and industry to take effective action to ensure that children are both empowered and safe online, I agree with Andy Robertson’s premise that parents are a crucial influence on their children’s lives, including the digital. So a book that can inspire parents to join in themselves, and to develop their own gaming literacy is very welcome.
It’s time to stop panicking about technology and start prioritising what we can do with it. So much of the creative and collaborative potential of technology is under-used: we must imagine better for our children, recognising their diversity and their potential, and I love how this book guides parents step by step in doing just this, with practical tips and gaming suggestions.
Thankfully, there’s no single vision of game play, and no idealised model of family life, on offer in this book, nor any ‘right answer’ thinking. Instead, Taming Gaming works to establish a new norm: that we can maximise the opportunities and minimise the risks by diversifying our understanding of video games and then making thoughtful judgements about the available options, instead of everyone opting for the same few games that everyone else plays. Families are hugely different in their interests, values and circumstances, and this can become a strength if we let it.
Many parents will like to try out the plethora of “gaming recipe suggestions” in this book. And for those who want to follow up on the wealth of research and evidence that Taming Gaming draws upon, without ever getting bogged down in detail, the footnotes are there. I particularly appreciate the light-touch yet nuanced treatment of so-called “gaming addiction,” since this remains highly controversial to both researchers and clinical practitioners. Contrary to popular media headlines, problems of excessive use are likely to apply only to a tiny minority of children. But as I found in my own research with families, terminology contested among experts - such as addiction or screen time – are finding their way into our everyday discourse, becoming a problem in their own right by provoking family conflict, adding to parental guilt and worrying children too.
I agree with Taming Gaming’s recommendations to parents – learn more, join in, and replace inchoate anxieties with informed choices. We don’t know what the future holds. Digitally-mediated outcomes for children remain unknown and may prove riskier than more traditional routes to learning and sociability. Evidence for benefits and harms continues to accumulate and must be sifted, weighed and critically discussed. In the meantime, parents have to parent. Doing so with this book in hand can only be empowering, so dive in, have fun, and keep your eyes not on the “screen time” clock but on what’s good for your child.
Sonia Livingstone OBE, LSE Professor and author of Parenting for a Digital Future
Thank you for using our resource, supported by AskAboutGames, ParentZone and PlayAbility Initiative. We are editorially independent, written by parents for parents, but welcome sponsorship, partnership and suggestions. Email our editor for details on these opportunities.
The information on this database is designed to support and complement the in-depth discussion and advice about video game "addiction", violence, spending and online safety in the Taming Gaming book. If you have any concerns or questions in these areas, email our editor who is quick to respond or can arrange for a one-to-one conversation.