Kids Need More Video Games, Not Less

[This is a post I originally wrote for one of my other sites, Gentlemen of Gaming. But it applies just as much to Modern Day Dad, so I thought I'd include it here too.]


Those of us who play video games regularly already know that, aside from entertainment, video games can have other (often unintended) benefits. And while I'm not really sold that playing Just Dance 3 on the Wii should really count as exercise, there are skills to learn and practice while playing games.

So if you've been wanting to get an XBOX 360 for the living room and still can't convince your wife, send her a copy of this article a friend sent me recently, Kids and video games: Why children should play more []. Video games can promote cooperation, teamwork, problem solving, planning and thinking "outside of the box." 

"...The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) states that kids actually need more, not less, video game play as a result. Citing games’ ability to prepare workers for the increasingly competitive global job market, the organization says that games promote strategic thinking, interpretative analysis, plan formulation, and ability to respond to change."

Despite what many parents may think (and what many bloggers may, ahem, blog about), not all video games are violent. In fact, the vast majority are not. And when you compare playing a game to more passive forms of entertainment like watching television, the differences are easilly contrasted.

I just wish this research existed when I was twelve.

CES 2012: iCade iOS Video Game Controllers


I wrote yesterday over at The Gentlemen of Gaming about how underwhelmed I was towards video game stuff at CES this year. In fact, the only stand-out thing I saw was the iPod, iPhone and iPad game controllers from iON Audio. The standard iCade has been out for a year now. (You may have seen it at your local Best Buy - it's the miniature video game cabinet that turns your iPad into a little old-school arcade system.) This year they've got three more, the best of which is the iCade Mobile (shown below).

The iCade Mobile is a Bluetooth controller for an iPhone or an iPod Touch. You just put your device in the center, pair it with the controller and you can play any compatible game. Currently there are 100 games that are compatible, but there is a public SDK out there for developers to use so they are expecting more games available by launch. It felt substantial and seemed like a pretty cool thing, especially if you've got a son or daughter who are big iOS gamers. At an MSRP of $79.99 it's not cheap, but it's a lot cheaper than a PSP or a Nintendo DS, especially if your kid already has an iPod Touch.

iCade Mobile, available for $79.99 in May from iON Audio.

(Oh, and for you parents of girls like me, Toys R Us is going to have an exclusive pink version so look out for that too.)

A Dad vs. Zombies in the Dead Island Trailer



I'm a sucker for zombie stuff (is that weird to say?) and I'm also a fan of video games. But as a father, the trailer for the upcoming Dead Island (releasing on September 6) kind of got to me. Even though it's kind of a cliché (even in the world of zombies), and even though it uses some tried-and-true techniques to draw the viewer in (reverse time, slow motion) it's still the best trailer I've ever seen for a video game. And I say that because it's the only trailer I thought about the next day completely unprompted.

I don't know if that's because I'm a Dad or not, but it's worth watching I think. Just don't watch it with your kids. Now I'm wondering if the game can possibly be as good as the trailer. Which is what they want I guess.

(And if you haven't figured out what's going on after two times through, you can check out a re-edit in chronological order here.)

Dead Island on XBOX 360, $59.99 at

The Smurfs Dance Party for Wii - My Kid's Review



Currently my children have Smurf fever. In the early part of the summer they went through a mild obsession with the Smurfs iPad game and spent weeks trying to farm enough fruit and flowers to earn Sumurfette. The iPad game also did a pretty good job of introducing them to all the characters as well as hyping the movie (which releases today - 7/29). They even used their Build-A-Bear gift cards from their birthdays to get the “exclusive” Smurfette and Clumsy Smurf. Trust me, I’m pretty Smurfed-out these days.

Their favorite video game on the Wii however is “Just Dance 2”  - a dancing game where you dance along to pop songs (either by yourself or with friends) and the Wii manages to give you points based on how well you are following along. It’s a great game -  fun to play and probably funnier to watch someone else playing. And the fact that they are up ad moving around kind of assuages the parent’s guilt that they are letting their kids play a video game when they could be outside doing something. Kind of.

So when I got the opportunity to review the new Smurf video game for the Wii - “The Smurfs Dance Party” it seemed like a perfect fit.

The game is basically a Smurf version of the “Just Dance” video games. There is a Smurf on the screen (all characters from the movie of course - including Gargamel) and you follow along and dance with them to songs from the movie. There are a couple of other modes - a story mode that basically tells the whole story of the movie (apparently my kids have no problem with spoilers) and a mode where you can dance to all the songs in one giant loop.

My girls (ages 5 and 7) have been playing it for a few days now and they are far more qualified to review the game than I. Here’s what they had to say about it.

My 7 year old:

This video game is almost like Just Dance 2. It has different Smurfs that dance, and there are also lyrics that you can read along with the music. The music is cool because it has songs that people know, but with Smurf words in it. Also, each Smurf has their own special song.

The only thing I didn’t like about the game was in some of the songs Gargamel dances instead of the Smurfs, and I thought that Gargamel looked kind of creepy. I’m not going to blame the actor though.
I liked the game a lot, and I think it’s just as good as Just Dance 2.

My 5 year old:

I liked the game because it was fun. There was a lot of dancing in it, and it was kind of like exercise - kind of like a Zumba thing. There aren’t many songs with Smurfette by herself, and I wish there were more. I also didn’t like Gargamel because he was kind of creepy. I liked the songs because if you’re doing one player, the person who is waiting can sing along to the songs with the person who is dancing.

This game would be good for people who like Smurfs and Wii. But if you don’t like to dance you should not get this game.

So there you have it. I sure didn’t think they would like it as much as Just Dance 2, mostly because the songs are (to me at least) way more annoying. There are only a few songs that people would recognize and a lot of filler - songs that seem written for the game. But my Smurf-crazy kids didn’t seem to mind at all. And when I had them load in the Alvin and the Chipmunks game for a comparison, it’s obvious that a lot more effort went into The Smurfs Dance Party.

Now I can only hope the movie is also better than the Squeakquel.

The Smurfs Dance Party, $33.24 (and almost sold out??) from

Great iPhone Apps for Kids: Cookie Doodle


Cookie Doodle for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch is a great app for kids for three big reasons:

  1. It's fairly easy for children 3(-ish) years and older to understand and use without constant help from Mom or Dad.
  2. Instead of a game that rewards with a score or unlocked levels, it encourages simple creativity. The reward is the cool thing you make.
  3. It's $0.99.

Cookie Doodle is an app that lets your kids go through all the steps of making a "virtual" cookie, from rolling out the dough, baking it, decorating it and eating it. Kids can pick from huge lists of types of dough, frosting, and other decorations. The app is also updated constantly for holidays, so right now for instance the app is configured for Valentine's Day cookies. But even if your child can't read yet, the interface is still simple enough to figure out how to use.

My daughters, especially my youngest (4 years old), love this app. Lots of apps for kids take a few minutes of their attention before they get bored, but when they're using Cookie Doodle they probably spend more time on it than any other app. There are so many choices and steps until the cookie is finished, that once they finally complete what they are working on they've already thought of another creation to make.

Trust me. Put it on your iPhone and hand it to them when you get to the restaurant, and before you know it you'll make it to when the food arrives with no drama. That is, unless they're fighting over who's turn it is to make the cookie.

Cookie Doodle by Shoe The Goose is available for $0.99 from the iTunes App Store.

New Nintendo 3DS Not Safe For Kids Under Six. Really Nintendo?


Nintendo says their new gaming system the 3DS might hurt the eyes of children under six, but eye doctors are saying that's not necessarily true. Aren't the big bad companies supposed to be putting our kids at risk (for a profit) while doctors are supposed to warn us against this kind of stuff?

It's an interesting swap of expectations, and the subject of my latest post on Man of the House.

New Nintendo 3DS Not Safe For Kids Under Six. Really Nintendo? [Man of the]

Top Ten iPhone Apps to Distract Your Kids With


[UPDATE: Looking for my favorite iPhone Apps for children and parents? Check out this new feature on Modern Day Dad - iPhone App of the Week. I'll be reviewing and sharing my favorite iPhone and iPad Apps for children and parents.

iPhone App of the Week on Modern Day Dad]


Over at I just posted something that I want to promote here too - Ten Best iPhone Apps for Distracting Young Children. Throwing my keys or random pieces of paper in my pocket to quiet a toddler in a shopping cart is nothing new to anyone, but with the new iPhone there are a lot of new and interesting diversions to throw at them. Provided of course you make sure they don't actually throw your phone back at you.

Read it over on Droolicious at

Five Father's Day Gift Ideas from Modern Day Dad

Looking for some very last minute gift ideas for Father's Day? Here is a quick list of the top things I think that will be perfect for the dad in your life.

  1. Flipvideo_mino Flip Video Camera - The Flip Video Camera is ultra-portable, ultra compact, takes great looking 640x480 resolution video and is under $200. Way under $200 actually. Check out what I wrote about the newest version (the Flip Video Mino) over at, or buy the Mino (for $179.99) or the Flip Video Ultra (for $118) at
  2. Xbox360The XBOX 360 is a perfect Father's Day gift. Because not only will Dad love to play video games on it, but you can also stream photos, music and videos to it as well. Check out my post about it here, and buy one at

  3. Canon Digital Rebel XSi Canon Digital Rebel XSi - Let me guess. The new baby has arrived (or is arriving soon) and you've been considering a new digital camera, but you're unsure if you need a full-on Digital SLR camera. Well, trust me, you do. The images you'll get out of a great camera, even with little knowledge of what you're doing, will be way better than most point and shoots. Plus, your baby is only going to be a baby for a short time, so invest in a good camera. The Canon Rebel XSi is 12 mega-pixels of awesomeness, and should last you for a while. And trust me, after getting your first few good images from it by accident, you're going to want to learn more about your camera. It's well worth the investment.
  4. 50MM Canon Lens 50MM Lens for your Digital SLR Camera - OK. So you've taken my advice and bought a DSLR camera, or you've already bought one, then the next thing you absolutely need is a 50mm lens. Called a "prime" lens because it has no zoom, the 50mm lens is considered the closest lens to what the human eye sees. And on a DSLR camera it's perfect for portraits. All of this adds up to a lens that is great for taking pictures of kids because it's great in low light situations (because of the wide aperture) and it takes pictures very quickly (again, because of the wide aperture). You can get a great one with auto focus for a Canon camera for $325 (my recommendation, pictured) but you can get a really good one with manual focus for just $89.74. Either way, you'll be happy you did. (And if you shoot Nikon instead of Canon, check out this 50MM lens).
  5. Diaper_dude Diaper Bag just for Dad - Back when I was a new dad, there were almost no choices for good diaper bags for dads. These days, there are tons of options. You can choose from the Diaper Dude (pictured), a Dad Backpack from Dadgear and even a wearable Diaper Vest from Dadgear. All will probably work just fine and when picking, a lot of it comes down to personal taste.
  6. Giftcard A gift card for Father's Day - I know, I know. I promised five. But this sixth one is kind of a cheat anyway. If you can't think of the perfect gift for your Dad (or your kid's dad) this Father's Day, you can always get him a gift card from your favorite store. And if you get him from an online store like Amazon, you can literally get it at the last second and print it out. The card however you'll have to run down to the grocery store for.

Nintendo's Wii - probably the best video game system for families.

Wii It's no secret I'm a big fan of the XBOX 360, but after playing with my new Nintendo Wii for a week or so, I have to say that it is much better suited for families. Although it's missing some features in my opinion, it's got the other systems beat in a few key areas.

First is the price. If you can find one in the stores, it's only going to cost you $250, which is $100 cheaper than the standard XBOX 360 and $250 cheaper than the standard Playstation 3. Sure it's not going to play BlueRay DVDs (or even regular DVDs) but for a next generation video game system (that plays great games) it's a bargain.

Next is the interface or "usability" of the system itself. Everything is based around using a remote control (or "Wiimote") and everyone that's tried to use it in my house - from my 3 year old daughter to my parents - understand how to use it immediately. Not only does the game know you're pointing it at the television, it also knows if you're rotating, tilting or moving it around anywhere. Personally I think it's easier to use than an XBOX 360 controller and way more approachable to kids and novice video game players.

And let's be honest, the biggest reason it's probably best for families is - it's Nintendo. Nintendo did something smart and didn't try to create a system that would be all things to all people. Instead they created a great little console that plays games (that are challenging but easy to play) with some of the most classic names in video game history like Mario, Zelda, Metroid and all the rest. One of my personal favorite things is that you can download via an internet connection old-school Nintendo games like Temco Bowl, Super Mario Brothers, Punch Out, and Wave Race 64 right to your Wii.

There are a few things I wish were different. You can view pictures on your Wii, but unfortunately you can't connect it to another computer in your house to view photos or listen to music like you can with an XBOX 360. I was able to download a web browser and view pictures on my flickr page, so it's kind of possible, but not as simple. The web browser (which the 360 doesn't have) is pretty useful - my aunt uses the web browser to listen to her Sirius Satellite Radio online through her home stereo, which works out well.

So if you're starting to think about a video game system for the family for Christmas this year, I'd definitely give the Wii some serious consideration. If you can find one.

Shop for Nintendo Wii stuff on

Halo 3. My most recent obsession.

Halo3I've written here before about how much I love my XBOX 360, but recently I haven't been using it very much to listen to music or view photos on the TV. Halo 3 for the XBOX 360 launched a week and a half ago, and I have to admit all of my free time since then has been spent in front of my TV with a controller in my hand. Everything about it rules, but the multiplayer aspect is the best. I'm not sure exactly why other game companies don't just copy what Bungie Studios does with Halo, but it is hands down the best online multiplayer game on a console.

But from a dad's perspective beware, this isn't a game for kids. It's a violent shoot-em up that, while fun, probably isn't appropriate for small children. Also, if you've got a son (or daughter? but I doubt it) playing the game at home and online, know that the language among the players might not be what you would ideally want him to hear. But then again, if he's playing Halo 3 online, it probably isn't anything he hasn't heard before.

So if you're a dad and you've got an XBOX 360, it's a must-own game. In fact, it's probably worth buying an XBOX 360 for too.

Buy Halo 3 for $59.99 from

And if you don't have an XBOX 360 yet, you can always pick up an XBOX 360 Elite system at

Good deal on games.

Princess_monopolyNormally I don't shill for Amazon so blatantly, but this is a pretty good deal. Right now they've got a two for one sale on all Hasbro, Milton Bradley or Parker Brothers games, with free shipping. It might be a good time to stock up on the classics you remember playing when you were a kid like Sorry! Or get your kid a new-school classic like Disney Princess Monopoly Jr., where you:

"Choose your favorite princess and dash around the gameboard to buy homes for as many Disney friends as you can! Then when other players land on your spaces, they must pay you to visit."

Princesses, capitalism and paying for friends. So many mixed messages in one game!

Check out the 2 for 1 sale on games at
  Offer expires 10-15-05.

NOTE: I just tried this and it's pretty confusing. What you have to do is go to purchase the more expensive item, then click the "second one for free" link in the "Special Offer" paragraph on that page. Then get the coupon code for the cheaper item on that page and follow the step by step instructions

If that doesn't work (it didn't for me), then make sure you get the coupon code for the cheaper of the two items, put both items in your cart and use the coupon code when you check out. It should work then.

Board game for dads.

DadsletstalkSometimes my gut reaction is just wrong. I found a press release the other day for a board game called “Hey Dad - Let’s Talk,” designed to encourage dads and their children to communicate. At first I wanted to mock it. I know I’m new to being a dad, but how hard is it to be interested in what your kids are up to and talk to them about it? But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that things aren’t so simple for everyone. Every situation and relationship is different, and if this game helps fathers connect with their children, then that’s a good thing. And I certainly shouldn’t judge.

$29.95 from Dr. Toy