It’s the first day of summer vacation and we are still on lockdown. What do the kids want to do? Game. It’s the BANE of my existence. We’ve been in self isolation for three months (but who’s counting). While we were fortunate that their school kept them in Zoom classes from 8:30-3:30 daily, it’s a whole new world now. I have this Mom-guilt thing, where gaming is never a problem if they have school or activities all day and want to ‘chill’ in the evening. But balancing it all can be an issue. The blessing is that they have been connecting with friends through gaming, but I feel as if I’m losing my own connection with them. Because I can’t beat them, I will try and join them – with Apple Arcade.

It’s a stunning sunny day in Toronto. They slept in and helped with dishes. I sent them in for sunscreen and they disappeared into the bowels of the dark basement. What to do?

As you know, we are an Apple family. So much so that when my son got a new Android phone and I could no longer control Hudson’s Screentime, approve app downloads or track his location, I couldn’t handle it and bought him the new iPhone 11 Max in order to take away the android!

It’s time to check out Apple Arcade. This reasonably priced service always you to pay $4.99 monthly for over 100 games. The joy is that you can play with up to 6 family members thanks to family sharing. The games cross devices, so out iPads, phones and iPod touch devices all allow for family play through Game Centre. It can also be played online or off. Joining them allows us to stay close and have fun together… and – I am able to show off the Pac-Man skills I acquired as a little girl.

Game as a family

There are no ads or in-app purchases so parents don’t have to worry about surprise bills in case they don’t have their parental controls and family purchase sharing settings in place properly. Especially in COVID times when we are watching every penny, it’s a great value. More games are being added all the time, and newer ones like Doomsday Vault that embrace more modern gaming visuals. Art-inspired choices include Manifold Garden and Pilgrims. I’m pretty old-school, and my kids were so thrilled to compete with me that we had to, of course, start with PAC-MAN Party Royale.

I was the master of this game in 1985. Longboat Key, Florida in the beach arcade. I could last hours on a quarter. Not only can I be nostalgic with them, but they don’t think I’m such a bad gamer now.

What the Golf is a hilarious take on people’s frustration with the game. While you often drag your finger to move a ball towards a pin, there are levels where you bump into cats with a rock as your ball, or have to decipher the instructions to really think outside the box.

Crossy Road Castle is similar to Crossy Road, and if you were good at Mario in the old days (I wasn’t), you will level up in no time.

Skate City allows you to skateboard along a stunning boardwalk with palm trees galore. You can do ollies, nollies and kick-flips over obstacles, and the controls are super easy to learn.

So if you are feeling the COVID-boredom and guilt, want to connect with the kids without breaking the bank, give it a try. Most video games on their own are about $30, and my kids tire of them fast. Stay safe. Stay home. And stay connected with those kids during this challenging time.

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How to play video games as a family