Video games can be great bond-builders.

With the demise of couch co-op, options for split-screen adventures are few and far between.

Computer games are not the community-building tool they once were.

Companies like DICE, EA and even Mojang followed the Silicon Valley maximum profit trend by limiting customisable consumer options.

Buy an Apple product, for example, and they lock you into paying for their expensive branded accessories.

Console-makers, game developers and distributers apply similar pressure. Alongside subscription-based services like Xbox and PSN (Play Station Network), consider how in-game currency has taken off.
For the couch co-op experience, more than one gaming console, or PC is needed. This also means more accessories, another version of the game, and another TV etc.

This hurts consumers, and as a result it hurts families.

Buyer beware: society’s obsession with pixels is expensive if not done right.

Sure, we could decry the evils of capitalism. Blame the patriarchy. Scream at selfish boomers. Blame them for dropping Generation X in front of the idiot box, where kids were to be seldom seen, never heard.

We could charge against feminist oppression which demonised dads, and encouraged mums to ditch the kids, and “live free.”

Most of that outrage would be fair, and justified.

The more helpful approach though is to step back, and embrace individual responsibility.

The “devil made me do it” is an excuse almost as old as time.

As C.S. Lewis mused, the trouble with X, is that X is me.

Rather than dwell on blaming others, utilise the lessons. Acknowledge the previous generations’ faults. Then pick up the tools this insight gives to us and make the most of what was put into our hands.

I call this God-directed learning. We aren’t free from suffering, but we are free in our suffering.

To quote behavioural scientist Steve Maraboli:

“There are no excuses, only regrets.”

The good news is that couch co-op isn’t dead.
Despite the downgrade, we can still build bonds with our kids through video games.

What was once plug-and-play now simply requires creativity, good humour, time and effort.
Start with research. Check out the range of choices. Filter out games which do not have a co-op, a story arc, strategy and/or educational value.

Excessive violence aside, online multiplayer first-person shooter (FPS) games like Call of Duty are not bond-builders. COD’s strength lies elsewhere. The FPS exception is DICE’s Battlefield series. The maps are massive, there’s room for strategy, and the variety of vehicles opens up the FPS genre like no other.

MMORG (massively multiplayer online roleplaying games) are team-builders, not necessarily bond-builders. EVE Online, World of Warcraft and Guild Wars (among others) are time-consuming. They can be uber-expensive, and you have no real control over the storyline.

Players are free, but force-fed a narrative. You get what you get, and don’t get upset.

Additionally, speaking as a 10-year EVE Online veteran (retired), the grind and “griefers” (online trolls) hinder the MMORG bond-builder potential.

Other than LEGO’s long list of dedicated co-op alternatives, here are some build-your-own-couch-co-op games worth investing in:

1. Mojang’s Minecraft

Create a biome build challenge on survival mode, such as:

  • Ocean or swamp: Only build on the water. Land is restricted to travel.
  • Desert: Use sand can only be used for structures.
  • Jungle Tree houses: Free for all design challenge. Most creative, and useful house wins.
  • City builders challenge: Find a village. Expand it. Make more villagers to fill said village. Keep the villagers alive.

(While Minecraft allows for split-screen multi-play, the best way to play is cross-platform.)
(With clear rules, and a dad’s or mum’s right to veto, creative challenges build bonds. The sandbox crafting environment lends itself to multiple options for a family map.)

2. The Uncharted Series

The Nathan Drake epic arc action adventure contains puzzles, humour, and a level of interactivity suitable for co-op. Take a break and pass the controller around.

3. Subnautica & Subnautica: Below Zero

Unlike Uncharted, this underwater science fiction saga involves crafting. Although Subnautica is single-player, the amount of interactivity is an excellent platform for teamwork.

Add to this list the WW2 set Company of Heroes (MA+), the Australian-made Stranded Deep, Raft, Roblox, Ark Survival Evolved, Just Cause 3, Tony Hawk Pro-Skater, and Scrap Mechanic (among others).

For family bond-building, there are options beyond Nintendo’s Wii Sports.

Delegating parental supervision to the internet, television, peers, strangers online, or computer games in general, is like throwing kids into a witch’s brew.

The end product won’t be as intended, advertised or desired.

Self-centred hyper-individualism, online bullying, and a false sense of achievement are one issue.
Another is standard. Leaving kids to navigate an online world with the responsibilities of an adult is abandonment.

Technology is a tool, not a toy. It’s a horrible babysitter. A terrible master.

Tech is no substitute for hands-on, old-school dad and mum counsel, comfort and conviction.

In an age of lockdowns, couch co-op also brings more options for fun family activities to the table.

Finding a way to be creative with co-op connects me with my kids on their level.

When all outdoor options have been exhausted, co-op bond-builders are helpful gap-fillers.

[Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels]

About the Author: Rod Lampard

Rod, his wife Jonda, and their five kids are homeschooling veterans. Rod spent 12 years in management at Koorong, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Ministry & Theology, and is a writer for the theological, politically edgy news site Caldron Pool. Rod also writes for the Spectator. Find his personal blog here.

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