The release of the Xbox One and the Playstation 4 mark a new generation of video game consoles. Often overlooked is that the boxes that hook up to the television are not the only things in gaming that continue to bring in new generations.
Yesterday's young video game fan is today's adult player. Husbands, wives and parents who grew up on the likes of Atari and Sega continue to play today, often handing down their love for gaming to the next generations of players. Among them is Marcia Webb, a mother of five continuing a family tradition of growing up in the world of video gaming while continuing her own journey in an electronic world.
"I grew up in the 70's and 80's and my father and grandfather loved gaming, so I remember playing pretty much everything," Webb recalled. "Remember when video games came on cassette tapes? I played those, as well as the Atari systems. My grandfather would always buy the newest one and pass the older model down to us. We then graduated into the Nintendo era and had all of those consoles too. I still claim I was the best at all the Mario games in my neighborhood growing up."
In 2005, Webb's love for video gaming took her to a job as an Xbox rep, installing demo units of Xbox 360 consoles into retail stores around the Jacksonville, Florida area. After she answered an invite to work at the World Cyber Games in Orlando, Webb would meet a member of the PMS clan who invited her to join a gaming podcast.
"To be completely honest, I had no idea what a podcast was, but I told her I was in," she said. "Together we kicked off the SG Pink podcast for SarcasticGamer.com, offering our views on gaming from a female perspective. The show ran for almost three full years, with me being the only original podcaster to stay on that entire time. A full year later, after joining The Married Gamers, The Mommy Gamers podcast was born."
Aiming to appeal to other parents who are part of the earlier gaming generations, Webb states that variety and a relaxed atmosphere was key for her newest program.
"We wanted to make The Mommy Gamers totally different from other websites. Our podcast and articles are things that appeal to our staff, and they're not just video game related things," she stated. "I figure if we are interested in something, there's probably a few other people that might be too. It's more of a parenting blog site with gaming as the main theme. Essentially, we cover anything that we think parents might like. Movies, television, books, beauty products, cooking and of course video games. Because we are parents with many responsibilities, our site is very casual. We're not trying to take over the gaming world. Right now our main focus with our site is building our community and having fun."
Webb and her husband's five children range in age from toddler to teenager. Even with a wide array of video game consoles in the home, she states that parental responsibilities often cut into her personal playing time.
"I usually gravitate towards the PC games because the kids are usually hogging all of the TVs in the house," she added. "My stack of unfinished games is overwhelming and I keep telling myself I'll find some free time some day. It's way different than it was when I was younger and would sit in front of a Final Fantasy game for an entire weekend not moving, or when I used to stay up every night until 3 a.m. playing Full Auto."
Finding time for gaming with the kids is another story, according to Webb, who was happy to tell of how family time can often center around the video game console.
"Our weekends usually kick off with Friday night pizza and gaming," she said. "I've got a box of costumes I'll pull out and the kids will dress all crazy and play Just Dance. Other evenings we pull out Rock Band or Guitar Hero and jam out. Everyone plays, even our youngest. My husband fancies himself a singer and likes to serenade me sometimes. My favorite Sunday activity is plopping down on the couch with my 12-year-old son and playing the LEGO games. Hailey, our three-year-old daughter, can play Kinect games like Kinectimals or Kinect Party pretty easily. The Wii U is easily our favorite family console in the house. I love watching the four older kids game together. They play things like the new Super Mario 3D World and it's fun watching them figure out how to work together to solve the puzzles."
While these nights might not help Marcia with her stack of unfinished games, she says having the children deeply involved with the family video gaming helps her discover new games she otherwise may not have tried.
"I won't lie, I love having a house full of kids that love gaming. It gives me a great excuse to buy all of the games," Webb declared. "There are a lot of games I probably wouldn't try myself, but because we've got all these kids of different ages, we get to check out pretty much everything that comes out."
Webb states that The Mommy Gamers website has allowed her the opportunity to meet more parents and families like them, something she says is far different than what she encountered in parents groups before the website existed.
"I tried joining some local mommy groups and always got really weird looks when I told them I was into gaming," she said. "Gaming parents are out there, it's just hard to find them sometimes. I've actually had people go to extremes to tell me my hobby was ridiculous. For example, I worked with someone once who went into a lengthy tirade after he discovered I was a gamer. He swore that his genius children were only that way because he never let them play video games, and implied that I was destroying my children by allowing them to game."
Marcia also stated that she feels the media portrayal of video games doesn't help in countering opinions such as the ones she encountered from others.
"The media only likes to focus on the negative, and so anyone who has ever picked up a video game controller and committed a crime did so because of video games," she said. "I'm going to school for my Bachelor's degree in PR, and there was an entire chapter in my last class dedicated to how the media portrays violence, and a whole section on video games. The media doesn't focus on the kids who were taught the right way to game or the kids who game and still do amazing things, like my oldest daughter Hannah, an honor roll student who raised over $500 for Extra Life this year, and other kids who participate in similar gaming charities."
As The Mommy Gamers website continues to develop, Webb says she would like to see the family video game experience expand into it as well.
"We'd love to eventually get our kids helping more with the site, and get reviews and articles from the kids perspective, maybe even let them do their own podcast," she said. "I took my oldest daughter to PAX Prime this past year and she got a chance to do help me do interviews for the site. Desirai (Labrada, Webb's partner in The Mommy Gamers website) and I are both going to school right now, and we know that when we finish up our degrees we're going to go absolutely crazy building our site. We've got the talent and the ideas. We just need the time."
In addition to all the family video game time, education and website development, Webb says she will continue to play as much as she can far into the future.
"I'll always be a gamer, until my old lady arthritic hands can't grasp the controller," she added. "Hopefully by then it'll all be virtual reality anyway and I won't need my hands."
Webb and Labrada's website and podcast can be found at TheMommyGamers.com