3-Minute Interview: Jeannie Novak

The video game developer and author is visiting San Francisco this week for the Game Developers Conference at the Moscone Center. Novak wrote “Play the Game: The Parent’s Guide to Video Games,” which provides tips for parents about how to navigate their children’s interest in video games.

What are some common misconceptions parents have about video games? One is the assumption that video games are only for 12- to 18-year-old boys. The market has completely changed, so now, for example, we have whole families playing the Nintendo Wii together. Another assumption is that all video games are violent. You hear a lot about games that involve shooting, but that’s just one genre — there are so many genres out there.

What should parents do if they’re worried about their kid’s gaming habits? The first thing they need to do is actually play the game. It’s just like watching TV with your kids. It helps to kind of monitor it and also understand why the kids might want the game and why they enjoy it.

What are you doing at the conference this week? I’m here with Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division, which just purchased an island on [the online virtual world] Second Life. We really tried to push the envelope with what we built on there, and it looks really nice — very intricate. It also has some game elements in it.

What games have you been playing lately? I really love strategy games, and I love my Nintendo DS, so right now I’m playing “Advance Wars 4.” I also like to play “Wii Sports.” My husband and I just went to Brazil to visit his family, and it was their first time to ever come together as a family and play games. It was great.

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