Player One

Five affordable games even parents with young kids can play

Games like "Among Us" and "Flow Free" are accessible even to the overbooked, overworked, and overtired.

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At first glance, video games and newborns seem like a bad combination. Who has time to dedicate seven or more hours to a video game when they have a newborn who requires constant feeding, diaper changes, and cuddle time? And then there’s the sleep deprivation that makes parents feel like they are losing their mind. Learning a new game or getting good at a complex game seem like luxuries that parents with newborns just don’t have. Or, if you have kids, you may have games you play with them but those games might not be the ones that you actually want to play on your own time. Parenthood doesn’t have to be the end of your own video gaming.

In the past decade, several games have been released that have gameplay more conducive to a new parent’s lifestyle. These are games that aren't hard to learn and have low start-up times. These games do not require focused attention for hours at a clip and can be played in short bursts or can be put down for a more convenient time. Some games can also provide new mothers and fathers a sense of community, not related to their child, when the game has a collaborative play option. Best of all, these are games that can give new parents a little “me” time, whether it’s feeling a little bit of Zen or getting to feel like their old selves again.

Among Us

While Among Us came out in 2018, this multiplayer game has really taken off during the pandemic. The game is a computerized version of the card game sometimes known by names like Mafia, Werewolf or Vampire. The basic premise is that up to ten people are on a ship doing tasks. However, one or two crew members are imposters who are trying to kill the crew mates and sabotage the ship. Crew mates have to try to complete their tasks and figure out who the imposters are. While there is a chat function in the game, players are using the voice function of Discord to talk to each other during the meetings to decide who the imposters are.

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It’s great for new parents because it’s easy to learn and undemanding. The game can be learned with a 15-minute tutorial of the basics and play itself gets up and running quickly. While you can play with anyone who is online, it’s better to play with friends and family. There’s an in-game chat that you can use to accuse each other — and vote people off the ship or into the lava pit — but the Discord option allows you to actually talk to one another. Games tend to be short, depending on the number of players, imposters, and tasks, so you can pop in and play a game or two, and pop out when you have to. Plus it’s fun to stab your fellow players and get away with it!

Minecraft

In the 3D block world of Minecraft, players can collect cubes and fluids that they can use to make into building materials. People can build structures like castles or tools like swords and armor with building materials. There’s no real objective outside the joy of building. There’s something very satisfying building your own castles and surrounding fields; it’s a way of expressing yourself creatively without being bound by materials, space and money, unlike in the “real world.”

There are hostile creatures that you have to watch out for — such as the creeper who gets its name from sneaking up on players and exploding. There are different modes that people can play ranging from Survival mode — where players try to survive and thrive despite an army of zombies — to Creative mode, which lets players build and not worry about said monsters.

New parents can distract themselves playing the game solo (sometimes you've gotta take some time for yourself, you know?) And, since the game doesn’t have high stakes, it can be put down easily to tend to a newborn.

Jackbox Games

From the people who gave us the tongue-in-cheek trivia game You Don’t Know Jack, Jackbox Games is actually a suite of games that can be played collectively. Available as a series of game packages, the host sets up the game and shares their screen. Other players can login using a code to play on mobile and / or computer. The games are wacky and weird, like the strange offspring of Pictionary and Trivial Pursuit. For instance, in the mini game "Trivia Murder Party," you and your friends answer trivia questions and solve puzzles in a creepy murder hotel with a bloodthirsty host. It’s not too scary — but it adds a little bit of a thrill that wrong answers can mean (video game) death. A completely different game, "Quiplash" (and its variants), has you come up with funny answers to questions like “What would you like to train an animal to do?” Everyone submits their responses and then you vote on them.

Like Among Us, these games are easy to learn and fast to play. The set up takes a moment to figure out (two screens can be ideal) but once you get past that, you can start playing the games quickly. The games tend to be around 30 minutes tops so you can get a game in and then move on. What new parent doesn’t need a good belly laugh?

Ticket To Ride

This popular board game has made the leap to the world of computers and video games. The basic idea is that you connect train lines by building tracks using train cars of the same color. At the beginning of the game, you pick up destination cards (such as a route between New York and San Francisco) and then draw train car cards to fill in the routes between locations. But your opponents are also trying to complete their routes, so it’s a race to build your tracks before they do. The person with the highest number of points from completing destinations and putting down train cars wins. There are different available maps such as the United States, Europe, or India.

New parents will find Ticket To Ride satisfying and easy to start playing. Games can be played in one sitting or on your own schedule, thanks to solo games with non-player characters or a Steam feature that messages you when it’s time to take your turn. There’s also a huge online community, meaning you can play pretty much 24/7 — kind of perfect for those nights when your newborn has you awake at strange hours.

Flow Free

For folks who want an even simpler game, Free Flow fits the bill. It’s a mobile game in the visual style of Tron and Tetris about connecting dots. The objective is to link the same color dots on a grid without intersecting any other line but also filling in all the spaces of the grid. The game feels like a child of between the connecting pipes and the filled-in grid. There are expansions such as "Hexes," which replaces the squares, and "Bridges," where you can use bridges to intersect the lines. There are thousands of mini games to play and time trial modes if you ever find a few minutes to yourself.

The basic concept is pretty easy and games can last 30 seconds to several minutes. Depending on your mental state, you can adjust the difficulty setting — making it a larger grid with more colored dots to handle or a smaller grid if you just need to zone out. Since it is mobile based, you can play it holding it in one hand and interacting with the other, which is super helpful when you have a babe in arms.