Keeping Occupied in Lockdown with Andy Robertson

Under lockdown, more people than ever are accessing games to stay connected, maintain their wellbeing, and keep entertained. To reflect the importance of games in this period Ukie will be interviewing key policy makers and industry leaders on what games they're playing during isolation, and recommendations for responsible play time.

This week we're joined by journalist, editor of AskAboutGames, and author of upcoming book Taming Gaming: Guide Your Child to Video Game Health, Andy Roberston.



It’s easy to assume that video games are all about entertainment, competition and adrenaline. They are often about this but, like any media, they offer a wide range of benefits I’m seeing families take advantage of during this period.

I talk to families and carers on a daily basis about how to get the most from the games they are playing together. This means I hear first hand of children using games like Patterned to find calm, Alto’s Adventure to escape the chaos and even Fortnite to stay in touch with friends they aren’t seeing at school or in the playground at the moment.

How are you keeping yourself (and/or your family) occupied in these times of self-isolation, physical and social distancing?

We have a weekly YouTube hour, where each of us shares 10 minutes of the favourite video we recently watched. We go on family walks, make sure we eat together and set aside time to play video games downstairs on the TV. We’ve played quite a lot of board games too, Carcassonne and Santorini have been favourites.

What games are you/your family playing in lockdown?

Along with Animal Crossing, we’ve also enjoyed less well-known games like Moving Out, where four of us collaborate to get furniture from a house into a moving lorry. We also enjoyed playing A Fold Apart, that helped us talk about missing people we couldn’t be with at the moment. Then there are a few board games we like to play as well, most recently it’s been Carcasonne, which also has a great digital version.

Why these particular games?

We choose games that keep us connected with friends and family not in the same place. But we also enjoy games that get us together to play and laugh. Other games have helped instil a bit of routine to the day, whether that’s checking Turnip prices in Animal Crossing or investigating the day’s creations in Dreams.

Do you play games alone or with others? If the latter, do you find they help keep you connected?

We play a variety of games. Many of our choices we can play together with each other in the family. But there have been certain games, like Overcooked 2 that we’ve played online with cousins, older siblings not at home and even grandparents. Other games have been good to help us connect with a wider community, like Sky Children of Light  or even something as simple as Roblox.

Could you recommend any games?

A game I often suggest to families new to gaming is Wilmot’s Warehouse. It’s simple to understand, played with two people and relies on you communicating with each other. Mini Metro is another game I often suggest. It’s a simple transport design puzzle that offers both a bit of escape as well as a sense of control in these uncertain times.

What resources would you recommend to help parents and carers manage and monitor game play for their children?

Although I’m the editor and might be considered biased, I think AskAboutGames is one of the best places to find out about video games for parents and carers. We work to ensure there isn’t jargon, and the essential information is clear to understand. Whether looking for a new game or how to set-up family settings, it’s a useful resource.

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The video game database, supported by Ukie, complements this by offering almost 500 game recommendations for parents and carers. This not only helps you broaden the diet of video games, but helps you discover loads of amazing games you may not have heard of. The games each have a single page with all the important information for families. The games are then presented in Netflix-like lists to help parents and carers find the sorts of experiences that match their family. The database will be supported by a full-colour hardback book, Taming Gaming, out in the new year.

Underpinning both of these projects is the Get Smart About P.L.A.Y. campaign, that encourages parents to play games with their children, understand the controls and settings on their consoles. It also provides deeply research guides to popular games for families. This powerfully changes the conversation about video games in the home, to empower parents and carers to play a guiding role as they do in other areas.