The face of gaming and its “core audience” is changing, something that has been no better demonstrated to me than by my recent trip to visit the family this holiday season.

“You haven’t played a word yet,” my mom said, busily clicking away on her laptop. She was scolding my brother for not playing his turn in a game of Words with Friends in a timely manner. My brother, meanwhile, was playing the latest casino game craze on his own laptop, a game I didn’t happen to catch the name of. Both my niece and my oldest nephew had their faces buried in their DS’ while uncle Ry-Ry died time and time again in Spelunky on his Vita.

My family has returned to the realm of gaming, a fact that has completely snuck up on me these past couple of years. I’ve written a time or two about how gamers now range from infancy to 99, thanks to family-friendly consoles like the Wii, casual games like Farmville and the rise of mobile gaming, turning everyone’s phone and tablet into a bona fide gaming machine. It’s just that, as of this Christmas, I’ve finally seen that fact bleed into my own family.

My mother has never been one for traditional gaming, though she was scary-good at Duck Hunt back in the day. My brother stopped playing the majority of games back around the time he entered middle school, opting to focus primarily on wrestling and annual football games. He even gave those up for a number of years, only returning a little while back when he finally picked up a PS3, the latest copy of Madden and the newest NCAA game.

As for my niece and nephew, they’ve been fans of the Wii for a while now, but they only ever got their own DS’ in the past year or so.

And so there I found myself the day after Christmas, sitting comfortably on the couch beside my Pop (the one among us who would probably rather hug a real life hedgehog than bother with a blue critter named Sonic), completely surrounded by gaming.

My niece and nephew each received new DS games for Christmas, one sporting the ladies from Monster High and the other featuring the latest incarnation of the Power Rangers. I myself had received Kingdom Hearts 3D for Christmas, but I didn’t dare start in on that bad boy until I was alone and had a solid three or so hours to spare. Even my brother surprised me with his holiday wish list featuring Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a game I was all too eager to get him now that he’s decided to try something outside the realm of shoulder pads and spandex. Not that there’s anything wrong with wrestling and football games, I was just excited to see him try something new for the first time in many years.

As stated above, both my mom and my brother are quite fond of a handful games on Facebook and, once my nephew sat his DS down and ran off to play with some other shiny new toy he got for Christmas, my sister-in-law snapped that sucker up and started smashing baddies in no time.

This is a pretty exciting time for me. I doubt my mom will ever venture beyond the walls of Facebook for her gaming needs, but I’m curious to see where my brother’s newfound interest in the hobby will lead him. And then there’s my niece and nephew, who are only just discovering their own gaming tastes. What types of genres will draw their attention? Will they keep playing or find other interests? How long do I have to wait before we can have a legitimate talk about gaming? They’re both pretty young, so is now a bad time to introduce them to, say, Resident Evil?

I know the answer to that last question, at least. ("Not until they're 8!") As for the rest, I’ll be intrigued to see how things shape up as my family once again returns to gaming.

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