An engaged couple who met and fell in love while playing Xbox online are passing on their passion to their three kids by video gaming with them.

And although their love story is unusual, they're hobby isn't - recent research from Bond University in Queensland and the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association (IGEA) found that 51 per cent of Kiwi parents play video games with their children in the same room and a quarter of families with kids under 18 connect online to play together.

Tarhlia Murray, 28, was introduced to her partner James Kipa, 27, through the party chat function on Xbox in 2012.

She had been playing Call of Duty: Black Ops with a friend she knew in person, who was Kipa's cousin, when he suggested Kipa join their game through the Internet.


"We just hit it off, I suppose," Murray told the Herald on Sunday.

"After a couple of months of him and I always playing together we just built a friendship and then a relationship off of that - quite sweet. We fell in love playing the game."

Eight months after "meeting" online they went on their first real-life date.

Now, more than five years later, at their home in Auckland, the pair of Xbox "super fans" enjoy bonding with son Latrell, 7, over gaming.

A gaming family. James Kipa(left) and Tarhlia Murray met have instilled a love of gaming in their three kids Nikau (left on Kipa's lap), Latrell (centre) and Hiria. Photo / Greg Bowker
A gaming family. James Kipa(left) and Tarhlia Murray met have instilled a love of gaming in their three kids Nikau (left on Kipa's lap), Latrell (centre) and Hiria. Photo / Greg Bowker

Although Murray and Kipa's daughters - 2-year-old Hiria and Nikau, 11 months - are too young to join in, they sometimes play on apps on their parents' iPhones.

"They do shapes and colours, ABCs, that kind of stuff," Murray said.

"We give them old Xbox controllers to play with. They pretend that they're playing with us, it's quite cute."

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The family have "Sunday Fundays" together playing four-player games on Xbox 360. Other times Murray will play Minecraft or Boggle with Latrell.

"We can communicate and develop our personalities," Murray said of the benefits to gaming with her son.

"Because there's lots of problem solving you have to anticipate the consequences of your choices. When we game together and he's beside me we can banter together. He's more comfortable talking to me.

"I see him being expressive and creative and he learns new things every time and he comes and tells me about it."

During the school term Latrell is only allowed to play video games at the weekends and once all his homework and chores are done.

After three-hour "stints" of playing he has to take a break. The family will often take a walk, go to the beach or watch a movie together between gaming sessions.

"I'm quite strict like that," Murray said.

"Kids will go on there for 12 hours straight if you're not watching them. You need to set rules and regulations for game time."

She and Kipa also closely monitor Latrell's privacy settings to make sure he can't talk to strangers online and only let him play age appropriate games.

Three weeks ago the World Health Organization identified "gaming disorder", or excessive video gaming that significantly impairs someone in personal, family, social, educational, occupational areas of their life, as a mental health condition.

Read more: 'Gaming disorder' to be an official mental health condition

Murray said although she understood how gaming could become a health hazard if it wasn't moderated, she believed it affected "just a handful" of gamers.

There were many stereotypes about gamers - particularly women or children gamers, she said.

"The preconceptions are definitely there for sure and they annoy me. But I just try to break them."

According to Bond University and IGEA's Digital New Zealand Report 2018, the average Kiwi gamer is 34-years-old and more often than not is a parent.

Of those surveyed 86 per cent of parents said they played video games themselves. That figure was 69 per cent for non-parents.

When asked why they played video games with their children, most parent respondents said they did it to spend time with their kids. A third said it helped them educate their children.

Nearly half of gamers (46 per cent), the study showed, were female. And 44 per cent of people aged 65 or older played video games in some capacity.

Christchurch psychotherapist James Driver, who runs the website Net Addiction NZ to help gaming addicts, said playing video games in the same room as parents or other family members was likely to be healthier for children than playing alone online.

"Anything that helps a family spend more time together is a good thing. But I do think that with many of the online games, the nature of the interactions are not as engaging as other things are.

"If it's in balance - if you're doing other stuff as well as a family that's not a problem. If it's the only thing you're doing as family I would be concerned."

Gaming became unhealthy when gamers of any age started depending on it for emotional regulation or to meet their psychological needs.

If people were also engaging in other activities and hobbies that gave them a chance to be creative and imaginative and develop a sense of competency and achievement, video gaming was unlikely to be an issue, Driver said.