When I first rocked up with my niece and two nephews to the new Timezone Arcade in Newmarket, I briefly wondered if I had made a grave mistake.
Ruby, 8, had gotten rained on during her lunchtime soccer game, Sam, 11, was becoming increasingly too cool to view an afternoon with his auntie as the height of fun, and Ari, 6, was so excited he was in danger of rocketing into another dimension - or at least running off when my back was turned.
These factors, coupled with two floors of loud, enticing games and my glaring lack of parenting skills could have been a recipe for disaster. Thankfully, I soon discovered the arcade to be a wondrously easy place to gain Cool Auntie Points while sustaining only a mild headache.
Armed with a $50 Powercard each, the trio kicked things off with a spirited motorcycle race - complete with bikes that lean with you and a wind machine to blow your hair back - before each finding their niches.
The 'Virtual Rabbids' VR game was a hit with young Ari, who described it as "mindblowing" and "very scary because it's like you're doing it in real life," as evidenced by his wee hand reaching out around him as he played, while the other held his slightly-too-big mask to his face.
Sam took a shine to a 'Money Grab' style booth that you stand in while being showered in plastic balls, with the aim of depositing as many as possible into a hole to win tickets. Ever the innovator, Sam soon hacked the game by collecting the balls in his hoodie, drawing looks of astonishment and nods of approval from onlookers.
Having effortlessly slayed a new dancing game with a movement-detecting light-up floor, Ruby set her sights on winning as many tickets as possible, focusing on games she identified as the best for paying out. The Bean Bag Toss proved perfect for this venture, as Ruby's frequent bullseyes brought me back to a level of insecurity about my hand-eye coordination that I hadn't felt since high school netball games.
The laser tag arena and spin car rink, appealing as they looked, would have to be visited another day, when some of the smaller members of the squad were a few centimetres taller.
With their Powercards maxed out and ears ringing, it turned out the hardest part of a visit to the arcade was choosing the appropriate prize for the kids to spend their hard-earned tickets on. The biggest, fluffiest toys required hundreds of tickets we didn't have, while the more affordable range of slinkies, stickers, lollies and tubs of goo was too overwhelming to choose from.
It was at this point that my sister-in-law conveniently arrived to pick the kids up, allowing me to quietly bow out of my duties advising Ruby on the merits of a whoopie cushion versus a unicorn head, and leaving the wild-eyed children with pockets filled with lollies and a yearning to top up their Powercards.