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Any time you're away from your home and your family, your mind has a tendency to wonder to thoughts of them. Being a rotational worker (I spend 15 days away, and 13 back home) I spend a good deal of time away from those I love the most. And it's worse when you're used to spending a significant amount of time with said family. I'm over the hump on this rotation, and will be home in a few days, so I know it will soon be time to break out the trusty old Nintendo with my son and log some quality father/son time while scratching the retro gaming itch in the process. Now, it's difficult to describe how different a gaming session with my six year old is from every other gaming experience I've ever had. Often times, it's quite humorous.

You see, my son is very much like me. This particular truth is of course why our gaming sessions tend to be pretty darn entertaining. We may do things differently than most people, and maybe that's what gaming with your kids should be all about. It shouldn't be like your normal day to day game time. We do it our way. Let's be honest, I mention my son enough that I might as well put it in a blog anyway so you get a better picture of what it's like. I've decided to share with you some of the things that make our gaming sessions some of the best. And it's all brought to you by Nintendo.

I'm always the bad guy, even when I'm not.

When you're a kid, you always want to be the hero. This is very true of my son. Even when we play single player games, he wants me to have a controller in my hands to play "the bad guys." Some of you know that I'm not all that keen on playing Ring Kings with my son due to some dubious reasons, but Mike Tyson's Punch Out is a game that my son does this the most often with. He's Little Mac, and I play the part of the endless array of boxing glove fodder. The funny thing about it is that I'm actually the one controlling Little Mac, and my son has a lifeless controller in his hands. I've tried to explain that it's a single player game, but he's not interested in my logic. He simply wants to have a good time, and it's much more fun in his eyes for him to pretend to be Mac knocking out the hapless boxers that his father is "controlling" than to try to play on his own.

I'm pretty good at Punch Out, so I have to listen to and endless barrage of laughter at my expense because of how easily he "beats me up." Until Iron Mike steps up to the plate, that is. Then Papa's the champ once again (only in his eyes, because I know that it's really my failure and not his). Someday he'll figure it out, but for the time being he's enjoying himself and that's all that matters to me.

Teamwork?

There are some games that require a fair amount of teamwork in order to get through the game. But what the heck is the fun in that? One of the reasons I laud the game Gyromite is because of how much fun I've had playing it with my brother, and now my son. The point of this game is to guide this little guy around each level trying to defuse dynamite placed all around. Now, the other player (in this case my son) has to control red and blue pillars so that your character can navigate through the level. But what fun is that? Instead, we try to squish each other. Now, there are rules. You can't trap the other player (there are also little green goblins that you have to avoid, so trapping the other player with a goblin is deemed as cheating) and you have two free passes each level. Needless to say, it's quite difficult to progress past even the second level.

Now, while I feel it is important to instill the importance of teamwork in my son, I also realize that his attacking me in games like Double Dragon II is just too good a chance to pass up. And most significantly, it's a great deal of fun for him. Can it be frustrating at times? Sure, I have it ingrained in me to want to finish every game I play. However, this silly game of cutthroat my son likes to play is a great reminder that videogames are in fact just games. That and it's hard to be upset when he's laughing and having a good time.

The game before the game...

Nothing tickles me more than my son's feverish attempts to get the games to come to life. He blows on the cartridges, wiggles the game once it's docked inside, and hits reset over a dozen times. It's pretty funny to watch this ritual, because I can remember doing the same thing back in the day. This, of course, used to be my job. But now, whenever we decide to play or change games, I feel a little nudge from my boy. When the start screen appears on the TV, we high-five and he gives a triumphant fist pump. I can tell he feels some pride and a sense of accomplishment even before we start playing. It's during this time that I'm the most grateful for our time with the NES. You can't get this sort of satisfaction popping in a disk and leaving it at that.

Boys will be boys...

Anyone who's ever been around a six year old boy knows that roughhousing is inevitable. But one thing you don't expect is to get the Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka treatment when you're playing a game of Super Mario Bros. 3. Especially when you're not the one who initiated the disagreement which causes you to get "splashed." Anyone who has played this game knows about the icons (star, flower, and mushroom) you collect at the end of each level. If you collect 3 of a kind, you get a varying amount of extra lives correlating with the type of icon. Stars get the most at 5. Getting the star is easy, as you just have to hit the slot machine like box at full running speed. My son doesn't quite have this down, but he discovered a more devious way to get those elusive stars: the mini-game.

On the over-world screen, you can move your character over the level your partner just completed and hit "A" to initiate the Mario Bros. mini-game in which you can battle each other for their icons. My son has a habit of doing this when I get up for a snack or to use the head. I can't count how many times I've come back to the game to discover my stars are gone only to be replaced with flowers or mushrooms. There are times, however, when his lives are running low and impatience gets the better of him and he has to earn it. When things don't go his way, I can almost hear "from the top rope!" in my head. When I recover, a wrestling match ensues, and the Nintendo usually gets bumped in the process. You NES owners (or former owners) know what that means, and we have to start all over again. But it sure is a fun way to have your progress ruined.

Pretty much what it feels like...

I'm ultra-competitive by nature. Letting someone else win isn't easy for me, even when it's my own son. But let's face it, losing all the time isn't fun. If I were to go for the jugular every time I played my son, he probably wouldn't want to play for very long. This wouldn't be such a hard thing if my son was less of a smack talker. Oh, how difficult it is to take one for the team and have your face rubbed in it. I'm not saying I always let him win (I do have to teach him a thing or two about sportsmanship and humility, after all), but when I do, he sure lets me know just how much I suck. Our smack talk is pretty epic (as epic as smack talk with a 6 year old can be), and usually results in the section above.

The worst is when I slip up and legitimately lose to my son. That's a tough pill to swallow, but it's also a prideful moment for me because I know my son is getting better (of course it's much less prideful than the swallowing of said pride, but what can I say). One thing is for certain; my son does a great job of making me want to go full force. I guess that's part of the gig when you're a father.

It's nice to have a gaming partner who has fun no matter what. I catch myself getting frustrated and even getting down on myself if I reach a rough patch in a game more frequently than I'd like to admit. I'm so used to playing a game for the end result that I sometimes forget that I'm supposed to be having fun. It can be difficult to forget how challenging some games are, and instead enjoy the experience while it lasts. So as much as it would be nice to be able to beat Double Dragon II(or any other game for that matter) without dying at the hands of my son or having his 45 pound frame come crashing into me at random, I wouldn't pass up a chance at the chaos of our NES/SNES time for anything. Even if I would end up spending less time at the chiropractor. 

 

 

 

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