The lights are on
Power Member - Level 7
Note that all these pictures are stock photos and not my kids. My kids are much cuter.
We gamers can tend to be a cynical lot. Not that we don't enjoy our hobby, we've just built up an unofficial set of (ridiculous) rules that we expect our games to follow. Not too similar but not too different. Show me a new character but give me the ones I love, and so on. Soon to be 33 years old, I've been playing games for over 25 years, and leave it to my four year old daughter to remind me why I started loving games in the first place. She's big enough now to play some games by herself, and I spend more time watching her than the game she's playing. Here are some of the things she's re-teaching me.
1. Get Into It.
The current stereotype of a gamer is a lazy basement dweller covered in Dorito crumbs and Mountain Dew stains, but it used to be a young child barely able to sit still while trying to save the princess, the galaxy, or just get to the end of the stage. There's only one game that comes to my mind if you ask me how to introduce a child to video games, and that's Super Mario Brothers. So one day I turned on the SNES and popped in Mario All Stars. I handed Abby the controller and told her what buttons to press. She walked right into the first goomba (admit it, you've all done that), and that quickly it was time to try again. A few lives later I noticed she was lifting the controller up when she'd hit the jump button (we've all done that too). I didn't teach her that, yet she's experiencing the game the same way I did in 1985. She was moving without motion controls. She was allowing a game to pull her in without demanding AAA story telling and high paid voice actors. It reminds me of the Mass Effect ending debacle. Gamers are starting to demand to be spoon-fed the experience they want, when we used to take what was displayed to us and make it our own. Imagine if Tolkien had changed the ending to The Lord of the Rings because some readers thought it should be different. The argument could be made that the fans were angry because they were so into the game, but I'm talking here about a simpler experience of just enjoying what's in front of you for the moment, no comparisons or expectations involved.
2. Have Fun.
This goes hand in hand with number one, but it's different enough to let me break up the wall of text. I'm a sucker for trophies. One of the first things I'll do is check to see if there are trophies related to difficulty level. "Oh, there's one for beating it on hard, guess that how I have to play." That's not to say that playing games on hard isn't fun. My point is that if it's more fun to play on normal, or even easy, then that's how you should play. Fun should be the main concern with video games, not trophies or bragging rights. After a few rounds of any popular multiplayer game with chat turned on, it doesn't sound like very many people are having fun at all. They sure make it sound like my poor mother is having fun though. My daughter playing Mario Kart should be the template for how to play a game. She has no idea what place she's in. She laughs when she get's turned around or hit by a blue shell (I go into a small fit of rage when that happens). And finally, when I explained to her that she just won her first race, Her smile was ear to ear.
3. Be Amazed
Maybe it's just because she's experiencing games for the first time, but Abby spends a lot of time with her mouth open. She'll stop driving in Mario Kart to watch something on the side of the track. I'll have to wait for her in Rayman Origins or Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One, because she's looking at the scenery or watching a character. I've gradually moved from finding this frustrating to paying attention to what she's looking out. We've become so driven to win, or get the next level, or finish the next challenge. Our goal as gamers has turned into "Get to the ending." Well the endings used be awful, so the goal used to be, "Play the game." I noticed recently that I play Borderlands 2 and Skyrim, two beautiful games in their own right, with the cross-hair pointed slightly down, so I can open containers faster. I'm missing all the great sights and sounds in my focus on moving forward. I love playing Battlefield 3. That game and others like it are all about non stop motion. I would love to hop into Caspian Border all alone and just explore that map and appreciate it's design. We need to stop and smell the roses in our games more.
4. Video games are a toy.
After she was done playing, or rather after I forced her to stop playing. Abby sets the controller on the coffee table between her box of crayons and her Disney princess doll. It looked right there. It fit in. Yes, video games are art. Yes, we now have people who are paid to play them. Doesn't matter, they are still toys. We don't say "I can't wait to get home and work my video game." I hope this fact doesn't get lost as more and more facets are added to gaming. It concerns me that we use phrases like "following the industry." This is a major reason why Nintendo needs to succeed and keep making consoles. Microsoft and Sony are technology companies and great for advancing technology and pushing power in video games. Nintendo is a toy maker and makes consoles to innovate ways for as many people as possible to have fun. Both are needed to keep gaming where it needs to be as a medium. I don't want to forget that if I tell my kids to find a toy to play with, that picking up a controller is a perfectly acceptable option.
Thanks a lot for reading. Here's to hoping we never forget why started gaming in the first place.