To the best of my knowledge I have fathered two children as of today. I have a boy (7) and a girl (1.5), and I count them as the single greatest contributors to my lack of video gaming time. Between after-school activities, changing diapers, helping with homework and getting everyone to bed on time, I have precious little down time in the evenings, and what time I do have is spent cleaning the house, making lunches for the next day or relaxing and watching TV with the missus. This means I can only game in two ways: 1) on my own on a laptop on my lunch break or 2) vicariously through my children.
When my son turned six I began to turn my attention towards raising him properly. That is not to say that I had neglected him thus far or ignored his needs until that point, but in my own life age 6 is when I began to form my earliest opinions on video games, televisions, film and books. Since I want my son to be well rounded and have a wide and deep understanding of these hobbies, I gave careful consideration to how I would expose him to this most wondrous of pastimes. What games should he play? In what order should he play them? With so many to choose from, which games were vital to a proper education of a burgeoning young lad?
Does my son need the whole history?This was the first topic I turned myself towards. He had already been exposed to video games from birth on, I have photos of him sitting on lap while I am on the Xbox, and he was no stranger to what games were and how they worked, but if I was going to give him a proper education, where would I begin? Where else but 1-1?
This was a fantastic idea, but it proved to be a big bust. When you learn to read, you don't start out with Homer, paging through the Illiad in the original Greek as a means to learning books as entertainment. You start with what's relevant to child, something that is for their level. See Spot Run isn't the height of modern literature, but to a child it represents concepts that click for them. Yes, I do see Spot. And yes, he is running! In a world where his 6 year old friends were allowed to play Modern Warfare with their fathers (something I would never let him do at that age), Super Mario Bros must have seemed alien to him. At his age I could barely contain my excitement at the prospect of controlling pixelated tanks on screen in a game of Combat, but for him this was...old. Old like his father. My dreams of bringing him up in some sort of psuedo parallel to my own experiences didn't go anywhere. He wasn't going to beat Super Mario Bros. and then move on to SMB2 in a few months, eventually meeting me somewhere north of Super Mario Galaxy. His tutelage would have to relevant, it would have to be something of the mid to late 2000's, not the early 80's.
Who better to guide my child through his first true gaming foray than these clowns? It has all the necessary components:
- Kid-friendly characters
- Mild, slapstick level violence at most
- 3D gameworld (I hear that's big these days)
- Easy learning curve
- Spoken and written dialog (to reinforce reading)
- Colorful locations
- Easy controls
My second attempt fared much better than my first, and my son was hooked. He began to barter for game time, to discuss the story elements he was party to, and asked for my involvement on harder areas. In some ways we were a team on this game, and it helped introduce him to core gaming concepts that would carry forward into his next games. He didn't need to see the entire genesis of the platforming genre, he only needed to see something that fit with his own, more modern surroundings.
So when do I get to play World of Warcraft?That there's an actual quote from my son, who seems endlessly fascinated by World of Warcraft. This started because he couldn't translate his gaming knowledge into something usable for an MMO. Thus far he'd been learning that levels constitute an area in the game. Level 3 meant the third level, or sometime is was the fire level, but when I told him I'm on level 80, I think he had a child-sized heart attack. Games simply didn't have that many levels. Add that to the fact that I named my hunter's pet after our own cat, and he thought WoW was the best game he'd ever seen. But I'm not paying for a subscription for a six year old, and he's not playing on my account either.
My solution was to start him on a F2P browser game, Fusion Fall. He knew the characters already, and he saw the commercials almost daily. How could it go wrong?
When he started playing Fusion Fall I realized that he was still stuck in entirely modern game mechanics. He understood jumping and shooting, but Fusion Fall required him to manage equipment, bonuses, questing and stat management, none of which he was prepared to do. I tried to explain it all to him, but there was so little connection between what these stats did and what was happening on the screen that I feared it fell on deaf ears. Enter Dad, one more time to save the day. In my hubris, I tried once more to get him back to the roots, by digging into Dad's Special Closet.
Ah, my Closet of Forbidden Things. It's not where I keep my video games, but where I keep my special items. See right there in the middle, in between my Absolute Sandman collection and my Evangelion box set? That's where I keep my Saga Edition Star Wars RPG books. The ones I bought as they came out to eventually play with my son. It was time to teach him tabletop gaming. We had tried Pokemon, but he didn't care for it, and I wasn't about to try another other CCGs. I had considered D&D, but since he has not shown one lick of interest in the fantasy genre, I decided to hit him where he was most vulnerable -- right square in the Clone Wars.