GrrlGotGame - A Busy Gamer guide to kids and adult games, or 'When Will I Be Old Enough To Play Fallout 3, Mommy?'

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GrrlGotGame“When will I be old enough to play Fallout 3?”

That’s the question recently posed to me by my sweet little 5-year-old son. Oh, to be fair, he’s almost 6 – hence the pressing question. He figures with such a major milestone looming, he’s bound to be able to play something new soon.

Now, consider for a moment the very idea that a kid is asking about Fallout. It doesn’t surprise me that he knows the name. He’s heard extensive conversations about it between Gamewatcher and me in the car, albeit with at least meager attempts to mask some of the game's more unsavory elements (murder, theft, slavery, drug addiction, cannibalism). Plus Gamewatcher took him on a “quest” to get Mommy the super-deluxe game guide for Christmas, lest she continue bitching about a particular mission that was driving her crazy. Seeing the words in 2 billion point type on the book, currently parked in the living room, has also sparked his curiosity.

And yet the idea that he’s asking me about it kind of freaked me out. As Gamewatcher likes to point out, my approach to the game is... rather homicidal. “My wife is a total psycho!” has come up more than once in conversations with game store employees. Not to mention my rather blunt discussion about Clover, the nice lady Mommy, er, bought who won’t shut up. Or, as Gamewatcher put it the other night, “I’m surprised that relationship has lasted this long. You tend to have an itchy trigger finger.”

I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before my son’s kindergarten teacher calls to ask why his mommy has been debating whether or not blowing up a city would be a good move.

My answer regarding Fallout 3 is the same as Grand Theft Auto, Halo, and who knows how many more games he’ll ask about in coming years: "When you’re 30." Or, more realistically: "When you’re 16 or so, we can talk." In the meantime, the boy has his parents’ hunger for gaming, which is being satisfied with heavily monitored and time-limited gaming opportunities. Yes, there are decent games out there for kids. But that’s another column.

Today, it’s all about the adults and how we can score some daytime gaming while there’s a small kid around. In many cases, he’s even been able to get involved.

Black Hole Son
One thing we’ve noticed recently is that our son wants to play what WE play – whether it’s what he sees us doing, or hears us talk about. Sure, he has his own games – but it’s been a while since the Cars disk has left the case. (To be fair, that game kind of sucks on its own.) Bee Movie? Be gone. He wants to do what the big kids are doing—and we’ve found some ways to integrate him into our games. Not only does it give him a sense of playing the “grown up” games, but it’s given us some fun family time during a rather dreadful winter.

Here are some tried and true favorites:

  • Rock Band: Most kids love music – ours is obsessed. From an early age, his favorite toy was a microphone. That has been replaced by the Rock Band microphone, which – sacre bleu! – is attached to the speakers. He’s the official energy activator when Mommy sings, and even takes over for the occasional solo. Remember how you never could tell what the grunge acts were singing? Well, neither can our kid – but he still managed to score a very respectable 80 percent on a Nirvana song by just tra-la-la’ing along with Kurt. He also loves to duet on Black Hole Sun.

    Rock Band 2 deserves a special shout-out for adding the “No Fail” option, which opens up the entire song list to us. Our son has even taken to pounding on the drums, although his tendency to go into AN-I-MAL mode has resulted in limited access to the skins.

  • Puzzle Arcade: It’s the perfect puzzle game for a household with kids: 100+ piece puzzles without any pieces to lose. (Although it has been eating some saved games). There’s no profanity, no violent images and it has a nice variety of puzzle sizes. Gamewatcher spent a decent portion of December parked in front of puzzles with our son at his side calling out “Daddy! There’s a piece of the SKY!” and pointing excitedly. He also loves watching Gamewatcher play Braid, which I don’t get. Maybe it’s a guy thing. On the other hand, he’s been quite useful with...

  • Zuma: Not only is it something he can watch, it turned out to be vaguely educational. In addition to reinforcing colors and numbers (he’s caught on to the Match 3 thing), he also figured out what most of the special balls do. He’s decided his gig is to yell colors and identifiers (“Shoot the blue one, it explodes!”) as necessary to help Mommy in her never-ending quest to beat the last level of Zuma. On the downside, Mommy has a bit of a mouth on her, and censorship is not always top of mind after losing for the 10,983rd time. I’m just sayin’.

  • Mario: Pick a Mario, any Mario. Our son has kicked it old school with Super Mario 64 (yes, we still have an N64, though the game is also available for Wii Virtual Console and Nintendo DS), and he got pretty far before starting the “Mommy, can you beat this level for me?” requests. Of course, he encountered the same frustrations we all did when it came out – camera angles, anyone? – but also appreciated the same things. This is a kid who has a PS3, Wii and Xbox 360 at his disposal. Good gameplay trumps dated graphics.

    But as I said, Mario is Mario. He has also dabbled in Super Mario Galaxy with his Daddy, perfectly content to be in charge of “catching stars” even if he misses most of them.

  • LittleBigPlanet: Our son was enamored with Sack Boy and his kin from the beginning. Cool music, dress up (he loves the masks and costumes) and solid platformer fun... until it wasn't. Just a few hours in, he hit a ridiculous difficulty level that he couldn't easily pass - and nor could we. We also enjoyed exploring many of the community levels... and then Sony started pulling anything with licensed characters. Yes, he enjoyed many of the non-license violating levels, but really wanted to play with Batman and other recognizable characters. Between the frustrations with the main game and the loss of many beloved levels, this one quickly dropped out of heavy rotation. But who knows - maybe we'll pick it up again soon. But for now his gaming interest has been replaced by...

  • Lego Star Wars: How do five-year-olds know so much about the Star Wars universe? We finally broke down and let our son watch the first two movies, original undoctored cuts of Star Wars (Yes, "Han shot first" and we even talked about why) and The Empire Strikes Back. And he loves Legos, so it was natural that his big ask for Santa last year was Lego Star Wars. The only downside is that there are no checkpoint saves, so you need to devote 20-40 minutes per level, particularly when your Jedi companion is wandering off the other way to explore when you're trying to open the gate to the next section. It is teaching him good co-op gaming skills, so it's not just an idle distraction.

  • Racing Games: Our son LOVES cars (both the movie and the vehicle), so racing games were a no brainer. We got the Cars (as in Pixar) game for him, but it proved a bit frustrating. (Quick, how do you save? Uh-huh. Exactly.) He picked up Forza Motorsport 2 and, with a few settings tweaks, enjoyed virtual driving. OK, let’s clarify that statement: He figured out how to drive into the barrier, backwards and the wrong direction, generally wreaking havoc. But even without any set goals (or perhaps because of this), it's provided hours of amusement and engagement. And the beautiful city images sparked an interest in geography and other cities that we had not anticipated. Score one for games! Speaking of which, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Holy Grail of gaming for our son...

  • Pokémon. Yes, he was granted the keys to a shiny new DS for Christmas, along with a much lusted after copy of Pokémon. Which one? Um, I dunno. It’s got a poke-dude on it. Not Pikachu. I totally know Pikachu: He’s stuffed and sleeps in my son’s bed each night. Some other poke-dude. Anyway, doesn’t matter. He’s enchanted with it, and he wants to learn everything he can about each one: their name, what they do, how they evolve... and it’s done exactly what we hoped it would:

    Make him work harder at reading.
That’s right, anti-gamers: My son is busting his butt trying to learn to read so he can figure who Raichu is without asking Mom or Dad. Partly because he knows if he wakes us up on weekend mornings (prime DS time!) to ask, he’ll lose the DS. But also because he truly wants to absorb, learn and figure out things for himself. He’s learning to read in leaps in bounds. Which reminds me – I should probably hide that Fallout 3 guide.

At least until he’s 30.

-=GrrlGotGame

2 Comments

1.

Awesome post. I've got an almost-four-year-old who likewise is very interested in what I'm playing and wants to participate. Similar experiences with Rock Band and the Lego games (demos are free!) - he can already get through the first area of the Lego Batman demo unassisted, which entails breaking up trash cans, building the costume-changer, walking Robin up the metal wall, throwing the switch, climbing the ladder, tightrope-walking and grappling up to the roof. And he's not even four - amazing.

He also had some fun driving the Mako around in Mass Effect, but was likewise frustrated with the Cars demo. Very much looking forward to more fully integrating him into my hobby!

JT

2.

Well not quite what I had been trying to find however it was some good reading anyway, guess its a ok that I wasn't able to search properly or I wouldn't ended up here.

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This page contains a single entry by GrrlGotGame published on January 14, 2009 2:23 PM.

Patch These Games - Fallout 3, Fable II and SOCOM: Confrontation was the previous entry in this blog.

PlayStation Store - GTI Club+, Ultimate Ghost ‘N Goblins, Skate 2 demo and Travis Barker is the next entry in this blog.

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