When You Have Kids, You Get To Play Your Video Games Twice

Image: Nintendo

I remember it through glassy eyes. Christmas morning I woke up, 20 years old. Hungover.

To my Dad, as we opened presents: "whatever happened to magic of Christmas?"

"It'll come back," he replied. "When you have kids."

An egocentric hungover 20-year-old with bad skin and a chip on his shoulder, I couldn't really comprehend getting excited about someone else's enjoyment of Christmas, but fast forward to 2017 and 35-year-old Mark understands completely. Christmas might never be the visceral blur of wrapping paper and Thundercats figures it was in my youth, but you do get to relive that hysteria and it is infectious.

I didn't expect the same thing to happen with my video games.

As I watched my four year old take his first precarious steps in Breath of the Wild over the weekend I realised something: with kids I get to experience my favourite video games twice. First, through my own eyes. Secondly, vicariously through my children. Both are rewarding in their own unique way.

My son is now four. Unfortunately for me, he loves video games. Unfortunate because he talks about them constantly. Unfortunate because it's always the thing he'd most rather be doing. Chip off the old block. At first playing games with my son was frustrating — for both him and me. There are very few good games for kids, particularly on console, but it's mostly a wasteland. We've played a lot of Super Mario 3D World. Flirted with games like LittleBigPlanet and Unravel. My son frequently asks to play "Car Game" (Rocket League) and has taken a weird liking to Yooka-Laylee.

Right now all he cares about is Zelda.

Zelda's a stretch for a four year old, on a number of levels. At night, when the skeletons come out, it can get a bit scary (I'll be making a tea and he'll come hurtling round the corner, controller in hand, screaming "DADDY GET THE SKELETONS FOR ME"). But there's a lot going on there from a control standpoint. This is a first for my son in so many ways: first time maneuvering a third person camera, first time managing weapons, first time dealing with an inventory system. It's a grand leap from mindlessly jumping from level to level in Super Mario 3D World.

Image: Kotaku

Like always, kids surprise you with how adept they become — and how quickly. After a couple of frustrating moments teaching my son how to switch shields, I left to do some quick chores. 10 minutes later I returned to find him freely switching between swords to protect his 'favourites'. I asked for a quick go and switched to his beloved 'Traveller's Sword'. "No daddy," he implored. "You'll break it."

Mindblowing how quickly children learn to implicitly understand complicated systems.

It's also incredible to watch. Your children: they retread footsteps you've already taken but the prints feel fresh, as though you made them yourself. How powerful is that? To watch them learn, play and take such a pure joy in connecting with these games you also loved.

A few years back I was lucky enough to interview Shigeru Miyamoto, for a story I was writing about Ocarina of Time. I asked him what he remembered most about Ocarina, how it impacted him on a personal level.

He mentioned his son who was a little older, in the upper grades of elementary school, when Ocarina was released. But his daughter was younger.

"It was the first game that my daughter sat down and played a lot of, and as a result of that she became a really big Zelda fan," explained Miyamoto,

"I remember Ocarina of Time as the game that allowed my daughter and I to start having a lot of conversations about video games."

I wonder how many conversations about video games have started just like this.

With Breath of the Wild my own conversation has just begun.


    Replace author M.Serrels with C.More35 and it's verbatim...well, except for the I left to do some quick chores part.
    But I love sitting back and watching the young bloke attempt, analyse and adapt as he plays. Blows me away at just how smart he is - speaks volumes for Zelda's gameplay mechanics that he can solve the challenges he faces in "his" own way.

      Oh yeah, the way you can approach things multiple ways is awesome. My wife got stuck on some bit and ended up looking at youtube to see how to do it.
      "Just jump up here, go around this way and skip that whole hard bit".

      Wow, never even saw that. I've since found out I did a lot of things the hard way, haha.

    has taken a weird liking to Yooka-Laylee

    There's a lot of game reviews that score negatively from an adult's perspective, hence I've always wondered what each game would have scored from a kid's perspective.

    I've seen first-hand a child that enjoys Mighty No. 9, but thinks Skyrim, Fallout 4, Mount & Blade: Warband and Civilization VI are boring.

    I found that Pokemon Sun has been perfect for my 4 year old daughter she managed to get to the 3rd Island now on her own and catches the Pokemon on her own. I am still utterly astounded by how she even comprehends those tasks lol. That and Ocarina of time on the 3DS she picked up quite easily.

    Mark's copious amount of Mario pieces also strike the same chord, these games have all-ages, all-skill-levels play ingrained in their design. It's a hallmark of Nintendo's design philosophy.

    That way we can go 'I can improve at this and show someone my experience' is often pretty much ignored and glossed over by a lot of people who live and breath games, because we take it for granted.

    But I keep saying this, every video game is someone's first. Nintendo games are always able to remember this.

    Nintendo games like Zelda speak a certain 'language' where it doesn't matter how well you can read, or explain to someone what has to happen, you can just play a game with someone and boom, it's instant.

    The person watching, or playing not taking the lead playing role, may indeed have years of nuanced muscle memory and knowledge, but they can instantly adjust to what the new player needs, to learn on the fly, as Mark says with his son's experiences.

    Wait until he gets better at video games than what you are, mate.

    I know exactly what you're talking about!! I have 7, 5 and 4 yo girls and they're all playing Breath of the Wild to some extent. Even my wife, whose gaming consists solely of mobile games (despite many tries to get her into full games) is picking up the switch occasionally and playing it! But - because of all that, I've completed the game myself, completed all 4 beasts a second time for my 7yo.... my 4yo keeps giving me the switch saying "Daddy!!! Kill the King Goblin for me!!" which means the blue boboklins (they're the "King Goblins") and is asking me to "Get the elephant" for her......

    So - I have about 120 hours into it on my account plus probably another 60 or so, so far, on the various kids accounts! :)

    You may also get to play a game twice when your 4 year old deleted the nearly completed Super Mario 3D save file (because it's reportedly a game in itself playing in the menus), and then demands to be able to play all his favourite levels at will.

    I can't wait until the newborn can play games with me but i don't want then to grow up too fast.

    Been there a few years back mate and now I'm looking forward to future grandchildren and the heaps of time I will have to spend with them playing Elder Scrolls VIII with them ?

    Man this is one of the things I'm excited for when I have kids one day. At the moment nobody cares if/what I'm playing. Actually, the other day my wife (who has zero interest in gaming) started yelling out things for me to do in Zelda BotW and it filled me with a child-like glee I used to experience when my younger sibling would watch me play. "Climb that mountain. Ooh what's up there? Oh cool can you jump off? Wow you can fly? This game is really colourful". I really enjoyed that moment.

    I discovered my 5-year old son's gaming addiction after he watched me play Trials Fusion a few months ago.
    Since then he's been going nuts for Lego Star Wars, Lego Batman, Rocket League (he just likes boosting up walls and over ceilings...), and he recently discovered Gang Beasts when I took brought him with me to the Supernova Comicon/Gaming Expo, here in the Goldy. I don't think I've seen him laugh so hysterically before... Waiting for it to come out on PS4 now...

    You know, I saw the title and the accompanying picture and immediately thought that Mark's kid had erased his Zelda: BotW file.

    Happy to be incorrect! Sweet article.

    My daughter loves Rockets league (the Car Game) and Horizon: Zero dawn (the Pink Game... cause of the proliferation of pink on the title screen? Maybe?).

    She is 3, does not understand that split screen gaming is static, and rarely holds down more than one button at once :)

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