You can’t talk with a kid about politics, or Downton Abbey, or what a terrible day you had at work. Little kids rarely travel broadly, catch the latest theater or read Proust. They don’t even read listicles on Cracked. In extended conversation, there’s not much you can talk about with a kid, which is why you don’t take them to nice restaurants. The best way to hold a conversation with one is just to make stuff up.
I don’t let my kid play lazy videogames. Kids games, “educational” games, stupid movie tie-ins: these are all verboten in our household. I am not the dad who goes to the library and picks up the adaptation of Tangled for the Wii. We play indie games, art games, weird games and snob games. Most of all, I want us to play good games – games that are well-made, and that have personality, creativity and soul.
And so I was pumped, a couple of weeks back, to bring home a copy of Ni No Kuni, the long-awaited collaboration between Level-5 and Studio Ghibli. We’re big fans of Studio Ghibli, whose films are perfect for children: they are gorgeous, wondrous and sincere. This promised to be a fantastic game, a real game, a game that was watered with the sweat of its creators’ brows. I couldn’t wait for us to sit down and play it together.
So I’m a little chagrined to say that after one night, Ni No Kuni got kicked to the curb so we could keep playing Skylanders Giants. (more…)
Those of us who want games to cover more of the human experience sometimes lament how hard it is to make a game about the mushier sides of human life: compassion, say, or sexual attraction. How do you quantify “empathy”? Hell if I know! But here’s something that is integral to the human experience and yet very, very easy to quantify: money. (more…)
When my kid plays games, I can’t help but jump in and lecture him about something. He knows that every time he grabs the controller, I’m going to point out some mechanic, or talk about a franchise’s history, or tell him why some other game was oh so much better. Lately, I’ve been bugging him about names. The other day, after a long break, he told me he wanted to play Plants vs. Zombies. I said, “Sure. But on one condition. Do you remember the name of the designer?”
He didn’t, so I reminded him: “It was George Fan.” And then I told him to play something else. (more…)
If you listen to the kids on the playground, videogames fall under a clear division of play. Both kids and grown-ups play games on their iPhones, and older siblings have the Xbox and PlayStation. But the Nintendo DS, I’m told, is only for kids. “Daddies don’t play DS,” my kid relayed to me one time, because that’s what some classmate had told him. (more…)
Like a lot of parents, I’m obsessed with my kid’s education. Even when we play videogames, I try to steer us to titles that have even a slim thread of educational value. Machinarium teaches you to solve puzzles. Pokémon makes you do arithmetic. The kid in Papo & Yo speaks Portuguese. So, there’s a tiny flake of learning in every game we play.
The king of not-really-educational games, the behemoth that I’ve been keeping in my back pocket since the day my son was born, is the Civilization franchise. If you’re a gamer parent, you probably have it on your list as well. You save it until your kid is old enough to enjoy it and, natch, conquer it – because nothing would make you happier than watching your child master its strategies, assimilate its lessons and rise to its challenge as a player who’s empathetic, wise and strong. (more…)
Broadly speaking, kids have two kinds of play: structured and unstructured. Unstructured play is freeform make-believe. It’s what kids do when they build a house in the yard out of rocks and dead branches or play “yetis are from Pluto” on the way to school. This is the pure play that, really, only kids know how to enjoy. Soon enough, they grow a little older and turn to structured play, which is the kind that has rules. In this kind of play, you’re supposed to score points and count penalties, and if you’d rather just use your toys to make up your own stories, you’re playing like a baby.