GAMING MOM KARELIA EMERALDEYES OFFERS INSIGHT AND ADVICE ON WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BATTLE MONSTERS IN-GAME AND AT HOME
Welcome back, lovelies!
As I mentioned last time I have quite the age range among my kids, with my youngest being 5 years old and my oldest recently turned 15. In the summer months, these heathens are on break from school and thus in non-stop “go” mode from about 7:30 AM until I beat them into submission in the final throes of the witching hour. Between meals, trips to the park, reading books and chunks of time spent in their rooms reflecting on poor life choices, my little beasts see quite a bit of gaming time. We have a PS4, a PS3, a Wii-U, an original Wii, 3 computers, and the combined number of handheld games and tablets easily exceeds a googleplex. Yet somehow the kids are constantly battling over who gets to play which system. Each of them has an ever-changing favorite game or activity that naturally happens to correspond to the same system their sister is currently playing on. After a particularly frustrating day of maneuvering the minefield of my childrens’ happiness, I found myself pondering how in the world it all got so complicated. What happened to the days when I would sit at the computer and smile as they blissfully entertained themselves with blocks in the playpen? I realized it had been an evolution over time, and I’d like to share my astounding wisdom with you! Thus I present:
The 7 Stages of Gaming “With” Children
Stage 1: This is Mommy’s game
Easy enough. New parents have a plethora of time to themselves to do nothing but relax and enjoy their time on the… BAAAHAHAHHAA!! Sorry, I couldn’t keep a straight face there. New parents rarely, if ever, have real amounts of time to enjoy themselves, but in those precious moments when the stars align, the baby is napping, and you miraculously aren’t tired enough to sleep through a hurricane, there is a fairly clear distinction between Mommy’s computer game and little Tony’s beeping toy phone. This will not last.
Stage 2: The Fake Controller
Oh, don’t look at me like that. You know you’ve done it. Even if you aren’t a parent, everyone has been stuck babysitting a little brother or nephew some evening when all you wanted to do is get in a quick match (or twelve) of Mario Kart. The easiest way to manage this while a miniature human grapples for you controller while screaming “ME PLAY! ME PLAY!” is to just let them have one of their own! Who cares if it’s an old Gamecube controller that hasn’t worked in years? Simply take the end of the cord and stuff it under a pillow or something so the kid can’t see that it’s not connected, hand over the controller and be on your merry blue-shell-chuckin’ way! Be sure to occasionally offer congratulations on a good hit, or remind them to hit the A button to speed up!
Stage 3: The Real Controller
Inevitably, the little shits will realize that something is fishy when they’re frantically pushing the joystick left and the character jumps off a cliff instead. The jig is up. Needless to say, this can cause quite a problem. You tricked them! You MONSTER! They are probably telling Santa on you as we speak. The only way to make up for this egregarious breach of trust, of course, is to actually let them play. For real this time. This works much better on console games that feature a multiplayer mode. Computer games are fine too, if the controls are easy enough. This stage represents the beginning of the end of using gaming as a time to bond with your children, because they have too many qualities which make them absolutely terrible gaming companions.
First, they are wiggly. Sitting on dad’s lap while gleefully clicking the button to help mine silver ore is a great bonding experience. They can see actual real-time results on the computer screen and you couldn’t be more proud! Unfortunately, pride is accompanied by growing annoyance as their tiny cartoon-sized butts keep slipping off your lap over and over (and over!)
Second, over time children begin to develop a dangerous quality called independent thinking. Why in the world should they keep mashing the A button when the X button is clearly superior in every way? You’re forced to stop being productive, and fend off their tiny fingers from hitting the buttons or keys that throw away equipment or teleport or attack the nearest monster, while simultaneously fighting to navigate menus and ensure you’re getting the right things accomplished. Not very productive.
Finally, there is no “NOIWANTTODOITSTOPTELLINGMEWHATTODO” in team. Have you ever been engrossed in watching your 3-year-old trying to chop down a virtual tree when all of a sudden a rare monster spawns? You know you only have a minute to get there before someone else kills it and the respawn counter resets to 24-36 hours. Do you patiently try to explain the urgency of your new mission? Do you pretend you didn’t see the call to arms so you don’t have to tear your little helper from their fishing spot? Or do you gently but firmly lift their squirming butt off your lap, drop them on the floor next to you and promise them ice cream for dinner if they just shut the hell up for a minute while you find the quickest route to the S-rank spawn and pray to Altana that no one pulls early?
Stage 4: Let me help you play!
This stage is reached when you’ve lost all patience with the aggravations of Stage 3 and are ready to take back your gaming time. Gaming with a child is not often conducive to accomplishing anything that actually furthers your goals. Most parents by this point have decided that enough is enough, and it’s time for the child to take on a much more important (so they believe) “advisor” role. Should we go mining for ore today or do we want to run a dungeon? Which monster to kill first? Kill it with fire or with a sword? Kids absolutely love being regarded as the expert, guiding your gameplay and making decisions about what to do next. It’s a really cool thing as a parent to know that you are helping your kid develop leadership skills and foster a love for gaming. But be careful, because this stage is actually very tricky to navigate! It’s easy to tire of doing inane tasks in order to allow your little protoge to feel helpful. You might be tempted to take a break and watch tv, letting the kid take over and trusting that pressing the 1 key repeatedly will continue to be fun and engaging. Do not do it! If you were bored, they will be too, and that’s when the REAL trouble starts! Nothing is more dangerous than an unsupervised child with the desire to be useful. Your little angel wants nothing more than to help your character become awesome and powerful. She wasn’t actually trying to drown you by diving into the deepest water in Skyrim; she thought Lydia looked thirsty. You didn’t have any water in your inventory and the 47 Potions of Ultimate Healing she used up didn’t work. And how in the world do you expect him to mine more Copper Ore if your bags are filled with this Adamantite crap? It is imperitive that if you decide you and your child are done “working together” for the day, that you step away… together. Transition to watching cartoons or napping or whatever it is that kids do when they are not up our asses (and please… let me know when you come up with something) and then return to the game on your own, and work on your real daily grind.
Stage 5: I want a character!
After acting as your advisor for a while, your child is clearly ready to take control again. Your own silly max-level character just won’t do, though. Oh no. Your child is now far superior to the drivel of your daily grind, desiring instead to create their own character. Buckle up, folks. This ride takes a while. Ever spent hours pouring over your character’s appearance and name to get just the right combination that really immerses you in the game’s world and makes you feel like a real hero? Expect that and more. Your child will perfect their first character quickly – until they don’t like it anymore. Changing just the eyes isn’t enough. They need to try out every race, every gender, every class until they inevitably settle on their first choice all over again. Congratulations! Your little child is a big bad gamer! Unleashed into the world to explore and fight and… oh… what’s that? They can’t read very well yet? You’ll begin reading every single word of dialogue out loud while they click madly to speed it up, angry that you’re not reading faster. Now they have their first quest! Way to go! Be sure to help them figure out how to read the map and locate the… Oh. I can do it myself, they say? Fantastic! Looks like you’ve got some time to go sit down and watch an episode of …. Uh oh. Looks like he got stuck behind a table. Better go help out. You may wanna block that chat log, too. You know how people can be. No, sweetie. You can’t type to every single person you see asking for gold. It’s not okay to spam the angry emote at every orc on the screen. Let’s just go watch Barney or some shit, okay? Jesus.
Stage 6: Let’s play together!
Once your child actually does unravel the convoluted world of walking and interacting with NPCs, they will without a doubt want to share it with you. All of it. With you. Only you. They want to do every quest together, mine together, level characters together, explore the world together! This is actually kind of an awesome stage, since the kids are semi-independent and just want to be with you. You watch them get better at skills, work out combination attacks and puzzle out how to complete quests efficiently. It’s time to impart all the knowledge you’ve got stored in your brain. They are ready and willing to be young Padawans! Before you know it they are teenagers and they shift into…
Stage 7: !337$p34k
This stage actually takes hold around age 12. Your special little snowflake has mastered every aspect of every game they’ve ever played and everyone else is uneducated trash. Seriously. At this point you may as well just get them a WoW subscription and lock the bedroom door. There’s no turning back. Deez d00ds hav m4d sk1llz, and can pwn ur n00b /-\55.
Stage 7 eventually transcends into more sophisticated styes of speech which actually say the exact same asenine things, until they turn about 25 or meet a real live girl. I’ll let you know if my son lives that long.
<3 Until next time