Think of the Children: Their Opinion Matters
I walked into the toy room where my 5 year-old son was quietly playing his Nintendo DS. His thumbs darted over the buttons and he licked his lips which was a clear sign he was very into his game. I sat down next to him and asked, “What are you playing, buddy?” I looked down at the screen and saw Hello Kitty dart across the screen to some objective, and he said “Hello Kitty!”
He was playing Hello Kitty Big City Dreams. The words were boiling up inside me, and I stopped myself before blurting out, “You shouldn’t play that. That’s a stupid game.” I’m happy I didn’t.
Almost opened my big dumb mouth
I realized before opening my “bladdermouth,” as my son has called me, I really didn’t have any grounds to say such a thing. I also realized that this is a common reaction by any gamer when presented with a game he or she didn’t know or just “looked dumb.” Hello Kitty is not a character or cartoon I really find myself watching or relating to, and I couldn’t really say the game was stupid because I didn’t know anything about the mechanics of the game. I was about to make the mistake of shaping my son’s perspective of video games based on my personal opinion as an adult and with no knowledge of the actual game he was playing.
I was putting my tastes in video games before his at that moment. I like a wide variety of games, and I have my preference in platforms for each genre. I like the RPG, RTS, FPS, simulation, action, adventure, and even simple arcade games like Pinball FX2. I also assumed that games I knew about were better because I was more informed than my son about games. How could a Hello Kitty game be better than the games I played or have seen him play to this point? This is the same kid that loves to play LEGO Batman or Minecraft!
I learn a lot from my son
I constantly ask parents to give their children a chance when it comes to video games. I want parents to take interest in what their children are doing even if that means you don’t “get it” or necessarily approve. So I sat next to him for a few moments and watched him play. It turns out the game is pretty thorough for a children’s game.
Hello Kitty moves into an apartment to live on her own, and she must work in the city to be able to go from a small apartment to the luxurious penthouse in The Big City. Does that sound like any games we’ve played before? He performed tasks for friends and strangers to earn friendship points, and those points could be turned around to purchase new clothes, rooms, themes, and more. The mini-games grew more difficult as he completed each task, and I realized how closely this related to games even like Skyrim. Even those games have arbitrary flower picking quests in which I’m paid in gold to use to buy supplies or even a house. At least in this game, when he was doing the dishes for a friend he was learning valuable lessons about helping and responsibilities. In Skyrim, you delay or ignore your responsibility as Dragonborn by helping people with little odd jobs. Suddenly his game had more urgency than Skyrim.
As I watched him play and make those connections it came clear to me I was short-sighted at first, and I was proud of him at the same time. He didn’t look at the pink and purple colors or fluffy characters and write off the game. He looked at what the game offered him, and he found it entertaining and plays it for that reason – the right reason. If any one person, or thing, in that room was stupid that day, it was me.
Support your child
After watching him play and listen to him explain the game to me in his words, I got up and went about my day. It’s funny as a parent when your children surprise you. I didn’t expect to learn a little about my behavior, or my son, when I came into the room to check on what he’s doing. I was proud of the boy. Later on, when I was doing chores around the house to earn “husband points,” he flagged me down.I stopped and asked, “What is it?”
With a big smile on his face he said, “I can buy a new floor in my building!”
“Good job!” I smiled back. “I’m proud of you!”
I couldn’t be happier.
Think of the Children is an ongoing series looking at the different issues we face as influential parties concerning children and the video game industry.
Giant Bomb (images)