I recently asked on twitter if there’d be an interest in having a series of articles where I would review video games through the eyes of my 2 year old daughter as she grows up. I didn’t receive enough feedback to warrant making it into a series and instead I’ll just keep it to this one shot article in which I’ll go over a few games she’s got to experience in her brief period on this planet so far. (Both as player and as spectator to me playing them)
As a father, I’ve had to take special care not to be playing anything too violent or bloody when my daughter is around as to not scar her impressionable young brain forever.
It’s for this reason that I’d been searching out some games that would be harmless for her to see in action, or if she’d be interested: even try playing herself.
The first game she saw me play like this was Rayman Legends. She very much liked the visual approach of this one and didn’t even make a fuss when I switched from her cartoons on the TV to playing this game. Daddy gets to play his videogames and my darling daughter is still entertained, the very definition of Win-Win. It didn’t take long however for her to realise there was some form of interactivity involved and that it was me controlling the on-screen character and she soon wanted to try this out for herself: “Daddy, daddy, pwease, gimme, gimme!”
I handed her the controller and she was ecstatic: “Fun! Play, play!” But it quickly dawned on her that she had no idea what to do with it. The heavy Xbox One controller clearly had more buttons than she has fingers and she wondered how in Mickey Mouse’s name she would be able to press all of them at once!
I pointed out that the analog sticks should have most of her focus and I helped her hold the controller. For her it was a fun experience just to be allowed to press the buttons on the controller. In fact I think that was entertainment enough in and of itself. But when she remembered to check the TV screen and noticed her input made Rayman run forward (and backward, and in circles… mostly circles really…) she shouted in ecstasy: “Yes! Yes! I run!”
Unfortunately, Rayman isn’t the easiest of games and she promptly ran into a pit. Or into a spiky wall. Or into piranha-filled waters. Point is: Rayman died more often than South Park’s Kenny! While she was amused with this at first, frustration began to set in as she couldn’t proceed more than a few meters into the level. I did the only responsible thing and turned on a different game.
The next game I started was Banjo-Kazooie and she was on board with this from the title screen: “Bear and Chicken! Hahaha!” I gave her the controller and she was greatly enjoying herself in the relatively safe opening level. The one downside to this game however is that it’s 3D and she kept pressing the right analog stick (camera) in one direction which made it hard not to get motion sickness from watching her “play”. Luckily for me she didn’t object (too much) when I pried the controller back from her (puny little hands) and she was also content to watch me play.
I did find extra enjoyment playing this way as we honestly had fun with me trying to beat the levels and her providing valuable feedback:
- “Oh! Crocodile! Snap! Snap! Snap!”
- “Chicken in boots! Haha! Silly chicken!”
- “Shark! Swim, Daddy, swim!” Followed by: “Daddy not swim fast enough”
- “No daddy! No jump on turtle feet!”
- “Haha! Daddy drown!” -> “ Did I mention she can be a sadistic little toddler? 🙂
A two year old’s focus only lasts so long though so I had to limit the length of the play sessions a lot more than what I’m used to. But still, it’s fun for both of us and I got rid of some backlog and found motivation in tackling some games that weren’t high priority before.
There are also some games she enjoyed of which I didn’t expect her to in advance. The first that comes to mind is Flower. I thought the precision needed for it would frustrate her, but the little one didn’t see the same “goals” as I did. She already found it more than entertaining enough to just float the flower petals on the wind. What’s more, the smaller size of the PS4 controller and the motion controls were perfect for her. She intuitively understood a lot faster what consequences her actions had and she was able to focus on the TV screen without having to look back at the controller.
It’s clear that motion controls and touchscreen controls are a lot more intuitive to grasp for people not familiar with videogames. The actions required translate much more naturally onto the screen so this is something I will keep in mind when purchasing games and systems for her in the future. Unfortunately we no longer have a Wii, but she is able to handle the iPad just fine and there are also a lot of games on it specifically targeted at the youngest gamers (Lego Duplo has a few good ones for example)
But this “experiment” of mine was more focussed on seeing how well she can deal with games intended for older audiences. A game with a very mature theme, but that she was perfectly capable of playing was Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture. Even though there are a lot of sad moments in the game, the fact that this wasn’t in her own language (we speak Dutch at home) and that the story was just told through disembodied voices made it so that she didn’t grasp what it was about. But as far as gameplay mechanics go, this was a simple enough game that I could hand her the controller and she was able to walk around just fine. All she needed were the two analog sticks and some direction from daddy as to where to go (and some reminders to press the action button)
The last game I played was for my upcoming Backwards Compatible review of Burnout Paradise. The controls for this game made it impossible for her to play it herself (she couldn’t reach the necessary buttons and the speed is too fast) but she did manage to create a new experience out of it: While I was playing she took a cushion and went to sit in front of the TV. I switched the camera to cockpit mode and she would be leaning left or right as if she was controlling the car this way. She also added a subtle “Boom! Haha!” whenever I crashed…
In the end we both had fun experiencing these games together and I can’t wait until she’s older and we can actually play the games as intended. She even played a large part in me pre-ordering a SNES Classic Mini as well as I intend to show her the evolution of gaming the same way I experienced it through the years. With a bit of luck, I have a Player 2 for years to come 🙂