Over the past couple months, I’ve decided to let the kids try their hands at video games every once in a while. My public reason is that it improves their hand-eye coordination and teaches them valuable skills. The real reason is that I love video games, and I’m hoping that it will be much easier to persuade my wife that we need a new game if 3 of us ask her. This has definitely been an interesting process, and please keep in mind that the kids are only 5 and 3.
Since I normally play a Playstation 3, I started them out with the most kid-friendly game that we own on that platform: Little Big Planet. They actually picked up on the major controls pretty quickly, but there were a few problems. One was that the Playstation controller is just too big for their hands.
With that in mind, I decided to dust off our Wii (which has smaller controllers) and break out Super Mario Brothers? What better way to learn video games. After all, this is the game that I originally learned how to play on about 25 years ago. I was a little older than they are, but they’re much smarter than I was, so it should even out. Another bonus is that they can play 2 players on the screen at the same time instead of having to wait for the other one to finish before it’s their turn.
I set it up for them, showed them the major controls, and then turned them loose…they both promptly ran into the first Goomba on the screen. I decided to show them the basics again. I told them that the goal was to jump on the Goombas, and I even showed them the “jump” button again…they immediately ran into the first Goomba again. I restarted the training again…they ran into the Goomba. I helped them hold the controller…they ran into the Goomba. I told them when to jump..they ran into the Goomba.
I was starting to get a little frustrated because they’re both very smart kids. When they played Little Big Planet, they were both able to jump over obstacles right away. Now, it didn’t even seem like they were trying.
I was thinking about just shutting the game off, but then I started to notice something. Every time they ran into the Goomba, they would break out into pure laughter. I’m not talking about that half-hearted laughter that kids sometimes break out to make it look like their having fun. I’m talking about the full-body, infectious, having the time of their life laughter. It’s the kind of laughter that just lights up a room and warms the heart.
They both knew exactly how to jump onto the Goomba. I have no doubt that if they would have tried, they could have passed the first level within an hour. They just didn’t care. They were having a great time running into the first obstacle of the game. They were loving every second of it, and they didn’t care that the Princess was rotting away in Bowser’s castle. She will probably die an old, lonely woman if she has to depend on these two to save her.
That’s when I realized that it didn’t really matter. Who cares if they pass the level? Would it really matter at all? On the other hand, it would have been a real shame to force them to move on or shut the game off. They were having too good of a time accomplishing nothing. Once I realized that and just sat back to watch the show, I started having a great time too. Let them enjoy what they’re doing. They’ll have plenty of time to accomplish goals later on in life.