“Dad, can I play on your computer too?” – this phrase from the lips of a small child can simultaneously please the parent and horrify him. Few dare to immediately answer: “Of course you can” – if the child is only four years old, and especially if he has never played before. In general, nothing. Yes, in the last article I wrote how Egor and I went through King’s Bounty, but then he acted only as an observer and advisor. Now the child wanted to play himself, without intermediaries. Yes, somehow differently I imagined the phrase “Chick flies out of the nest.”
I cannot say that my son’s desire surprised me greatly. What else to expect if he sees from the cradle how I spend many hours in front of the computer when I work or play something. It is quite logical that my hobby aroused his interest and desire to do the same thing that an adult does. Young children constantly copy their parents, imitate their demeanor, repeat the words or phrases they once heard. With games, the situation is absolutely the same, only there is a small nuance, which I did not attach much importance to at first – this is the difference in the gaming experience. In this article I will tell you how I opened the door to the gaming industry for my son and why it is still too early to become a gamer at this age.
Choosing a device
Of course, I didn’t let Yegor play on my computer. Firstly, for me it is still a working tool that will still be useful to me. Secondly, a large keyboard with a bunch of buttons and a computer mouse are far from the most user-friendly set of devices for a novice four-year-old gamer. After a little thought, I decided that it would be easier (and calmer for everyone) to start from the basics, namely, with the classic eight-bit joystick. My acquaintance with games began with the Dendy console, so this option seemed quite logical to me. Fortunately, I still have a suitable device at my disposal.
On a recent birthday, my brother gave me a portable 8-bit console with 400 wired games. For a while I indulged in nostalgia, but then this wonderful device was removed for a long time in a drawer. Removed but not forgotten! The console proved to be a great tool for an introductory course for a young gamer. She has few buttons, a simple interface, and a child will definitely not break anything, even by pressing a random key combination. Games there are also simple, just for children. Well, that’s exactly what I mistakenly thought at first. Spoiler alert: This is not the case at all.
Bad experience with Contra and first difficulties
When I gave Yegor the console, for some reason I decided that a simple explanation in the style of “go with this button, and this one – shoot” would be enough. I also, without a second thought, managed to launch Contra for him – a game that I myself barely played only in my best years. The very first launch showed that a child’s lack of gaming experience completely destroys the whole concept of learning. At the age of four, he still simply does not understand how the game works, who the character is, why this flying red dot can harm him, how to dodge, aim, etc. He can easily press buttons (sometimes even on a topic), but with by combining them, great problems arose. For example, in order to shoot diagonally or in a jump – all these maneuvers in the game turned out to be at an unbearable level for him.
While playing Contra, he often got lost from what was happening on the screen, began to panic and thoughtlessly press all the buttons at once. Of course, this led to a quick loss and, as a result, tantrums with a request to “re-enable”. In general, the child received a completely different experience that I had hoped for. My son had only a joystick in his hands, but he felt the way I would have felt in the Boeing’s cockpit. The game turned out to be too difficult, although I tried to explain everything to him over and over again. In the end, we even tried to play in pairs: I walked as a character, and he shot or jumped. It turned out a little better, but still terrible. As a result, Yegor was upset and asked to include something else.
And then the question arose: what kind of game can a child turn on so that he, firstly, was interested, and secondly, so that he could play at least a little without receiving the GAME OVER inscription immediately after launch? At first I thought of downloading something on my smartphone, but quickly gave up on the idea. I would not like to get into such a habit, and the buttons are easier for the child to control than with the touch screen. I decided to look through all 400 games on the console and choose those that would be within his power. And you know what? Easier said than done.
Galaga and almost Mortal Kombat
I hadn’t thought about it before, but it turned out that the vast majority of such games do not cope with the role of “entry point” for novice gamers (or children) at all. Almost every one has some kind of mechanic that forces the player to act, not allowing him to relax. The simplest example is a timer that counts down the time it takes to complete a level. I almost did not find games in which you can calmly figure out the controls and try to press different buttons just to get comfortable with the gameplay. From the very first seconds, someone flies at you, runs, shoots, catches up or fights. You cannot just stand still – you need to dodge or run away, hurry to reach the finish line, jump over pits with spikes, etc.
To begin with, we launched Galaga and tried to play it in pairs: I was in control of the ship, and Yegor was shooting. Unlike Contra, there was no need to jump, and the game itself did not require simultaneous pressing of buttons for any actions. We managed to play, but after a few fights the son got bored of constantly pressing one button and asked for something new, but with the proviso “I want it myself”. At that moment, I remembered how, as a child, I worked with friends in Mortal Kombat, started a fight with two players, but took the opponent’s character into a corner and left AFK. Here I decided to crank up the same scheme. However, instead of “Mortal Kombat” I chose a more cartoonish TMNT: Tournament Fighting, where you can fight each other with ninja turtles, Shredder, Casey and a couple of other characters. I even found a second joystick for the console so that everything could be conveniently launched.
It turned out to be more fun to play the fighting game, because Egor was able to push a lot of different buttons and understand what actions they are responsible for. At first, I doubted whether he should even be given a game in which to fight, but my son liked to jump back and forth on the screen more than swinging his fists and legs. We jumped together, played catch-up, and overall it was quite a fun pastime. Sometimes I changed heroes for him and myself, so that the game would not get bored so quickly. It turned out that it was much more fun for him to jump for Donatello, although something tells me that the difference between all the characters was purely decorative.
Motorcycle racing and good old “Tanchiki”
After the fighting games, I invited my son to try another game that I also loved as a child – Excitebike. Most of all I liked it because it was possible to build your own track in it, which sometimes took much longer than the race itself. This game also has a timer, but it does not count down the time until the end of the race, but works like a stopwatch. That is, only the player himself decides whether to rush to the finish line or not. Also in Excitebike there is a single mode, but there is no limit on accidents or other semblance of “lives” here. If the character falls, then almost immediately rises and continues the race. In general, such conditions suited us perfectly. I started the game, showed Egor which button to press to overclock, and gave him the opportunity to play himself. Sometimes his racer would roll funny over his head, but this only amused his son. Each time the motorcyclist returned to the track as if nothing had happened. Well, what could be nicer and more fun for a four-year-old who loves to ride a balance bike himself?
I soon remembered another childhood game that had a built-in editor. True, it was not a race track that had to be built there, but a tank training ground. Of course, I’m talking about the cult Tank 1990. Yegor liked the concept of “war in“ Tanks ”right away, but the standard maps turned out to be too complicated for him. He has not yet fully mastered the control and mechanics of the simultaneous operation of the crosspiece with buttons, but here the game already has a lot of nuances: enemy tanks, a base that must be protected, brick and concrete walls, water that cannot be passed through, etc. It is not easy even for an experienced gamer to predict the actions of enemy tanks and repel attacks from all fronts in time, let alone a child. Luckily, the map editor helped out again. First of all, I surrounded the headquarters with a double layer of concrete so that no one would destroy it. Then he fenced off the opponents with a river across the entire map, and for Egor he built several fortifications of concrete and bricks. When the card was ready, the son could play peacefully for his own pleasure. He especially liked to hide in bushes or “gnaw” passages in brick walls.
I gradually improved the maps, adding more decorative elements to them. Sometimes he gave enemy tanks more room to maneuver, but the headquarters were always reliably protected with concrete. Often Egor hid in the bushes and fired from there aimed fire at one point, shooting enemies like in a shooting range. Yes, sometimes his tank was also destroyed, but it seemed to me that this only provoked my son. Yegor also understood the trick with the enhancements that arose after the enemy was knocked out. They appeared all over the map, and I was happy to note that Yegor was already more confident with the cross when he drove after them. Once he got so strong that he was able to shoot through concrete barriers and accidentally destroyed his headquarters. Well, it happens, what is really here.
Is the first step done?
Overall, I liked the experience of playing this game together with my son. Someone may say that a small child does not need this at all – “it’s better to play football in the yard”. I believe that a child needs to be developed comprehensively, and the main task of a parent is not to kick him out into the street, but to respond to his interests, to tell and explain how different things work in the world. Especially video games, which now seem to him to be something incredibly cool. We spent no more than an hour behind the console. Yegor played, satisfied his interest and happily forgot about her. Still, at the age of four, it is still difficult for him to fully enjoy the gameplay. Now he has other priorities, and he likes active games more, so that you can run around, get drunk with friends on the court and throw out the energy accumulated during the day. But when, in a few years, he invites me to play with him in a party, I will definitely agree. Who knows, maybe then he will have to teach me how to play.