As reported in my love letter to BioShock 2, my family recently needed to make room for a third player on our gaming couch. Our new baby girl is awe-inspiring, amazing, and beautiful, but she has also drastically changed how we play games. I've quickly learned that some games are perfectly suited for this new life of mine, but many others are diametrically opposed. It takes a special kind of game to either fit into our new hectic schedule, teach us a valuable life lesson, or help prepare our child for the road ahead.
Here are the best and worst of them.
5 Best Games for New Parents
Dead Rising 2 is perfect instruction manual for new parents, yet somehow Capcom has forgotten to advertise it as such. It teaches you that you must put your children first, no matter the personal sacrifice involved. You are all that stands between them and the cold, harsh world. Only you can protect them. Only you can stand up for them. Only you can save them.
I'm not talking about Katie and her Zombrex medication, of course, but the tender fatherly role protagonist Chuck has to fill each time he tries to lead a survivor back to the safe room:
"Okay, does everyone have their bat? Billy, get your bat. Pick it up. We won't leave until you have your bat. There, good boy. OK, now, everyone stay with me, and do not stop and talk to strangers. Alright, here we go, and…what? You have to stop by the bathroom already? I told you to save before we left!"
Infants have no wants, only needs. They need to sleep, they need to be comforted, and above all else, they need to be fed. It is because of this latter need that we are left with one solid truth: Babies. Love. Topless women.
God of War 3 and Dante's Inferno are happy to provide. Who can blame them? After all, what better represents humanity's ability to provide for their children than feeding and giving sustenance? These special women embody that strong bond between a mother and her child. It is a thing of beauty.
Wait, why do you like them so much? Perv.
Brütal Legend carries with it an important lesson for all parents: Children are a work in progress. You may have certain expectations for them, but you must always remember that they are learning about themselves just as much as you are learning about them.
Brütal Legend: "Dad… I have something to tell you. I've felt this way for some time, but I finally feel like it's time I told someone. I don't think I'm an action platformer. I think I am…well, I'm an RTS."
Dad: "GASP! Does your mother know?!"
Mom: "Yeah, I read previews. Pay attention."
Dad: "This is such a surprise. But I still love you, son."
Brütal Legend: "…Also, all my side-quests are repetitive."
Red Dead Redemption tells a brutal story of the Old West. It shows humanity at its worst, in all of its backstabbing glory. People are subjugated. Souls are trampled under the boot of progress. At the end of the day, money is the only authority.
In the midst of all of this brutality, however, there is one shining lesson to be learned from this game — a lesson that all parents should, nay, must impart on their children: "If someone kills daddy, YOU HUNT THEM DOWN, AND YOU SHOOT THEM IN THE FACE UNTIL THEY STOP MOVING."
Super Meat Boy is the perfect game for new parents. Between changing diapers, feeding, rocking, swaying, and swaddling, you are going to find yourself thankful for any extra five seconds you find in the day.
This amount of time just happens to be the length of a Super Meat Boy level. On top of this, one of Super Meat Boy's greatest achievements is its ability to quickly load a level after a death. Who knows, maybe you'll be able to try the level twice before you have to go figure out why the baby just started screaming like a maniac!
Check out Ben's surprising list of the five worst games for new parents on page 2.
5 Worst Games for New Parents
5. Super Meat Boy
Two of the most defining characteristics of our species are our ability to learn and our ability to communicate. Scientists have been able to use fossil records to trace back to when our species began to develop a more advanced form of speech, allowing our ancestors to set themselves apart from the grunts of the average animal. It was a huge step in our evolution. Equally important, our brains have also grown over the past millenniums, allowing us to think and learn from our environment.
By combining these two traits, young children are virtual sponges for learning speech. Everything you say around them is recorded, analyzed, and put to use, be it "hello," "don't touch that hot thing," or "I love you."
Or, in my case, they can learn "MOTHERF@#$@ING SAWBLADES, I WILL STICK A F@#$@ING SAWBLADE UP YOUR SAWBLADE A#$ IF YOU DONT BACK THE F@#$@ OFF."
Defining gender roles is a difficult topic for parents. Subconsciously, are we giving our boys violent toys and our girls nurturing toys? Is it necessary to find balance and make our children play with both "masculine" and "feminine" toys? Or is it better to promote one side of the spectrum over another, if only to aid in our children's ability to conform to what society expects of them?
Whatever the case, in the infinite list of gender questions, I think we can all agree that the answer is "no" to the question "Should we let baby girl see daddy cry because mommy keeps running ahead, causing the stupid game to move the screen and push daddy off a cliff to his death?"
3. Halo: Reach
Halo: Reach tells the story of a planet's last breath. It is an epic tale of humanity taking a stand against unbeatable odds. In the midst of chaos, six noble soldiers rise up against the horde of enemies and hold the line just long enough to make salvation possible.
It also tells our children they're going to die.
What's that, dear? Think you're a super soldier who can survive anything? Sorry, that's not how "life" rolls. Do you think your parents or friends will find a way to save you from obliteration? Muy triste, pero muerte. Did you think that, at the last possible second, you might survive?
Nope. Gonna die. Get used to it, kids.
You slept four hours last night, and you really think you have time for a 40-hour RPG? That's cute.
1. Alan Wake
Certain games can be bad for new parents because they take too much time or they run the risk of teaching our children harsh realities long before they are ready for them. In the end, however, one game threatens to destroy what little semblance of sanity we have left in our lives if our children are exposed to it….
Little Suzie sits up in her bed, trembling. "DADDY!" she yells, and in a few minutes her father shows up at the door.
"What's wrong, kiddo?"
"There is a monster in the dark!" she says, her eyes wide with terror.
"Awww, don't be silly. You know there is nothing to be afraid of in the dark."
Suddenly, a man wearing a tweed jacket with leather elbow pads bursts into the room. He is carrying three flashlights and 30 pounds of batteries, and he's followed by an overweight man covered in Christmas lights.
"ARE YOU INSANE?" The man gasps. "WHY ARE YOU LYING TO HER? WHY IS IT SO DARK IN THIS ROOM? TAKE A FLASHLIGHT! IT'S OUR ONLY HOPE FOR SURVIVAL! CAN'T YOU SEE THEM? RIGHT NOW, OUTSIDE YOUR WINDOW! NEXT TO THAT TREE!"
The father looks worried and glances out the window. "Now, calm down, let's not get Suzie scared…. Wait, out by the tree? No, there's nothing there, just like there isn't anything under the bed or in the closet. This afternoon I was taking care of some leaves outside — maybe I left the tools in the yard…."
Alan Wake stares intently at the man. "It's not a rake…."