The kids in my family have boring tastes in video games, and I take full responsibility for that.
Last week, my nephew John was immersed in this simple, online Flash game where you navigate a box through a maze and avoid other moving boxes. The objective was to get to the end with as few deaths as possible.
It wasn’t necessarily a bad game, but I realized that if he was willing to sink so much time into something so banal, I would rather he get into a title that provides a more meaningful experience. The same goes for his older brother, Josh, who for a time was obsessed with getting the high score in the zombie mode for Call of Duty: Black Ops. He would spend hours running away from and cutting zombies in the lead-up to the actual challenge…just to gain some sort of advantage. Sorry if that description is a little vague. When he explained to me what he was doing, I was taken aback by his immense dedication (read: boredom).
Then there’s my little brother, Sammy. He just got an iPod Touch, same as my nephews, that’s filled with free demos of generic iOS games and other time-waster apps. He’s been glued to it for weeks.
To me, their behavior seems to speak to a desire to play something engaging, original, and challenging…but they just don’t know what that is yet. I mean, they all got into New Super Mario Bros. Wii, so I can’t say that they never play good games. And Black Ops is definitely solid as well; I just think Josh plays it in a silly way. But going through the rest of their collections, it’s obvious that the boys haven’t invested a lot of resources into acquiring many other quality titles.
They aren’t the type of kids to get into the hobby enough to visit gaming sites or read the few industry magazines that are still around. They get most of their info from friends and Google. Plus, they’re all under the age of 13…so it’s not like they have a whole lot of disposable income anyways. Maybe I should just be grateful that they haven’t charged thousands of dollars to my brother’s credit card by buying fish bucks for real money in Tap Fish.
In the past, I’ve tried to get them good games for Christmas and their birthdays. They’ve at least played a bit of Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, and Pokémon: HeartGold to name a few. But there’s only so much I can do as an uncle/big brother, considering how I end up dedicating the majority of my cash towards food, gas, and titles for myself. I also don’t come around as often as I should.
When I do visit, we usually don’t make enough time to play games. And now that I see them sinking so much energy into trivial experiences, compared to what they could be playing, I’m a bit embarrassed. How can I call myself a video-game journalist when the kids in my family are predominately playing no-name freeware?
So I’m now going to work harder to expose them to more and better games. I figured a great place to start is the Humble Indie Bundle 4. If Josh can repeat the same controller inputs hundreds of times to slowly hack away at Call of Duty zombies, I hope he’ll find progressing through Super Meat Boy’s clever level design a little more rewarding. Since John is into puzzles, I think he’ll get a kick out of Cogs and Crayon Physics Deluxe (from Humble Indie Bundle 3, which is free for people who donate for Humble Bundle 4).
I’ve already got it planned out: I’ll head over to my brother’s house, set them up with a Steam account, install all the games, and play through some to whet their appetites. I’m excited for them to try out Bit.Trip Runner, Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony (their first shoot-em-up!), VVVVVV, and Cave Story Plus. I’m anxious, actually. Who knows if my nephews will keep playing after I leave, but at least they’ll have options.
As for Sammy, well, he doesn’t really have access to a gaming PC, so I think I’ll continue my tradition of hooking him up with the classics. He missed out on Super Mario Galaxy back when it was full retail price, and he doesn’t care the least bit if he’s playing way behind the curve. So now, I find myself quite thankful for the budget-priced Nintendo Selects series.
And to think, all of this is going to cost me less than 30 bucks! It’s a small price to pay for some quality games. And the assurance I’ll get from knowing the kids in my family aren’t wasting their youth playing crap (or at least will have some alternatives) is really priceless.