My four-year-old daughter likes to play video games with me. Well…mostly she just watches, but occasionally I let her run around in circles for a while. She watched nervously as I maneuvered dark corridors in Dead Space, yelled directions at me when I couldn't figure out what to do in Limbo and The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, and assured me she wouldn't say any of the naughty words that came out of Nathan Drake's mouth in Uncharted.
Most of our play sessions are peppered with a line of questioning that I need to constantly field…
"Why's that guy crying?"
"His friend was kidnapped by the bad pirate."
"Why are those guys shooting at you?"
"Uh, they're just bad guys."
…and so on. But as we played Journey, thatgamecompany's (flOw, Flower) newest release, the questioning slowly died. For awhile she asked them, but I honestly had no information for her. We were on the same page for once, and when she realized that I knew just as little as she did, she stopped asking.
Inquiries about who I was and where I was going slowly tapered off into simultaneous discovery and wonderment. The girl who never stopped turning to me for answers, just took to announcing what we were both thinking instead.
"More ribbon guys!"
"Where'd your friend go? I hope he's OK."
"Those ribbon guys are helping you fly way up high!"
"Oh no! Quick! Hide from the dragon!"
And quite frequently a very simple but descriptive, "Woooooooooooooooooooow."
For the first time ever I wasn't playing the role of teacher during our gaming session. We were both experiencing it together and having conversations about it as we went. She decided that even though we needed to hide from the dragons, she hoped that they were alright once we made it past because their other dragon friends might want to see them. The concept that my fellow journeying companions weren't necessarily my friends, but just passing strangers that helped me along the way was also discussed in quite a bit of detail.
Granted, any deeper analysis of the game that is currently floating around in my head upon completion likely isn't doing the same in hers — and I still fail to see how the glowing white guides throughout my adventure resembled penguins — but for about 90 minutes, my daughter and I connected with video games in a brand new way. One that I thought wouldn't occur until she was significantly older.
The power to transcend age groups and mean something to both a child and someone over two decades their elder is something very few games can claim to have done. Actually, it's probably something very few games even strive for. I couldn't even say for sure if thatgamecompany set out with that goal, but their visual storytelling that only demands of the player what they are willing to put into it also happened to be the key to creating a great memory for a father and his daughter. For me that's 15 dollars well spent.
GamesBeat 2014 — VentureBeat’s sixth annual event on disruption in the video game market — is coming up on Sept 15-16 in San Francisco. Purchase your ticket now to save $200!