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Play Like You're Five

Sean Sands | 8 Mar 2009 14:00
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He seemed to often forget entirely that there were precious stars waiting at the end of elaborate areas to be gathered. He didn't move ever forward, so much as he moved kind of sideways, scuttling in a zig-zag to some sort of conclusion. Together, often with my help, we would meander through the lush country sides of these games until we happened upon the goals more by accident than intention.

Where I played the game, he played in the game.

That's an important distinction to make, and it goes to the idea of emergent gameplay that developers are always going on about. Thinking about it makes me wonder, looking back, if I didn't completely misinterpret my time spent playing those other games, like GTA 4, like Fallout 3, like Burnout Paradise, like World of WarCraft.

Were it not so violent and vicious, how would my son have played Fallout 3 if he had been at the controls instead of me? Would he have had more fun than I did, coming away with a fulfilled experience not diminished by preconceived notions and completionist urges? I think almost certainly he would. How many different diversions would he have found, that I blew past, far too preoccupied with the next checkmark on my completed quests tab?

In a way, he had to drag me kicking and screaming to his point of view. When we played Lego Indiana Jones, I would grow impatient, ready to move forward as he battled never ending waves of Nazi Legos or jumped his Lego motorcycle off a cliff just to see what happened. I felt the weight of the goal on my head. He felt the joy of play lift his spirits.

I try to do that with more of my games now. I allow myself to be distracted, to occasionally fail or die just to see what happens, to not be so narrowly focused on maximizing my score to time ratio. And, I can't help but feel like that philosophy has made a lot more of the games I've played recently a lot more fun.

All I'm saying is, if you haven't had the opportunity to play like you're a five year-old lately, you may be missing out.

Sean Sands is the co-founder of, a professional copywriter and father of two kids. That makes him the third most mature person in the house.

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