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Play Like a 3-Year-Old

Wendy Despain | 20 May 2008 13:13
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"This isn't a videogame," he said in that accusatory tone only 3-year-olds can truly master. "This is a movie. I don't want a movie. I want a game." The interminable introductory cinematics weren't even half over at that point. I grabbed the controller and started trying to figure out how to skip them. Every time I skipped one it just went to another section of the cinematic. Then another. He didn't wait around for the gameplay to start.

"Come on," he said. "Let's go hunt worms." He knew the rain from last night would leave earthworms squirming on the sidewalks and he could count on the thrill of the (short) hunt and a satisfactory payoff, proving his bravery by picking them up with his own two fingers and depositing them in a pickle jar. Way better than any of the videogames in my stack.

Carter isn't my only nephew who likes videogames. When I go visit my nephew Trevor I get to spend as many hours as I want playing videogames. We both enjoy it, and my sister considers it quality family time, so everybody wins. He's not 3 years old anymore, but that's when the tradition got its start. His drug of choice was Spider-Man on the computer. He sat on my lap and "helped" by telling me what to do and where to go. Then when we got to a fun part, he would take over the mouse and keyboard and do his thing.

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His favorite thing to do was watch Spider-Man shooting webs and swinging around through the city. The physics and graphics were excellent, and you could really get a thrill from it. I liked playing that section, too, so I had no complaints. But this kid knew the game inside and out. Once, when we'd gotten part way through the narrative and were swinging around for fun, I heard someone calling for help. "Ah ha," I thought. "We're supposed to go that way and find someone and beat up the bad guys." So I turned in that direction.

Trevor was quick to correct me. "No," he said. "Don't go that way."

The rest of the conversation went something like this:

"But it sounds like a lady needs our help," I said.
"Yeah, some bad guys stole her purse on top of a building over there."
"Why was she on top of a building with a purse?"
"I don't know."
"Well, shouldn't we go help her?"
"No, nothing bad will happen to her if we leave them alone."
"Are you sure? They're bad guys, and they stole her purse."
"Yeah, but they just stand there and wait for Spider-Man to come. They don't do anything else."
"Don't you want to make Spider-Man fight them?"
"Yeah, but he doesn't fight them very long and he can't win."
"That's dumb."
"Yeah. Go the other way."

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