294: Anything But Child's Play

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Anything But Child's Play

Steve Butts may play games for a living, but things don't really get serious until his five-year-old son gets involved.

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I am now replaying Kingdom Hearts, and it's funny to see all the things that spellbound me as a kid but now bore me, and the things that I didn't even notice back then but are now fascinating.

This article got me thinking about my younger brother (about to turn 5). It appears that your son and my brother (I'm just going to assume their ages are relatively close), despite their proximity in age (i.e. demographic), have entirely different reasons for enjoying the kinds of games they enjoy. My brother plays video games simply because he likes to win. He REALLY likes to win.

When at home, I occasionally catch him playing a flash game (based off whatever cartoon he happens to be enthralled with at the time) with this incredibly intense look on his face. He cheers when he wins and gets incredibly irritable and frustrated if he loses (most of those games you can't actually "lose" mind you). I found this extremely frustrating when I tried to get him to play some of the games I grew up on (Sonic and Mario among other things) and found that it just pissed him off. When I was his age I played these (much harder) games and never got very far, but that didn't matter. I had fun just playing the game (whatever my reasons were), but he just can't handle losing.

I can't imagine how he'll be if he continues this behavior into his teenage years. I would hate to see him turn into one of those generic Xbox Live kids we all dread, or even worse... a tournament player (ewww).

Anyway, good read. Its nice to shine light on a concept gamers seem to forget (or simply don't understand).

Steve Butts:
Part of it is the complete lack of pretense in my children's imaginary worlds, where cowboys and dragons and rockets and superspies can exist side-by-side, unshackled by genre boundaries or "mature" expectations.

i feel like i just had an epiphany here...
when we're forcing games to grow up and have all these high expectations of their narrative and such, then that is where we are not thinking of the children, not when we make violent videogames where you can shoot someone square in the nuts. videogames have always been about escapism and having fun, when we try to force our games to be mature and "grow up" they end up like Grand Theft Auto 4.

why should all the genres have to be separate and distinct from one another? why not cowboys and ninjas and aliens all rolled into one (Just Cause 2 did it fairly well with superspies, ninjas, jet planes, and rockets)?

Errr... HTML error in the last few paragraphs that italicized everything starting at Force Unleashed.

I know there are a lot of games that I enjoy that some people can't stand, for various reasons. If I'm able to lose myself in it and become invested in the story, I'm having fun. I also think that if I can sit and near-mindlessly play a game and come out of a daze hours later and realize how much time I just spent playing, that is when I've reached a sort of gaming Nirvana.

Kinda reminds me of my motivation to play games. While for some I enjoy the storyline or an imaginative gameplay mechanic, the underlying part is that it's damn good fun.

If I'm enjoying a game I really couldn't care less if it looks like arse or is really unintuitive and difficult.

Interesting article indeed. Should games be far more focused on the fun? They may not do so well with some reviewers, who only seem to be bothered by good storytelling and easy/intuitive gameplay these days, but the sheer fun aspect should get far more success with their target market, the kids.

Oh, and Plants vs. Zombies is fucking awesome. I use a chilli for one zombie...although admittedly only if I have surplus fun.

Oh....I've just realised....I do focus more on the goal these days. I'm growing up, not playing just for fun any more...

That makes me sad =/

Good article,my little one just fires the birds in angry birds straight at the groung or up in the air & gets more of a buzz than hitting the castles.
We all like games for different reasons,its why i used to by 4 diffent review mags in my teens,to get a broader view of peoples opinions.

Good article,my little one just fires the birds in angry birds straight at the groung or up in the air & gets more of a buzz than hitting the castles.
We all like games for different reasons,its why i used to by 4 diffent review mags in my teens,to get a broader view of poples opinions.

This happened to me playing through pokemon both young and old. before I caught what I liked and thought were cool. the stats were arbitrary numbers that meant nothing. It was a blast to grind my feraligatr to level 100. now I know and understand the stats, that some pokemon are just better. Type advantages mean everything, and I can EV train my Golom's special defense. grinding is a chore, the magic and mystery is gone now that I understand. The games are still fun to me, and I still play them. But I'll never re-capture the simplistic Pleasures I once had with the games.

I remember a game called Genewars...it was made by Bullfrog and came out...mid-90s or so I think? Somewhere thereabouts. Anyway, I remember just playing this game on and on in my early teenage years. It was just so delightfully wierd, like an RTS only a hell of a lot wackier. It had units, but the most efficient way to make more units wasn't to produce them from factories, but to breed them (since the units were animals of 5 different types and even moreso, you could interbreed them so as to get for example a birdmule that was an airborne carrier unit)

And damn it got messy. Plus you had to raise plants to feed them too, or at least give them fresh carcasses. It was unlike anything I'd ever played before. The mechanics were frustrating to no end too. It really was a mess of a game when it came to the mechanics, so frustrating that I'm sure it deterred many players from giving it so much as a second glance. But when I was in those years, I steamrollered all the way to the final end of the game. The very shoddy gameplay just didn't matter...the context and the setting and the idea of it all...was just so beautiful to me.

A year ago or so I popped its disk into my old computer for nostalgia's sake. I liked it...but I couldn't get past the 6th stage. The mechanics just got to me. Oh sure, I still thought about it fondly afterwards but...I just didn't feel as if I wanted to make the effort anymore. Maybe if I had more time or simply more enthusiasm...less worries about the future and more living in the here and now? Who knows. But age certainly doesn't just add something to the way we experience the world...it also takes something away too. Though, it takes more with some and less with others I guess.

Nice article indeed.

I have to agree based on that, which kids invest 100% interest into the Game. They get very motivated by watching it especially being played by their father because he is the figure that the child looks up to. I personally found this to be a really nice Article overall and thus was worth reading. My favorite part was the Zombies, I mean that kid was so into it I just have to praise the parent for playing a Game to have fun with their child honestly.

However, most cases now kids that aren't even teenagers yet take it to seriously. Like CoD for example: They don't play because it's fun or that their Dad has influenced them to get involved, but that they want to win. It's ok to want to win, most games (or all) are based around that category. But, they take it to far and become very harsh when they aren't winning. To me, they lose value in why they play which of course Gaming is suppose to be entertaining and even bring people closer together like this Article.

Even though I am 19, doesn't mean I don't spend time with my Dad on games. My Dad and I take turns playing Black Ops Multiplayer Online. We go for Team Deathmatch and help each other out. He uses a Sniper Rifle and is actually good at it, knowing just how to aim while shooting at the right time. While I have a AK47, running into the field literally giving my opponets no chance to fire back at me. It's all really nice, because we discuss to each other our experiences knowing that we're bonding. Even before Black Ops, we played Games together like Soul Calibur 4 or Halo 3. Though, now we only play Black Ops and I am fine with that.

XxRyanxX:
However, most cases now kids that aren't even teenagers yet take it to seriously. Like CoD for example: They don't play because it's fun or that their Dad has influenced them to get involved, but that they want to win. It's ok to want to win, most games (or all) are based around that category. But, they take it to far and become very harsh when they aren't winning. To me, they lose value in why they play which of course Gaming is suppose to be entertaining and even bring people closer together like this Article.

Thanks for the kind words. There was a longer section in the first draft of this article that included a bit about the way my boy handles winning and losing. I took it out because it veered away from my main point, but it definitely speaks to your experience. My kid generally has very little problem losing to the computer, but he can get very upset when losing to an actual person. The distinction between "I lost the game" and "You beat me" is quite dramatic in his mind.

Steve Butts:

XxRyanxX:
However, most cases now kids that aren't even teenagers yet take it to seriously. Like CoD for example: They don't play because it's fun or that their Dad has influenced them to get involved, but that they want to win. It's ok to want to win, most games (or all) are based around that category. But, they take it to far and become very harsh when they aren't winning. To me, they lose value in why they play which of course Gaming is suppose to be entertaining and even bring people closer together like this Article.

Thanks for the kind words. There was a longer section in the first draft of this article that included a bit about the way my boy handles winning and losing. I took it out because it veered away from my main point, but it definitely speaks to your experience. My kid generally has very little problem losing to the computer, but he can get very upset when losing to an actual person. The distinction between "I lost the game" and "You beat me" is quite dramatic in his mind.

Anytime, your Article was well-spoken. It's ironic you say that, because my Dad is like that too Haha. He doesn't mind losing when we do something together, or when we play through campaigns to learn how to play, but he can feel very 'insulted' if someone kills him because he feels ripped off. Believe me, I tend to get competitive too and express my irritation, but seriously he doesn't like losing to other people especially when he uses his best kit. He'll even go after the person who killed him and call him "Hah! Sucker!" (no cuss word intended). But, ether way it doesn't change us having fun and getting to spend time together as father and son. He's a good sport, believe me.. just can't accept defeat well by others because he feels that the Game wasn't fair to him somehow.

this made me smile (until he got to MoH, can't say it was one of the greats but I enjoyed it, as I did with Force Unleashed...ish)

makes me feel bad for getting so worked up when gaming with my little brother...just for the fun, man!

and of course if I had a kid, I hope I could game with him too...but of course also go outside and run and play there too (you know, be healthy haha)

I agree with the concept of "fun" your son has. "Fun" is not always as goal-oriented as it is experimental, like Minecraft. As Yatzee said, "Alright, there are skeletons in it... but that's not what you're there for." Sometimes, when I was tired of doing missions in GTA IV, I'd just drive over street lights and pedestrians while watching them fly from their motorcycles (which is the only way I play it now, thanks to the character durability of online multiplayer).

Steve Butts:
*snip*

There's a really good article on this subject by Mark rosewater that you should read. It's called Timmy, Johnny and Spike and does a great job of explaining why people play games. I've found that this explanation goes a long way towards understanding why people enjoy different aspects of games.

Personally, I prefer puzzles and RPGs where you have to manage resources carefully. One of my favorite examples was playing through Pokemon Soul Silver where I restricted myself by not fighting any wild okemon and not buying anything from the shops. My brother prefers action and FPSs and any kind of game where he can mow down hordes of enemies. Our playthrough of Tales of Symphonia was rather interesting, with me managing the party build and the majority of the puzzels while he did most of the fighting.

I don't normally read articles all the way through.
Good job.

Great article, it's going to provide plenty of food for thought for today's musings =)

And my inner child rejoices upon reading this article. Mr. Butts, thank you for posting this. Now I propose a challenge to all modders/indie game developers out there: make a dinosaur/robot/ninja/alien game! And DO IT NOW!

One of the best articles I've read in some time, really got me thinking and even made me laugh out loud. Watching a child play with anything not just video games is fascinating how they can seem to be doing it wrong but have twice as much fun, it messes with your head a bit.

Great article, and a subject about which I've thought before. I will enjoy games that are poorly rated and repetitive (completed all games in the Dynasty Warriors series) but which nonetheless provide a lot of fun for reasons peculiar to me.

great article!
it is indeed interesting to see that different people expect different things from a game.
I for one do absolutely not care about story. i often even enjoy a bad story more than a good story,... somehow(or a good story based on a generic bad game story, like Z.H.P. love the story).
It's also interesting that when i'm usually the person who goes for fun first, then scores (using knife only in cod is awesome, not always great for scores though) it really depends on the game. A friend of mine plays games seriously, but in GTA, he just drives around doing random stuff. i'm not a fan of GTA, randomly driving/walking/shooting around really bores me. while i greatly enjoy just running around in okami.
hmm.. this reminds me of deadly premonition... i need that game.

Apparently my inner child never left me....I have always played games for fun (with the exception of online FPS--that's for ownage). My boyfriend continually harasses me about not playing right, doing the quests wrong, not taking care of my inventory (and before you harass me about playing girly games, that is not the case-I had some interesting moments in Fallout and Dragon Age). I find it much more amusing to send me characters into battle sans armor just to see what will happen.

This was a great read-at least now I know I'm not the only one with a different perspective on how games should be played. I may have to rent a child some time to watch them play games, then maybe we can compare notes :-)

Fappy:
This article got me thinking about my younger brother (about to turn 5). It appears that your son and my brother (I'm just going to assume their ages are relatively close), despite their proximity in age (i.e. demographic), have entirely different reasons for enjoying the kinds of games they enjoy. My brother plays video games simply because he likes to win. He REALLY likes to win.

When at home, I occasionally catch him playing a flash game (based off whatever cartoon he happens to be enthralled with at the time) with this incredibly intense look on his face. He cheers when he wins and gets incredibly irritable and frustrated if he loses (most of those games you can't actually "lose" mind you). I found this extremely frustrating when I tried to get him to play some of the games I grew up on (Sonic and Mario among other things) and found that it just pissed him off. When I was his age I played these (much harder) games and never got very far, but that didn't matter. I had fun just playing the game (whatever my reasons were), but he just can't handle losing.

I can't imagine how he'll be if he continues this behavior into his teenage years. I would hate to see him turn into one of those generic Xbox Live kids we all dread, or even worse... a tournament player (ewww).

Anyway, good read. Its nice to shine light on a concept gamers seem to forget (or simply don't understand).

I have to agree with your post completelly. Altough my little brother is 10, he has always been the same. I happen to sit in the next room and hear him screaming and shouting when that small pause in music comes when you die in Ratchet and Clank. No joy in playing, only in winning.

Altough I have noticed that when I get him to play some games in my retro collection like Mario, Sonic, Banjo-Kazooie, He doesn't do that anymore. He just exhails and puts down the controller for a second. I like to think that these really tough, older games make him more calm, because they just get harder when you get frustrated.

I find it suprising that he often really wants to play the Japanese Mario 2 which is easily the hardest Mario game of all. He doesn't usually even get past the first world, but then I'll play him to the next world or so. Never seen him so happy with a video-game before or after. Makes me feel all warm and cuddly inside. ^^

The joys of child rearing...it does keep us young at heart.

Having a 17 year old "Halo"nut and a 2 year old in the house, really gives you a nice perspective on how they each approach "gaming".

I spend more time laughing at the 17 yr old when he gets pissed about something in CoD or Gears than I do watching the 2 yr old treat the wiimote like a baseball bat and use it to bash whatever happens to be closest to him (not even realizing the effects it is having on the screen for whatever particular game is in the console).

But what speaks volumes about gaming with kids is the sheer enjoyment you can have as a parent, on either side. My older son owns me on CoD and constantly nags at me because I ruin is K/D. I just created his own account and told him to have at it and not worry about how I play the game...since I do it to have fun. I could care less about my K/D.

Then there's the swapping out of the wiimote for the rockband drumsticks and throwing the game in No Fail mode. I have never seen anyone more happier than my 2 year old as he just bashes the shit out of my kit....and dances the entire time he does it!

Peter Pan was right...there is no reason to grow up.

108Stitches:
Then there's the swapping out of the wiimote for the rockband drumsticks and throwing the game in No Fail mode. I have never seen anyone more happier than my 2 year old as he just bashes the shit out of my kit....and dances the entire time he does it!

Peter Pan was right...there is no reason to grow up.

Playing Rock Band with a 2-year-old is one of the most amazing things a person can do. I have hundreds of songs and all they want to do is play Yellow Submarine again and again.

Steve Butts:
Anything But Child's Play

Steve Butts may play games for a living, but things don't really get serious until his five-year-old son gets involved.

Read Full Article

the child is wise

i remember beating Mega Man 2, like 6 times in one day, in one sitting when i was little

the fact i probably couldn't do that now, makes me sad in a way

You know, I think your kid is actually ahead of the curve here. Most of us cynical gamers will only turn to these fun alternatives when the 'proper' way to play the game is spent. But it's those alternatives that stick to mind the most. I've heard great tales of people playing races on Battlefield games, had a lot of fun when me and my friend got tired of shooting each other on GoldenEye and started shouting at each other 'Freeze! I have a gun!', and my most memorable CounterStrike session was when I somehow managed to get stuck inside a jeep that was stuck on the level's invisible ceiling.

Maybe that's why sandbox games got so popular. They're a game that have a story in them when you look for them, but when you don't let you do whatever you want. Although most of them have little secrets and missions hidden in the gameworld - are you really creating your play in childlike fashion when the game expects you to? Hm, let me know when your son is old enough to philosophise.

The Random One:
You know, I think your kid is actually ahead of the curve here. Most of us cynical gamers will only turn to these fun alternatives when the 'proper' way to play the game is spent. But it's those alternatives that stick to mind the most. I've heard great tales of people playing races on Battlefield games, had a lot of fun when me and my friend got tired of shooting each other on GoldenEye and started shouting at each other 'Freeze! I have a gun!', and my most memorable CounterStrike session was when I somehow managed to get stuck inside a jeep that was stuck on the level's invisible ceiling.

Maybe that's why sandbox games got so popular. They're a game that have a story in them when you look for them, but when you don't let you do whatever you want. Although most of them have little secrets and missions hidden in the gameworld - are you really creating your play in childlike fashion when the game expects you to? Hm, let me know when your son is old enough to philosophise.

It's why minecraft is crazy popular. :P

It's funny about 8 months ago I dug out my N64 and my copy of Starfox 64.
when I was 10 or so I would play this game every sunday morning, I thought I was pretty good.
I replayed it and trashed my high score from when I was 10 in half the time on the first play through.
don't know if that is relevant to the article but I felt I needed to reminisce.

This reminds me of my younger sister and Pokemon. I don't play Pokemon hardcore enough to care about IVs or EVs, but I do try to pay attention to natures, typing, special/physical split, etc. My younger sister doesn't care about any of that and she has fun with it and it's a fine way to play, but when we battle, its obvious why I've never lost.

Mine are flat out trained better. She always acts like a sore loser and gets pissed at me, despite me telling her exactly why she lost. I've offered to help many times but she doesn't want any, and just wants to play how she wants, which is 100% fine. Though it's pretty annoying that she gets angry and acts like she has no clue why she's lost. "But I even had legendarys!" Sorry, not gonna help you against a well oiled machine.

I guess this is a case of wanting to have your cake and eat it to. You can sure as hell play how you want, but don't expect to win from just doing that ~_~;

I wish everyone would be as positive about games as little kids are. Instead of wanting it to be fun in THEIR way, I think that every game has fun aspects if you approach the game on its own terms. Perhaps I'm waxing nostalgic, but it sure seems that gaming discussion and culture has gotten a lot more negative as I've grown up, and it's not the games' fault. They keep getting more refined, better designed, and more compelling and we keep complaining about them more and more...

This, pretty much. I never just play a game because of one reason or another. If I continue to play a game I've purchased, it's for one reason, I find it fun. The reasons I find it fun might vary, but I almost never play a game the way it's supposed to. I used to irritate my brother because I'd spend all the time I had left playing a level (we had to trade off for Mario and Luigi, and so I'd try to get all the playtime I could,) where he wanted the level to be completed as quickly and efficiently as possible (probably him wanting me to finish quick so he could get more playtime, knowing my brother and how we think.)

It's the reason I can almost never finish a game like GTA. I usually get stuck doing the things I find really fun, and I never get anywhere. Eventually I get bored of what I liked in the first place, and then never finish the game.

dubious_wolf:
It's funny about 8 months ago I dug out my N64 and my copy of Starfox 64.
when I was 10 or so I would play this game every sunday morning, I thought I was pretty good.
I replayed it and trashed my high score from when I was 10 in half the time on the first play through.
don't know if that is relevant to the article but I felt I needed to reminisce.

Yeah, I had the same thing happen a few years ago. My buddy and I played Gunstar Heroes for about a thousand hours in college. I went back and played it recently and finished the game in like ten minutes. I'm not sure if it's just a change in ability or perception or just plain old nostalgia, but it left me feeling kind of sad and empty, like a Taco Bell bag lying by the side of the road.

Steve Butts:

dubious_wolf:
It's funny about 8 months ago I dug out my N64 and my copy of Starfox 64.
when I was 10 or so I would play this game every sunday morning, I thought I was pretty good.
I replayed it and trashed my high score from when I was 10 in half the time on the first play through.
don't know if that is relevant to the article but I felt I needed to reminisce.

Yeah, I had the same thing happen a few years ago. My buddy and I played Gunstar Heroes for about a thousand hours in college. I went back and played it recently and finished the game in like ten minutes. I'm not sure if it's just a change in ability or perception or just plain old nostalgia, but it left me feeling kind of sad and empty, like a Taco Bell bag lying by the side of the road.

Taco bell abuse is a sad, sad affair...
Kids, never abuse your tacos. :P

I guess I should mention I liked the article. I'm a bit jealous of your kid though. My dad definitely didn't see videogames as bonding time.

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