I don't know when, how, or even why I got into video games. All I know is that I have loved and played them for as long as I can remember. From failing to make it past a particularly tricky boss in Alex Kidd on the Master System to playing the remake earlier this year and realizing the only reason it was tricky was because four-year-old me didn't understand how to play rock, paper, scissors, I have a lot of memories wrapped up in gaming.
No one else in my house was playing games. I didn't have an older sibling to hand me an unplugged controller while they sped through Sonic 2's Casino Night Zone. For those first few years, I was on my own. I completed Aladdin on the Mega Drive during that time, something I once regarded as one of my greatest video game accomplishments since I would have only been about six at the time. Another memory shattered by a re-release, as replaying recently opened my eyes to how short and easy Aladdin really is.
Even when I got my hands on a PS1 for the first time and my dad started to feign an interest in games like Final Fantasy 7 and Abe's Odyssey, no one was showing me what to do. That might explain why my fond memories of those games don't extend that far beyond the opening hour or two. Since all the adults in my life were busy adulting, I assumed my time playing games would be finite. That one day my life would be all-consumed by the grind. Here I am in my 30s and while I am constantly thinking about the grind, it's less the one that puts food on the table and more the one that ends with me unlocking Fortnite's symbiote Spidey suit.
I now have a son of my own, and while he only recently turned two, he has already been showing an interest in video games. He has taken a shine to Mario and Spyro, which is problematic from the off since we are very much a Sonic household. I've also had to tone down the profanity when playing Rocket League since he has started to get equally as excited when he sees rocket powered cars chasing a ball on TV.
The question I find myself asking now is when do I start to teach him to play these games himself? While I can't remember a time when I didn't long for a controller in my hand, I can't imagine I was taking my first foray into Green Hill Zone at the age of just two. The key difference here is that wouldn't have crossed anyone's mind when I was that age. Fast forward 30 years and I want someone I can play Duos with that isn't going to swear at me for not building fast enough.
I also don't want to force the issue. You don't need a degree in child psychology to know kids don't exactly think what their parents like is cool, let alone something they do for work. That might be why I loved games from such a young age. Football and professional wrestling also make the list of things I've loved for as long as I can remember despite no one under the same roof as me when I was growing up showing any interest in them at all.
At this point, the extent of my son's gaming expertise extends to something on his tablet that requires him to prepare food for various animal patrons of an animated restaurant. An incredibly basic game, but the sense of accomplishment we both feel when he gets something right all by himself has me excited for the future. As for what that future holds, I toyed with the idea of getting My Friend Peppa Pig after the rave reviews it received this year. However, dropping £35 on a game for someone who currently has the attention span of someone playing 12 Minutes still feels like the wrong move. Hopefully it'll be a freebie on PS Plus sometime soon.
There are going to be times when playing games with a three, four, five-year-old and beyond is going to be frustrating. Sonic Origins launches in 2022, a collection of the very first games I fell in love with. 2D sidescrollers that require you to run, jump, and occasionally spin dash feel like the perfect next step once my little one is old enough. It isn't lost on me that watching someone, even my own son, fail to finish a level I have sped through so many times that I could do it in my sleep might grate on me a tiny bit. However, if he falls in love with it as I did years ago, all of the frustration will melt away. What I'm not looking forward to is breaking it to him that the fear that hits when that countdown starts as Sonic is about to drown never goes away. The mere mention of the first game's Labyrinth Zone still causes me to break out in a cold sweat.
It might not sound like it, but the thing I'm excited about most as my son hopefully develops an interest in video games isn't watching him play all the games I did at his age. It's discovering which ones he will choose to build the foundation for his love of gaming. The OG Sonic games are all well and good for a four-year-old honing his hand-eye coordination skills, but when he discovers Minecraft our video game paths are probably going to branch off in different directions. Let's be honest, after I've opened his eyes to the basics, it won't be long until he's the one teaching me. I look forward to him being better than me at Fortnite by the age of six and I'm sure I won't be bitter about it in the slightest. I'm also very aware I need to start this journey sooner rather than later so my son doesn't grow up thinking Chris Pratt has always voiced Mario.
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