Big Picture Mode
Industry issues given the widescreen treatment
Nathan Brown hands the controller to his jam-covered son
My 14-month-old son is obsessed with my record collection. It’s quite understandable: while his mother and I have responded to his increasing mobility and wingspan by moving every item of risk or value upwards and backwards to get them out of the range of his somehow perpetually jam-covered hands, the records haven’t gone anywhere. A thousand or so slabs of vinyl sit invitingly at ground level, all within easy reach. And reach he does, so we spent a couple of hours this past weekend listening to what he was pulling out of the racks, moving from golden-age hip hop to classic Laurel Canyon rock, from ragga jungle to late-’90s Dutch trance (laugh all you want, but that amphetamine-paced wasps-in-a-tin sound was one of the few reliable ways to get him to sleep when he was two months old). It was a fun way to spend an afternoon.
Yet while this weekend gave us both the chance to broaden our musical horizons, it also proved that he is nowhere near ready for games. I suspected as much but, emboldened by our musical journey and trying to run down the clock to dinnertime, I decided to try again. I sat him on my lap with the iPad, guided his index finger and showed him how to sketch a world into life with Toca Nature, and then how to make succulent explosions in Fruit Ninja. There were giggles, but as soon as I let go of his hand, he put the whole thing on the screen, iOS’s multitouch recognition kicking in and quitting to the home menu or fast-switching between apps. Then, inevitably, came his special move: arching his back and complaining until I put him down so he could run off to smear baby-jam on some recently cleaned surfaces.
Failing to take the hint, I decided to try him on Ultra Street Fighter IV. I knew this was the equivalent of asking to borrow 50p, being turned down and asking for a tenner, but he’s almost as fascinated with my arcade sticks as he is with the records, so I figured it was worth a go. It went horribly, of course, and he wriggled free and waddled off, returning only to turn off the 360 as the final battle was loading. (That’s another obsession, thanks to his discovery of the ‘ping’ noise a 360 Slim makes when turned on or off, except in his case it’s on and off and on and off and on and off until you just want to die.)
Obviously, this will change as his motor skills develop. Nonetheless, I was struck by the very different approaches I’d taken. When he was going through the record collection, I’d been happy to let him pick what we played. Yet I’d chosen the games I thought he might like and understand, and as such his rejection of them stung me a bit.
I’ll persevere, but when the time comes, will I let him burrow through the cabinets in the games room and choose what he wants to play? I doubt it. I want his first contact with a SNES to be Super Mario World, not Area 88 or Hat Trick Hero. His first fighting game has to be Street Fighter II, not Battle Arena
Toshinden or Mortal Kombat 3. And if he wrinkles his nose at some beloved game of my youth? What if he doesn’t love
Pilotwings? Heartbreak. And then I realised that this was all my fault. Why shouldn’t his formative experiences with videogames be as organic as his introduction to music? If I try to force things, it’s going to be difficult and disappointing. There will be tears and tantrums, and it’s not going to be easy for him either. We look at music and games in very different ways. You might hate my favourite music, and I yours, but we’d accept our difference of opinion as a matter of taste. We tend to see games as being objectively good or bad – but then we all know you don’t have to go too far on the Internet to find someone who feels the exact opposite about game X than you do.
You learn a lot very quickly when you have a child, but there are days when you feel like you’ve learned nothing at all. The one constant is that children are explorers: they want to find out for themselves what they like and dislike, what’s edible and what isn’t, and which household surfaces are yet to be covered in jam. So I’ll just let it happen. Maybe one day, when I least expect it, he’ll totter over and ask me to show him how to throw fireballs. He’ll come home from school and ask if I have this game called Dark Souls that his teacher was talking about. And maybe one day he’ll tell me that he likes
Hat Trick Hero more than he likes Super Mario World, and I’ll just have to accept it. So long as he never beats me at Street Fighter, we’ll get along just fine.
Maybe one day he’ll tell me he likes Hat Trick Hero more than Super Mario World, and
I’ll just have to accept it