My good friend over at Motor City Gamewerks, Jason Marker, welcomed his first child into the world a couple of days ago. I have yet to enjoy the wonders of fatherhood, but Jason has promised to explain to me the exact process by which one obtains a miniature version of one's self, as I have so far only been confused and amazed based on my Google searches. Certainly what I am reading can't be correct.
In any case, it has made me think a bit about what sort of gaming will be around when my theoretical children come around and develop the necessary motor skills to throw dice and execute multi-button combos on a controller. Gaming will clearly be a different animal, but I'd like to think that some of the joys and frustrations that I have felt over the years will endure.
So, I present my scientifically determined and ESRB-approved list of the Top 5 Gaming Experiences I Want For My Kids.
Thank you, but...
What a beating. I'll never forget the frustration of finishing a castle in Super Mario Bros and discovering there was yet another level to play. Mario isn't the only culprit. Even modern games often delight in setting up the "false ending" where that bad guy you defeat is actually some sort of replicant or leads to the revelation of grander schemes that must be foiled. While it can be maddening, it builds good gaming character, and I'm all about inflicting hardships on my future children in the interest of "character."
Quest for perfection
Like searching for the ideal cherry blossom, the world's best pumpkin pie, or the perfect bosom, some quests are really about the journey and may never be completed. For me, an obsession has always been building the perfect character sheet. It's a very personal thing, so everyone will have their own vision of the way things should be. For me, it's having everything grouped together for convenience while fitting it all on as little paper space as possible. Every time I think I have it, I encounter some little tweak that I'd like to make. It is a life's pursuit that may never be resolved and I intend to pass on this legacy to the next generation, that my children may succeed where I have failed.
It's important to experience failure. Occasionally, it's even important to experience total, epic, cataclysmic failure. No "undo" button. No "reset." This is another one of those character-builders that adds to the overall joy of gaming. If failure wasn't an option, then why play the game? Besides, how many of our favorite gaming moments revolve around that hilariously complete and total failure that resulted in a character being a grease spot on a dungeon wall?
The great gathering of gamers
Nothing summarizes the gamer experience as the iconic and often uncomfortable gaming convention. It's a lot of fun, no doubt. But, it's also an eye-opening experience. As a culture, we geeks tend to congregate in smallish groups or via our electronic weblogging machines. To see so many avid gamers in one place is enough to boggle the mind. Soon we find that we can really be comfortable amongst the masses of geeks and nerds and really dive into a weekend dedicated to playing pretend. Having attended more than a few such conventions and gamed with father-kid tandems a number of times, it's something that I look forward to sharing with my own little geeklings.
The joy of the game
What I hope endures for my children is really very simple: the game. There's nothing quite like sitting around a kitchen table with friends or picking up a set of controllers and diving into a contest of skill and strategy or submerging yourself in the rich fantasy of a fictional world. There's an emotional investment there, and friendship, and camaraderie. You win and lose together, celebrating with cheers and high fives and yelling at the screen or your traitorous lucky 20-sided. Sometimes I forget all of that, but I have been recently reminded how special it can be.
That, more than anything, is what I hope gets passed on.