I remember back to the late 80’s when I would play Super Mario Bros. with my friends. The one defining aspect of playing that game back then was that I would try to make Mario jump by jerking my controller up in the air. Of course this didn’t do anything, but it was just a natural reaction to playing the game. My mom did the same thing for years.
Fast-forward to today. My 7-year-old is just starting to learn to play video games. For the past few months, she’s enjoyed (or been frustrated by) games like Mario Kart Wii and other games where motion (such as jerking the controller up in the air) gives her the response she wants. Playing the Wii has been a bit unnerving for me, as I spent years of my childhood trying to unlearn the very sorts of actions that the Wii encourages. This has always come naturally to her.
A few days ago, I decided that it was time for her to learn how to play with my Nintendo DS. As the was playing “The New Super Mario Bros.,” I noticed that the motion that she’d become accustomed to (jerking the controller around) wasn’t working, and it was making her frustrated. When playing Mario Kart DS, she kept trying to turn her driver by turning the DS in the air… which, of course, doesn’t work. All in all, playing the DS was a frustrating experience for her after having played the Wii for so long.
After seeing her frustration playing those action-oriented games, I decided to let her try another game that I thought might hold her attention longer: Final Fantasy. Specifically, it was Final Fantasy Tactics Advance for Gameboy Advance. (FFA for PlayStation is still one of my favorite FF games.) I handed her the DS and let her play, warning her that there was a lot of reading involved, but that it might be more interesting for her. She started playing and I didn’t hear anything out of her for over 4 hours. Simply amazing. Her cousin came over yesterday, and they’ve been playing a LOT of Nintendo DS together.
So I suppose it was interesting to see the difference between her generation and mine. Or rather, the similarities. The biggest difference is that this time around, Nintendo allows people to jerk the controller around. I also think it’s interesting that my daughter couldn’t pay attention to the Mario games, but was able to hyper-focus when it came to playing an RPG. That sounds like my daughter.