I can remember when Nintendo came out with their first gaming system and we could play Super Mario Brothers at home. I had to wait for the second generation of systems and the game in my household, which I am quite sure I begged for. This was arguably the beginning of a new era in how kids play. Of course we still had to go outside and play for the most part and we did so happily. Now some 20 odd years later I find myself with the Wii, the PlayStation 3 and a referee whistle.
My kids do like going outside to play and have a daily game of tag and hide and go seek in our house, but they also love their video games. What I find fascinating is how the game itself can change the dynamics of the children playing it. My daughter loves her newly acquired princess game and will play it quietly by herself, rarely asking for help. And when she’s had enough, she turns it off and walks away. My boys are a different story.
Keeping in mind the age difference of almost two years between the boys and their sister, they are much less equipped to manage their emotions and time when it comes to playing something like Super Mario. The boys, much like the characters themselves, will play the game together. I don’t know about any of you “gamers” out there, but I find playing multi player on these games much more difficult and frustrating, so I can totally understand how five-year olds would also find it such, but they insist on playing it this way. Which of course erupts into all sorts of yelling and crying about how someone stole someone’s mushroom or flower power, or someone pushed someone into the lava. No matter how many times you say it, these arguments only end with the turning off of the game. But they LOVE to play it despite all the heart ache and self-inflicted stress. I find myself giving them a time limit and then forcing them to walk away. And Daddy and I have of course been brought into the picture as the third wheel in playing. They even try to enlist their sister, who has smartly given up playing the game with them. Now I don’t mind playing the video games with them as it allows me to see exactly what they see, to intervene when needed and because I like playing the easier kids games, but playing this game with them has become less fun and more stress, because they take so very seriously.
Now here comes the interesting part……
After X-Mas I grabbed up the starter kit Skylanders Swap force for PlayStation 3 for the steal of $30. Yeah I know great deal. Although if I had known that the characters are $10-$16 a piece and there are like 200 of them, I would have reconsidered the buy. But that’s a different vent altogether. All three of my kids adore this game. And all three of my kids can take turns and play it, for the most part, without much arguing. So what is the difference??? Why is that when they play one game they get all fired up to the point of tears and yet they can play another in happiness? I truly am stumped. About the only thing I can come up with is that they have to play the one game solo. It seems that when they try to play more than one player, the trouble begins. But here’s my dilemma; life is full of moments and instances when you MUST work with someone, like them or their style or not, and just like in a two person video game, you can end up frustrated and upset. SO does it serve my twins well to learn how to play these games together in a civilized manner (which they clearly need work on at the moment), or am I stretching the usefulness of this activity and putting off being the “mean mommy” who took away their X-Mas present till they can learn to play nice? And if it is the latter, how do they learn to play nice, if not given the scenarios in which to practice the act? No parent wants to see their child suffer undo stress, but having them confront and conquer their challenges in a safe way is an important part of making them life ready.