Picture the scene: My wife, five-year-old son, and I are ready to play some Wii for the next couple hours to enjoy “family time” instead of sitting solo with the tv, computer, or phone separately playing or surfing our own content. We start with some dancing games, laughing, having a blast and decide to finish the night with some classic yet modern side-scrolling action. We failed to see that playing Super Mario Bros. for the Wii would make us hate each other by bedtime. Here are the three ways Nintendo intentionally creates division in my family:
1. All Male Characters
My wife always has a fit that the yellow toadstool is the most feminine of them all. Why no Peach? Why no Daisy? This just guarantees we start on the wrong foot with a touchy female player.
2. Collision Detection
“A four player Mario game where we all play at once?! NEATO!” Yeah you think that’s great until you are all jumping off of each other’s heads causing the person on bottom to fall short to their death, pushing each other off of ledges or into lava pits (because SOMEONE can’t lay off the turbo button).
3. Question Mark Boxes
The box is designed to give out a bonus to all-but-one player. Meaning, if you have three players and you are all small, they will give you two mushrooms. If you are all big, they give two flowers and one mushroom. Causing one player to always say “AHHHh! You always get the flowers!” Let’s be real we don’t each get one, they come out in one big pinata explosion. The person who grabs the best power-up usually grabs a couple extra power-ups they don’t even need, because if you don’t grab fast they fly off the edge and no one gets them.
It is most likely the meanest developer trick of all time. Or it could mean that my family has issues and should not play games like this unless the other players are on Ventrilo (real-time voice chat software for group communications used during multiplayer games) or we are unable to speak to them. That way we can hate them and not be bad parents for it.
As I mentioned yesterday, my five-year old daughter’s personality has slowly been asserting itself, it has become painfully obvious that her interests were in the same geek activities that I was (and… still am)into. Batman comic books, Lego building blocks, Nintendo; and then the final straw…
The final event that made me sure she was heading down the road to Geekdom, occurred a week ago. I was watching an episode of Doctor Who (season 5, The Time of Angels) and she came in the room during a relatively frightening part. I apologized and paused the show. I told her I would watch it later, when she wasn’t around because it had some scary parts. That was probably my mistake, she loves being scared, she loves “scary movies” and Halloween. So I relented and we finished the episode, which was part one of two. When it was over, I turned off the television so we could go on with our day. She immediately looked at me, and wondered what happened, she wanted to know how it ended. So we watched the next episode (Flesh and Stone), she was happy to find out the result, and assured me that it wasn’t really that scary. The monsters weren’t real she said. I figured it was a one time incident, until I came home from band practice the next day to find that she had talked her mom into watching the next episode of Doctor Who. She was apparently “addicted” to The Doctor. I think that really says a lot about the shows writing, and Matt Smith’s portrayal of the character, but anyway.
Sure, when you realize your child has some of the same interests as you, it’s flattering, and fun. I had one of those, movie like, day-dreams where I imagine her growing up and us going to our LCS together, enjoying Doctor Who and making fun of George Lucas’ film making decisions. Then I imagined having to budget in her comic books to my weekly stipend. What if there was a movie I didn’t want, but she still needed the Director’s Cut/Special Edition/Box Set? If we go to a comic book convention, will I have to miss a Grant Morrison appearance so she can see early footage from the newest Spiderman movie (damn you Andrew Garfield)? Worst of all, what if, like me, she discovers and enjoys Transmetropolitan? I don’t know if I can handle these things. Could you? Do you?
Maybe I should just get her a pony. Girls like that stuff right?
Normally when you think of a geeky child, you think of a boy. That’s valid. Growing up, most of my geeky friends were boys, we read comic books, watched sci-fi television and movies, and read lots of books. We had seen all of the Star Wars movies multiple times, we read the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. We played with Lego’s as long as was acceptable and we could quote Monty Python until everyone else left the room disgusted. Most of all, we couldn’t understand why Princess Peach and Princess Zelda kept getting into their horrible situations.
My oldest child recently celebrated her fifth birthday, and upon going over her presents, I realized she was destined to travel down the same path I had. Last year she received a couple of Lego sets, the general ones with all different color blocks, some wheels, doors and windows. Just enough random parts to make about anything you wanted to make. Thanks to Lego releasing their new Lego Friends line she received even more. At first I thought it was no big deal. She liked Lego’s: its something we enjoy doing together, and now they come in pink and purple so they match her Disney Princess and Barbie toys. Her mother and I also got her a Nintendo DS, something she had been asking for since her cousin got one earlier in the year. Ok, Lego’s, Nintendo, it’s all just a coincidence right?
The day after her birthday, I had to stop at my LCS (local comic book shop) and pick up that week’s titles. My daughter came into the store with me, I pointed out the Smurf and Alvin and the Chipmunks comic books. I asked if she wanted to get one for her birthday. She pointed at The All-New Batman: The Brave and The Bold and asked if that was the Red Tornado on the cover. After I caught my breath, I informed her that it looked like him, but it was in fact Mister Miracle. She told me she hadn’t seen that episode (on Cartoon Network’s Batman: The Brave and The Bold), and wanted to buy it. I again pointed her in the direction of the other kids comic books I thought she would be interested in. She declined, and picked up the Batman comic.
On the inside I was smiling, but also thinking: just because I love most things Batman, I hope she doesn’t think that she has to as well.
One of my favorite types of comedy is what I lovingly call “Stupid Comedy”. I thought I started appreciating it when I came-of-age to watch (and understand some of) Mel Brooks’ movies. But after watching “The Muppets” with my five-year-old son, I realized it was probably formed even earlier than I assumed.
I was pleasantly surprised how much I was gripped by this movie. It was like watching Serenity after already seeing every episode of Firefly. I knew and loved each character already. I was waiting with eager anticipation for my favorite non-main characters to show up. I was holding my breath for the “muh-num-a-nuh” song to start at some point, so that my son could have the experience of having it stuck in his head like I always did when I was young. There were moments when those, not-really-all-that-funny jokes were told, but the entire theater burst into laughter. At first I didn’t know why I was laughing, then I discovered we were just excited to have this wholesome group of numbskulls back. The most memorable parts for me, were when they would break the fourth wall and make a commentary on the plot development.
I guess it is time for me to find “The Muppet Show” on DVD and allow the fullness of these beautiful fuzzy people back into my family. And if you haven’t already, be sure to check out their recent youtube activity: