Written by Ryan Johnson Thursday, 17 March 2011 00:00
Another entry in Ryan Johnson's series on how he and his son are learning lessons together through gaming.
I love showing my son games on the Wii Virtual Console. Usually, they tend to be simpler games that he can grasp easier than my modern day gaming, so I can help him learn my hobby a bit easier through the classics. Recently, I showed him a game that he absolutely fell in love with: Kirby's Adventure (NES).
My son is a persistent man. He is also a man of patterns: things just go one way because that's how they go. Once, he had difficulty with a boss. Overall, the Kirby games tend to be simpler, but the bosses can pose a challenge at times. Particularly, there are instances within the game where there are "mini-bosses" -- sets of regular, yet slightly more challenging enemies that you must defeat to continue. When he had difficulty with a set of them, he asked me for help. I whipped through them easily, then handed the controller back saying "here ya go, bud!" Got a "Thanks, Dad!" out of him, and we went on.
Later in the week, my wife and I let him play some games while we took care of a few clean-up chores at the home. He gets to another mini-boss set, and runs straight to me saying "Daddy, can you do this for me?" I really want to sit and play with him, but I know I can't. "If I get this ten minutes of stuff done......" is what I'm thinking. Being the good dad, you know? Get it done, spend time with the kid.
I encourage him to go on, but he persists. So, to get the stuff done, I help him through it and hand it back to him. But after that, it seemed every time he would get to those guys or an end-of-level boss, what would happen? "DAAAAAD! I NEED YOUR HELP!!!" And when I would attempt to get him to try on his own, he would refuse! He'd just put down the controller and say "no, Dad, you're supposed to do this!" He would rather stop playing than actually attempt the enemies. This is where the previously mentioned routines and persistence set in, and I had caused them.
I realized I had made a few mistakes. My lessons this time around: Don't just teach the easy way, teach the mechanics to help for the next event. Not just in games, but in life. Being a Dad is hard work. A job that never stops. And one day, I'm not going to be there for him when he needs to make a decision, and he needs the confidence that he can do it himself. Also, make time for those little events. When I was little, I remember my Dad taking me to McDonald's for breakfast every once in a while. Over my life, it was probably 20 times, and he doesn't even remember it as important, but to me those were some of the best bonding moments ever. When my son looks back, I want him to say "My Daddy listened to me. My Daddy made time for me." Even if I find something he needs help with simple, easy to solve, and mundane.
So I began the process of fixing my mistake. Sat with him, and waited for a miniboss set. He loves showing me all of the different powers Kirby can get. I marvel at my son's abilities within the game (I had sat and watched him before, don't think I was some parent dropping his kid in front of the Idiot Box please), but seeing his moves in relation to what he was stuck on was astounding. If he would just try, he could beat those enemies blindfolded. So I take the controller and try, showing and explaining each time, then losing a life right before I would beat them, to hand over the controller for his try. He refused at first, but eventually took a try. He failed, I gave encouragement. A few weeks later, we let him play again, and what do I hear? Not "DAAAAAD! I NEED YOUR HELP!!!", but instead "Dad! I did it!!" I run out and see that he's cleared one of those sets. His face is beaming. A special "Achievement Unlocked" for my son: Confidence.
Gaming has been a fun way to interact with my son. I'm so excited that he enjoys it as much as me, and that he enjoys other things as well, and doesn't obsess over it. I love teaching him through games, but most of all, I love how just being with him in our hobby is helping teach me how to be a better dad, a better man. I look forward to the adventures to come.