Tag Archives: nintendo

It’s Dangerous to Play Alone – Take Kids!

Hi everyone, I’m back! I haven’t written one of these for quite a while now, life has got in the way a bit recently.

Well, I say life, I mean gaming.

Well, I say gaming, I mean one particular game: Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

breath-of-the-wild

I previously wrote in this blog about my love for the Zelda series in general and my anticipation for the latest title.  I can now say that this game definitely lives up to the hype, and I have been playing it almost every free evening for the last three months or so (a lot of free daytimes too!).  The sense of freedom and adventure, size and beauty of the game world and just pure fun of the gameplay is unparalleled. Another Nintendo instant classic!

One aspect of this game that I have particularly enjoyed is playing together with my wife and kids.  The kids are now getting to an age where they are starting to be able to play this kind of game by themselves (the youngest is 5), and it is great to watch them having a lot of fun with this one.  I know that a lot of parents are not gamers, but we really enjoy playing as a family and would recommend it to anyone, so I thought I would share a few of the things that we do when playing this kind of game with kids to ensure a great time is had by all.  These are just things that we do, I am by no means saying that we are experts and know everything.  Every family is different, and I am always open to suggestions from others!:

1. Be Inclusive

When playing games with more than one child, you need to appreciate that each one will have a different amount of desire to play a game, and especially with younger children, they may find it difficult to fully express that desire.  What I mean by being inclusive in this context is to make sure everyone’s voice is given a chance to be heard, everyone is in agreement about the choice of game, and everyone’s expectations about what they want to get out of the gaming session is known and acknowledged.  This can be quite difficult to achieve in practice, especially with younger children, but when it is achieved it significantly reduces the amount of meltdowns during and after the play session!

 

2. Be fair with rules/turns

Another thing to lay out before starting is the rules, especially the system of taking turns.  Zelda, for example, is a single player game, but if reasonable rules are established, there is no reason it can’t be played by a whole family (we do it!).  For this game, we normally play ten minutes each before passing the controller to the next person.  We literally time this using a timer on one of our phones.  This is a clear boundary that everyone can see and the children usually engage with it.  Our daughter in particular loves taking control of the timer, and ensuring that it is paused for cut-scenes when she isn’t technically playing!

 

3. Set clear play session length boundaries

This could be contained as part of the rules set at the start of play.  This also applies to a lot of parenting situations, but since console gaming is particularly engaging for a lot of children it is especially important in this case.  Children need to learn that play time cannot be indefinite, things such as food time, bed time, or other planned activities also exist.  Also too much screen time is just generally bad for anyone, children and adults alike.

It is important to let them now before they start playing how long this session will last.  Since they generally forget things very quickly, this will also need to be reminded to them in the middle of the session, and definitely when there are only 15 minutes, 10 minutes, 5 minutes left.  As long as they know the boundaries all along, they generally accept the situation, at least they accept it a lot better that you just saying “Right, turn it off NOW” at the end and pulling the plug!

4. Ensure play is age appropriate

So, there are a lot of computer games in the world now, and they clearly aren’t all appropriate for children.  The first step when choosing a game to play with kids is to check the age rating.  This is normally clearly displayed on the front of the box.  If you are going to let the kids play by themselves, don’t let them play a game too old for them!

After saying this, I am now going to sound hypocritical, since the age rating for Zelda: Breath of the Wild (at least in the UK) is 12, and my kids are all under 10.  I did not take the decision to play this with the kids lightly.  My wife and I played for several hours to evaluate the reasons the rating may have been given.  We also know the kind of things our kids are sensitive to.  Using this knowledge, we decided to let them play.  Zelda is an open world game.  There are a lot of different things to do, and a lot of ways to pass the story.  The reason for the 12 rating in the game is the violence.  The hero, Link has to fight off several monsters with a large array of weapons during the course of the game.  Since we had played the game ourselves, we decided that this violence was not something that we wanted to expose the kids to too much, but there were several aspects of the game that they would enjoy, such as horse riding, puzzle solving, cooking, exploration.  In this case they are allowed to play, but in a ‘low violence’ style, i.e. running away from inessential fights, and if there are enemies that need to be fought, such as end of level bosses, pass control to a parent (I myself have no problem carrying out this parenting service!).  The other important thing is that they are closely supervised when they are playing, and if any seem overly distressed, we stop playing and address the issue.

5. Relax and have fun together!

If you follow the above guidelines, the only thing left to do is to relax and have a great shared experience with your family!  This kind of activity for me is where you can experience beautiful moments, create beautiful memories, and just generally have beautiful fun!  For us this fun spills over well past the actual time playing the game.  We have several discussions about it, how we are going to play next time, what happened in the story, etc. The children demonstrate incredible creativity acting out their own imagined versions of the game, draw endless pictures of characters, real and invented, and everyone’s lives are just generally slightly more enriched because of it.

 

So, those are my tips.  Let me know if there is anything you do when playing with your family, and happy gaming!

New Zelda Excitement!

Just thought I’d write a quick post about one of my favourite game series, which seems to be lesser known by non-gamers – The Legend of Zelda!

There is a new Zelda game coming out tomorrow, for the new Nintendo Switch console (also out tomorrow), but the game is also out for the Wii U.  More on those consoles here!  it is called Breath of the Wild, and reviews so far are already calling it probably the best game ever made.  This is not a light statement to make, especially for gamers, who prize their own personal top ten games over anyone else’s, but among gamers the Zelda series is one which is much more than others on or near the top of most of their best games ever lists.

breath-of-the-wild

The Zelda games are kind of their own genre.  They are mostly role playing, more or less open world, action adventure games, starring the hero Link (Zelda is the princess that Link has to rescue).  They have been around for as long as Nintendo have been making consoles, with the first one being released on the NES.  Although they are not quite as well known as Mario, they are one of Nintendo’s biggest game series, with at least one Zelda game released on each hand-held or home console (more or less..).

links-awakening
Zelda: Link’s Awakening on the Gameboy

 

The first Zelda game I played was Link’s Awakening on the Gameboy.  Even with its basic black and green graphics, the game still had the ability to immerse me in the fantasy world that it created and got me hooked for the series.  Since then I have played several other Zelda games and loved each and every one of them.

As for playing together, even though the games are single player, in the same way as watching a movie together, the Zelda games can absolutely be enjoyed with others.  I have played through at least half of the games with my wife, and that has only increased my enjoyment and given us an amazing shared experience.  With this new game I am extremely tempted to coordinate time off work with her so that we can spend a whole day immersed in the land of Hyrule together with no other distractions.

zelda-ocarina-of-time
Zelda: Ocarina of Time

 

Now I have kids, I have, of course introduced them to the series.  We are currently playing through the widely regarded best of all, the Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64. We are currently on the water temple, and fans of the game will know that we may be there some time..  it is great to see them as excited as I was for this game when playing it for the first time.  Just about as excited as I am for this new game – The Breath of the Wild!

So here is a picture of my boy as excited as me!:

zelda-im-ready-2

Nintendo: The Masters of Playing Games Together (part 2)

nintendo-console-games-collage
Just a few amazing multiplayer games from the Wii U. CW from top left: Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, Splatoon and Rayman Legends

So, I wrote about the early days of Nintendo consoles in a previous blog post (check it out if you haven’t already), and here is the second part, looking at the most recent consoles and their very newest one, soon to be released – the Nintendo Switch.

Wii

wii-console

Nintendo is really the best console maker if you are looking for something to be able to play with others in the same living room. One console that absolutely mastered that aspect, so much that it ended up in almost every living room in the late noughties, was the Wii.

When this console released back in 2006, it caused a bit of a gaming revolution (coincidentally, this was the console’s codename before release..).  It wasn’t the most powerful console graphics-wise, but it had a  completely new way of playing: motion controls.  Rather than trying to compete with the other main consoles of the time, PS3 and Xbox 360, Nintendo deliberately tried to market the game to absolutely everyone, in an attempt to increase the number of people playing games in the world rather than pleasing existing gamers – kind of what I’m trying to do with this blog!  This approach, coupled with the super casual-friendly game Wii Sports coming free with the console was extremely successful, and the console has sold over 100 million in its lifetime.

For me, the Wii was the first console I owned as a married man (so, co-owned with the wife..).  It was great to play with friends and portable enough to bring to family gatherings for Christmas Wii bowling tournaments. It continued the multiplayer racing excellence with the best Mario Kart ever (at the time), and it did have several other excellent games.

One of the best games on the console, and my personal favourite game of all time, was Mario Galaxy, and its sequel. This used the Wii remote controllers in an ingenious way and introduced asynchronous co-op multiplayer, definitely a mouthful, but a great way to play together! In this case one player controlled Mario, while the other used the Wii remote pointer to help by collecting power-ups, stopping baddies, etc. This was a great way to play for my wife and I, she was generally the helper as she wasn’t so good at the platforming, while I would never have 100% completed the games without playing together with her. I would say that this kind of gaming style is ideal for the type of couples I see where one is really into gaming and the other not (this does not apply to my wife, she loves games too!).

Wii U

wii-u-console

Then we come to Nintendo’s current console, well, for the next week anyway, the Wii U. Unfortunately, due to poor marketing (and naming) from Nintendo, people still believe that this is just a Wii with a new controller. It isn’t! It’s a new generation, the first HD console from Ninty. It came out in 2012 and unfortunately due to the above poor marketing it did not sell nearly as well as its predecessor. It is a really good console though, almost on par with the Wii, and now would be a great time to buy it, since it will probably be going cheap when the next generation comes out, and there is a good selection of games (also cheap now).

The games in the main image are some of the best the Wii U has to offer, and they are all up to Nintendo’s usual very high multiplayer standard. Again, Mario Kart 8 is the best Mario Kart, Super Mario 3D World, while not quite up to Mario Galaxy’s standard, is probably the best multiplayer Mario game. Splatoon is Nintendo’s take on an online shooter, and is fantastic paint splatting fun, and finally in that picture there is Rayman, not made by Nintendo but a superbly designed same-room multiplayer platform game nonetheless.

For me, this console generation followed the creation of my own generation, and was the first console we got after having kids. This is a great console to play with kids, as its any Nintendo console. We have had a lot of fun with our children playing Mario, Pikmin, Toad, Donkey Kong, Rayman etc. together, and I can see us still using this console all through this year.

Switch

Nintendo Switch Console
Another weird console from the big N

So, what about Nintendo’s future? Well, on the 3rd of March 2017 they’ll release their next console, the Switch. As you can see from the image, they still don’t care about looking like the others and have gone for another strange design. The main feature of this console is that it works on the TV and as a handheld. You can switch between the two modes as easily as removing the tablet-like console from the main unit (hence the name).

Ninty have again prioritised playing together with this offering, as the included ‘joy-con’ controllers (red and blue above) can be separated and used as two controllers out of the box. Also, if you are lucky enough to have 7 other friends who also have the console (unlikely..) they can be connected in a local network for up to 8 player multiplayer!

Nintendo Switch console in handheld mode
The console in handheld mode

Games-wise, this is looking good, but not from launch. I would recommend waiting until later in the year, maybe Christmas for this one, by which time there will be a very decent selection. At launch they will have the Wii sports equivalent minigame packed 1-2-Switch, the latest Just Dance and the amazing looking Zelda game, Breath of the Wild though, so it is quite tempting..

I can’t predict the future, but I really hope that this is a success for Nintendo. The reason I like them so much is that their attitude to gaming seems to be the same as mine – it’s better to play together – and I would live to see this kind of gameplay increasing in the world.

Nintendo: The Masters of Playing Games Together (part 1)

In previous blog posts I’ve mainly been talking about ‘unplugged’ games, i.e. board games or card games. My main gaming love is still playing on a games console however. There is something about them that just hits that enjoyment sweet spot for me, and no matter how much I get into other kinds of games I don’t think I’ll ever like them more than video games.

There are obviously many games to choose from when it comes to consoles, but I want to focus on my experiences of playing together with other people, i.e. in the same room, rather than single player or online multiplayer.

nintendo-retro-console-games-collage
Some classic Nintendo console games. cw from top left: Mario Kart (SNES), Super Mario Bros (NES), Tetris (Game Boy) and Goldeneye (N64)

If you ask any video gamer who is the best at same-room multiplayer games, the answer has to be Nintendo. With the increase of mobile phone/tablet gaming, and online gaming, playing together with family or friends is decreasing in general. Nintendo however are still, and always have been, the greatest supporters of this style of play, so let me indulge in a bit of nostalgia, and make the rest of this blog post about them.

Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

nes-console

Even Nintendo’s first console, the NES, was known as the Famicom in Japan, short for family computer, and came with two controllers in every pack, showing that they always had family gaming in mind. I never owned or played this one myself when it was first out, but it did revolutionise console gaming, as this detailed Wikipedia article explains.  The first games of classic franchises, such as Mario Bros and Zelda were on this console, and the games they made then (over 30 years ago) are still very playable and enjoyable today. This has recently been proven by last year’s release of the NES Classic Mini, which is a mini replica of the original with 30 of its best games included. This has been extremely popular, and sold out really quickly after launch. I had a chance to play one around Christmas time, and a short try to show the kids quickly turned into a couple of hours of taking turns and just having ‘one more go’, the classic hook of a well designed game.

Game Boy

game-boy-consoleMy personal first experience of Nintendo was with the Game Boy. I didn’t want one at the time, I thought I wanted the rival, the Sega Game Gear. It had colour graphics, while the Game Boy was only black and white (well, technically black and green..). I soon realised though that graphics were not the main reason to play a game, playability was.

Being a single player handheld console, you may think that this is a strange choice for me to show examples of playing together. Just a simple game like Tetris however kept my siblings and I (even my mum) entertained for hours, trying to beat each other’s high scores.  Then there was Super Mario Land, which introduced the “level or life about” style of play in our house, as it was much more fun to experience the game together.  Nintendo also tried to promote multiplayer even with this console, with a “link cable” that you could use to attach two Game Boys together and play (among other things) a Tetris battle!

Super Nintendo (SNES)

snes-consoleWhile I never owned a SNES myself, some of my best childhood gaming memories come from playing this console. The main reason was Mario Kart, which had its first outing on the SNES. This was a revolution at the time, the playability and fun-factor was spot on, as well as the futuristic (at the time) quasi-3D graphics. It is considered by many to be one of the best games of all time.

The main fun to be had from this game was playing together with others in split-screen mode. There was the normal racing mode, but arguably more fun was the battle mode, where you had to burst balloons tired to your opponents’ by throwing green (or better, red) shells at them.

I remember playing this with my friends a lot, when I must have been 11 or 12. In particular, there was one sleepover where a group of about 5 of us played non stop, literally until the sun came up. Definitely one of my best gaming memories, and it cemented my lifetime love of Nintendo games.

Nintendo 64

nintendo-64Another console that holds many multiplayer memories for me is the N64. This console added to the possibilities by allowing up to four players at the same time!

This was about during my last years of school, so many an afternoon with free period was spent either having a four way Mario Kart battle, or better, a four way deathmatch on Goldeneye! You can keep your calls of duty and your battlefields, Goldeneye was so much more fun as you had to play together in the same room, and even if you have audio chat over the internet, the atmosphere and shared experiences this creates is so much better (especially in Golden Gun mode!)

Nintendo did have other consoles that I haven’t featured here, such as further iterations on the Game Boy: Colour, Mini, Advance, and later the extremely popular DS handheld.  Of course the GameCube home console shouldn’t go without a mention. I could go on forever about how great all of these are, but since I don’t want to bore you (more than you already are) I’ll stop there.

In the next part of this Nintendo themed blog, I’ll continue with the more modern consoles, the Wii and Wii U, and look to the near future with the soon to be released new console – the Switch! Stay tuned for that!