By Patricia Baer
I was a kid who hung out in video game arcades, depositing countless quarters into Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga. My brother and I owned an Atari and became experts on the finer points of Pong tank battles.
As an adult I have wasted my fair share of hours playing computer games on various PC devices over the years, but somehow I managed to avoid the PlayStation/Xbox evolution of games.
In the ranking of things I most regret not doing with my life, this did not appear high on the list. That is, until recently when my nephew brought his PlayStation to my house.
Now, you have to understand, I consider myself the “cool” aunt. Not “cool” as in the grown-up who lets the kids swing from chandeliers and go crazy when their parents are not around, but I am the adult in the room who can have conversations about Doc McStuffins and episodes of “Austin and Ally.”
I am the aunt who is eager for another round of whatever board game we are playing and will crouch on the floor for hours building Lego landscapes. I feared the appearance of this gaming station threatened to challenge my “cool” status.
My nephew quickly abandoned hope that I would master Portal 2. This was a game Santa brought because he knew we both would enjoy a puzzle-based adventure, but several attempts to learn the controller functions only ended up with my character scanning the room in a dizzying spin instead of stepping forward.
Even the game’s narrator taunted me with an exasperated “finally” after completing my first task. We then moved on to the highly popular Minecraft.
A first attempt at playing in “survival” mode ended disastrously with lack of food and a zombie attack. My nephew wisely switched us to “creative” mode, where I could safely learn how to build and explore.
I have long been a big fan of the Sims games, and I was surprised that after half an hour I found myself growing bored with Minecraft. The design made the game feel like the children’s version of The Sims, and without any obstacles placing the building blocks became an endless chore. For the first time in my experience with gaming, I thought, “I don’t get it.”
It was not until he took me on a tour of his previous constructions that I understood the game’s appeal. He proudly guided me through hotels and houses he had built. He described with excitement a waterfront residence designed in the perfect location for fishing that his friend had created.
I suddenly understood the popularity of the game was due to the freedom it gave kids to make their own choices without parental limitations. They can mold the world into whatever they desire without judgment. As he eagerly shared this world of his with me, I realized my coolness was never in jeopardy.
Besides, he said I’m “not too bad” at Skylanders. So there is still hope for me and PlayStation yet.