Christopher tm Herdt (cherdt) wrote,
Christopher tm Herdt

How to Play Video Games

Over the holidays, I was playing Tetris (or some Gnome equivalent) on our laptop while I was ripping a few CDs. My 5-year-old niece, Mecca, was very curious.

"What are you doing?"
"I'm playing a game."
"Can I play?"

I showed her how to move the blocks left or right and how to drop them, but I figured rotating them was perhaps too advanced. I told her it was fun to make different stacks with the colored blocks, so that's what she did. When it said "GAME OVER" I said, "Good job! You built the stacks up to the very top."

She quickly figured out by observing me that she needed to press CTRL-N to start a new game. And by accidentally pressing the key to rotate the blocks, she started building more intricate stacks, always pleased when she put several blocks of the same color together.

Her younger brother, Lennox, age 4, hates to be left out. Very polite, Mecca said, "Can Nexy play too?"

Mecca would start the new games for her brother, and tried to show him which buttons to press. He didn't really care about the buttons and was perfectly happy to watch the blocks slowly fall, delighted by pointing out identical shapes. The slow pace frustrated Mecca, but I told her to let him play his own way. Eventually the blocks reached the top and the "GAME OVER" message was displayed. Lennox raised his hands into the air and said, "I win!"

I was reminded of their father, who at that same age could be entertained quite perfectly at Pinball Pete's, Chuck E. Cheese, or Gumball Express, merely by putting him in front of a Centipede arcade machine. The words "GAME OVER" were meaningless to him, but the trackball and the moving sprites were endlessly fascinating.

But Mecca looked at Lennox like he was a fool. "Nexy, you don't win or lose. It's not that kind of game. You're just supposed to stack the blocks."

I felt a little bad that I hadn't explained the game to her properly, as she could have possibly handled the additional complexity. At the same time, what a joy it must be to explore a game without rules, without concerns for the impending end, and where the words "GAME OVER" signify that you have reached your ultimate goal, a cause for exaltation!
Tags: computers, family, games

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