Giving Up The Ghost

Its probably no secret that I work in retail.  I’ve tried to write around as its not very flattering work, but I have mentioned a few things that clever folks might have been able to figure it out.  And being that I work in retail, I joined the collective whole of my brothers and sisters-in-arms and did my tour of duty yesterday on Black Friday.  It’s actually my fourth Black Friday at retail and each one I’ve done different things.  This one was the first that the powers that be decided to see the light and put me somewhere I could be in my element.  Where would that be you ask?  Why in the video game section of course!  Yes that’s right, I spent my whole day communing with countless parents and grandparents who had not a clue what they were buying.  All in all I would say it was a pretty successful day, not a nightmare like I was imagining.  But that’s not really what I wanted to write about here to today.  I actually came to a realization yesterday while working around so many people who knew nothing about the medium I love.  It was something that I’ve been kind of noticing but never really knew how to articulate it until yesterday.

It actually started with a woman I’m fairly sure I went to school with for the better part of my life but she never really knew me and I never really knew her.  She was there looking to get a DS and a game for her five year old son who was finally graduating from the V-Techs and Leapsters of the world to full fledged gaming.  She explained to me that one of his friends had one and now he wanted one too but she wasn’t sure what game to start him off with.  She being of about the same age as me, naturally gravitated towards the Mario games as a good introduction to his new gaming platform.  She never said but I’m sure it was the only thing she recognized since Mario is pretty much a cultural icon now and especially was during our youth.  There was only one problem, she explained, would this be an good transition from the simple educational games he was so accustomed to playing.

I was pretty much stumped by the question she asked me.  I didn’t know what to tell her, I had always recommended Mario of any Nintendo products to parents who didn’t know what to get their kids.  It wasn’t a question of the quality of the products, but would this be what the child really wanted or could really wrap his head around.  She had her mind set on Super Mario 64 DS mostly because it was the cheapest Mario game on the system.  I had to question her judgement on this after thinking about how complex Mario 64 can get, especially for a 5 year old.  I told her if Mario is what she had her heart set on then maybe she would be better off with New Super Mario Brothers as it was a much simpler game and was something I could directly relate to as playing as a child and understanding it.  But in the back of my mind that still seemed to complex.  The DS and Wii are absolutely flooded with simple kids games and while most of them are complete garbage I couldn’t help but think that maybe they were an easier transition from what the child was used to.

But do I want to insult the child’s intelligence?  Certainly not, especially after thinking back on the NES games I played at near around that age and how they compare with games today.  I know its no secret that NES games were balls hard but they were also had a extremely high barrier of entry to understanding the game.  Look at a game like Faxanadu, a relatively complex little sidescrolling rpg that just drops you in the world with not explanation of anything.  And thats true of 99% of NES games.  As soon as you hit that start button on the title screen, you’re pretty much on your own.  Compare that to the games released today with sometimes excruciatingly long tutorials and hand-holding that makes some people want to pull their hair out.

I’ve asked myself which would I prefer to present to a child old enough so show a interest in gaming.  I haven’t come up with an answer but I’m leaning towards the long tutorial-laden games.  I think it lends more to enjoying the game, instead of getting frustrated and maybe missing out on some great games.

All of this spurred from a conversation that lasted literally less than a minute.  And she ended up getting Super Mario 64 which I’m not sure was the best choice.  I just know now I will have to think twice before I recommend the old stand by Nintendo games and that is a very sad thought.

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