Monday, May 9, 2011

Another Horrific Milestone

I clearly remember the first video game that my sons ever played. It was Spongebob Squarepants: The Battle for Bikini Bottom. Several years back when my entire family was staying with my parents’ due to renovations being made to our home after a small house fire the most recent game system we owned, a valuable and respected part of our family came with us and provided comfort during that difficult time. Since the Wii was just a twinkle in the eye of some developer at Nintendo, it was the miniature yet plucky Gamecube that accompanied us.

That is how destiny chose the venue where my sons would begin their epic journey toward video game obsession. It would happen in the very same place as it did for their father before them: in my parents’ darkened basement.

At first, Spongebob did a lot of jumping and walking in circles. However, with my encouragement to sit in front of the television with a controller in their hands the way most parents might push flash cards or reading comprehension, they soon began to wield Spongebob’s jelly-fishing net and bubble wand with deadly accuracy. Any time they needed help I was more than happy to lend a hand, as any supportive father would.

Eventually, we beat the game, meaning I beat the final level while they watched. It was a fulfilling feeling, having started something together and seeing it all the way through.

Soon after, we started on the journey through Lego Star Wars parts I and II. This time, simply beating the story mode of the game was not enough. We did not stop until every minikit was built and every red brick had been retrieved. When my sons became bored with a level after the third time through it and I knew there was booty yet to collect, I valiantly and selflessly sacrificed my free time to play it in free play mode and gather those bonus items which had been left behind while they were asleep. Such is the burden of fatherhood.

Through the duration of those two games, I could notice my sons and I were forging a unique bond. I was the sensei to their grasshopper. My video game skills were passed on to my apprentices and they began to spread their wings and fly. But despite their rapidly increasing skill level, they still called their old man for help through challenges like the devious castle levels on New Super Mario Bros. Wii, unlocking the newest characters on Super Smash Brothers Brawl and saving their asses form the Doombots that cornered them in Ultimate Alliance. Even their DS games were handed to be so that I could thwart the final level of Starfy or figure out how to collect new Pokemon. Even though I would sometimes argue with them during co-op play, in the end they knew that I had just imparted valuable wisdom from decades of gameplay upon them, because I explicitly told them so.

This love of video games has been so firmly planted that a recent request from my eldest son brought tears to my eyes. He asked that for his First Communion, he receive Portal 2.

It was with a mix of emotions then that I heard some sobering new the other day from my youngest son.

Several weeks ago, they used an old Gamestop gift card one of them had gotten for a birthday to purchase Star Wars the Clone Wars: Republic Heroes on the Wii. I saw them playing it in passing several times and always meant to sit down and try it for myself. I figured when I was asked to help, which I was certain would happen because it seemed fairly complicated, I know what I was doing.

I was mistaken. My six-year-old son informed me the other day that he defeated the entire game on his own.

This was a sobering fact. I did not touch thumb to control stick nor button on a single instance at any point as he played the game, yet still he defeated it. Somehow, even without my help, he managed to play an entire video game, start to finish, and kick its ass.

Add this to the fact that they now regularly complete Lego sets without me and you can see the bigger picture here. It has nothing to do with gently nudging the baby birds from the nest. Rather, I am the PC running Windows ME to their brand new Mac, the antenna reception to their fiber optic high definition, the Gameboy to their 3DS. I am becoming obsolete.

While I will forever remember the game they first beat on their own just as I remember the game they first played, I have to admit it stings a little. I should be very proud and challenge them to achieve more of the same, but I can’t help but feel a bit jealous.

The answer is clear. I need to get myself entrenched in the current Lego Star Wars III campaign before I become a burden. This may even require an “accidental” save file deletion. I must remain relevant.

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