Recently, I reviewed Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon for GoozerNation. This was primarily due to the fact that my son wouldn't stop talking about the game, and this got a copy into our house for him to mess with a separate file. He was very proud of owning File 1 while my progress was delegated to File 3. As time progressed (and he progressed, albeit slower than I did), he began asking if he would be able to mess with my file. I tried to be an educator.
"Son, if you play your own game, you'll get to see the story as it develops!"
"But Dad, I want to help YOU!"
(I'm getting into that possessive way of playing a game, it's MY FILE)
"I'm supposed to play this game for a review, I need to see it all. Can you just use your file? I'll help you through it."
This is okay for a while, but eventually he hounds me until he is able to play my file. I figure he's not going to get much further if he does, and I can always go back and re-play the levels. One day, though, I found him staring angrily at the screen, looking like he's about ready to snap it in half! I ask him what's wrong, and he's saying "GRR! I CAN'T FIGURE OUT HOW TO BEAT THIS GHOST!" I take a look, and instantly figure it out. The game has a learning curve. After all, Luigi starts out without the Poltergust 5000, and even when you get it, you have to get a few upgrades before it has all of the features. The ghosts progress in difficulty, requiring different strategies and ways to engage trapping them, things he hasn't seen before because he never played the levels in between.
I get to talk about progression: how in the first Mario game you learn how to jump on a Goomba in the first screen because there's no other way to get past him, and eventually you're dodging hammers and sliding under King Koopa because as you went on you learned how to do it. He's also been watching me play the VC release of Super Metroid. I show him how I can't get into certain areas until after I fully explore others, which in the end train me on how to do better once I get the missing item.
This goes for storyline, too. He told me how when he went into this level, he didn't know why he was in a different mansion, or what the clock he was working on was for. So I describe how the story went. I think something clicked reeealllly good though. You ever notice how kids want to watch the same TV show over....and over....AND OVER....until both you and they have the entire script memorized? And how kids movies when well done are fun, but have adult undertones where we "get" a more meaningful story? He starts asking me a million questions. "Why does McQueen promise Mack he'll stay up all night, then fall asleep?" "Why are the Nicelanders so mean to Ralph?" "Why does Andy call his toys junk when he gets older?" I feel that a major hurdle has been jumped: where we realize that media isn't just a time filler: it's a true form of entertainment that can fulfill and enrich our lives. He's truly starting to understand the storylines of all of these movies.
Meanwhile, I'm able to tell him a bit of the story to get him caught up. I show him how to defeat that ghost. I know that he's struggling to complete his file, and I will be sending the game out on Goozex eventually anyways, so I show him the cutscenes as I advance. I let him play my levels: he isn't going to destroy anything. Plus, the coinage he picks up going backwards upgrades my Poltergust equipment so I can zap baddies better. I'm learning that a game is best when you share it with a friend, even if it is technically a solo experience.
Care to start at the beginning? Episode 1 is here!