Smash Bros and my 4yo

Copy/Paste from a medium post.

‘I had fun last night playing Smash Bros with my 4 year old’ is a sentence that you should not communicate to a lot of parents.

I am a 38 year old dad. I’ve been playing for most of my life. No endless hours of playing, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends, sometimes online. Games like Arkanoid, Double Dragon, Commando, Sensible Soccer, Monkey Island, the Final Fantasy Series, Counterstrike, Red Alert, Quake, Mario Galaxy and you can probably finish this list changed my life. Man, I enjoyed these.

As a child I bought games or copied them from friends, my parents agreed and didn’t ask too many questions.

Today, it has become slightly more complicated. People are talking about the educational value of games, if games improve our child’s reflexes, if they contain cartoon violence, if they are open play or contain a competitive element and if they fry your brain. When selecting a game for my son, the first question I ask myself. Is it fun?

Talking to a random parent, let’s call them Mr and Mrs Bowser about gaming is slightly weird. If you ask them about their child’s gaming behaviour, they will respond with something like ’My kids can play games during the weekend’ ‘Half an hour max’.

If I ask the Bowsers how they manage tv time, time reading books, sports, and playing with other toys, there does not seem to exist the same set of rules. If I ask the Bowser’s what games their kids are playing (usually on iPad) they do not really have a clue. Most of the time it’s ’something free’ (and we all know the beautiful free stuff we’ve received in our life) that shows ads or asks Bowser Jr to pay or he remains in a kind of frustrating state in the game.

Let’s go back to Smash Bros and my 4 year old. For those who do not know Smash Bros it’s a fighter game where you control a character and need to beat the *kuch* out of your opponent while bashing buttons until you can knock him off the fighting stage. It’s rated 12 years and older. I have no idea why. It costs about 40–60 euros. The Bowsers think I am crazy. 40 euros for a game while you can get a ton of games for free. The time I spent playing with my son has been worth every penny so far. We battle eachother. We have been winning fights and losing fights. Sometimes he gets angry when he looses a battle. I explain him that if he gets angry we need to put the game away, that games are supposed to be fun and that loosing a battle is part of the experience.

Children can have a hard time putting games aside. We have all been there. Building an army, conquering a world and in your last battle being called by your mom that you need to eat your supper is just not that of a heroic experience. It is something you need to learn, putting games aside. In my case, I try not to let my son play alone, I think he is still a bit too young. If he wants to play, we play together. If me and my wife are away for the weekend, he doesn’t play.

Games are like books and toys and tv. There are good games and there are bad games, beautiful and sad games, aggressive and fun games. It’s up to you to make a good selection, not your five year old. If you have no idea where to start, do as you would do for books. Dig in the rich history of games, play the classics, take recommendations from friends, but always make sure that you know what Bowser Jr. is playing. Play together with Jr. and enjoy it. You will. Shooting stuff is fun, fighting is fun, racing can be fun, building is fun and learning stuff is fun and if the sun is shining, going out is even more fun.

There is no way that you are going to ban games from your home. There is no way that you are going to keep up with what your kids are playing. Make sure that you know what they are playing when they are young, make a good selection. There are a lot of great games out there. Violent and non violent.