When you write out a heading like that it does seem like an obvious statement and one that doesn’t need to be said. ‘Well yeah, of course games are for kids’. We were all kids once and most of our favourite games and our most memorable gaming experiences come from that period of our lives. But now that we’ve grown up, we’re a bit more jaded. It’s not that we don’t believe that games are for kids, but that we forget it. It’s something that we forget a little too easily, and it took some experiences at PAX this weekend to remind me of the fact.
When you’re an adult, it’s a difficult process to put yourself in a different frame of mind. You have to look back on what you were like when you were five or six years old. Would I have found this game fun? Would I have found it stupid?
I spent some of my time before and after the event with a friend and her children, and it was wonderful to experience PAX through their eyes as well as my own. What were their favourite games of the show? Johann Sebastian Joust, which we’ve written about already and are quite in love with ourselves, as well as Just Dance and Fruit Ninja, which we were noticeably less interested in. These games have something in common with each other. They’re all motion games.
When I first walked around the expo hall I saw games that interested me and games that didn’t – and the motion gaming was right up there in the latter column. It’s representative of something a lot larger, we’re by and large dismissive of things like the Move and the Kinect. Whatever those reasons may be – they’re not really engaging or they’re ‘casual’ games that ‘hardcore’ gamers should frown upon as being the scum of the gaming world – motion gaming is often tucked away in the back of our heads when we start thinking about games we like.
As adults, we tend to complain about games even when they’re clearly not made for us. I’ll express my dislike for Just Dance, a game that I will never in my life play because I can’t dance so there’s no appeal for me. But in saying that we often completely fail to recognise that we were never the intended audience and that the game is appealing to another market we’re just not part of.
Those feelings extend themselves to walking around a show floor. Potaku doesn’t have anything to say about Just Dance or Fruit Ninja because they didn’t appeal to us. I can’t speak for the other two here, but I didn’t go near those booths as a result of those feelings. The only time I was anywhere near them was because the kids travelling in our group wanted to see them. And seeing them being genuinely excited about those games was something that warmed my crusty black heart a bit – maybe I should be a bit more lenient towards these games, they’re not my thing, but they bring a lot of enjoyment and wonder to others.
What did appeal to us was Johann Sebastian Joust, which is probably the first motion game that has ever held my interest for longer than ten minutes, and at this point it goes without saying that the rest of Potaku and the community saw a great deal of appeal in it as well. I still hold that it’s the only interesting use of the Playstation Move I’ve ever seen – and it doesn’t even require a screen! It’s so far away from the traditional kind of gaming we’re used to but here we are still talking about it. We’re even looking to make plans to try it out at a party next month, if all goes well.
Playing Joust was a lot of fun because it was a game where that ‘all ages’ moniker was undeniably appropriate. We played alongside adults older than us and kids far younger than us, and everyone had a smile on their face, or a look of amused nervousness. You’d get knocked out and you might chuckle or do a fake moan but at the end of it you were having fun regardless of, or perhaps because of, who you were playing it with.
When I was a kid and my parents pulled me away from a game I really, really liked, I would cry. Or at least be visibly upset. Fifteen years later I’m seeing myself reflected in these kids at PAX who looked absolutely distraught that they couldn’t keep playing Joust, or that they didn’t get a chance to play Fruit Ninja because it was time to leave. It’s an engagement with games, and it has moved territory a little into motion gaming. And it’s like the clouds have parted and the heavens have opened and suddenly I’m enlightened about something that should have been obvious all along.
It’s like there’s a disembodied voice yelling ‘Alex, you idiot, of course games are for kids! How stupid can you get? How can you forget that?’ to which I respond ‘I have absolutely no idea, disembodied voice’.