I didn’t exactly grow up bonding over video games with my dad.
For one thing, video games didn’t exist when my dad was a kid – they only barely existed when I was a kid! – and by the time my brothers and I were playing Coleco, he couldn’t have cared less. I seem to recall some initial fascination with the first Nintendo when it came out, but my father had neither the time nor the inclination to sit down and play Super Mario Bros or Metroid with us. So video games had never stuck out to me as an opportunity for quality parenting time.
I’ve never been what you would call “a gamer.”
I haven’t personally owned a video game system since the original Nintendo. In college and afterwards, I used whatever random systems my roommates had, primarily to play Madden with the sound on mute so I could listen to music while Jay Fiedler dominated (the early-aughts was a tough time to be a Dolphins fan). I don’t really use my iPhone or iPad for games, and we don’t have anything in the house.
That is, we didn’t. Until I received the new Nintendo Switch.
The Switch’s big selling point is that it works as a traditional console you can connect to your TV, but it can also seamlessly transition (aka, switch; get it?) to a portable system. You can pause your game, disengage the tablet from the console, and carry the mobile version with you to continue playing in handheld mode. It’s a really cool feature, and one Detective Munch will never use! (The last thing he needs is another portable gadget he can become fixated on.) It’s console-only for him for the foreseeable future. (P.S. I used the mobile version on a recent train ride and it was awesome! In your face, kid!)
Detective Munch isn’t a gamer either (he plays games on the iPhone and iPad but that’s not the same; that’s not quite gaming as it is life in the 21st century), at least not yet, but the Nintendo Switch could change that. It’s the first actual system we’ve ever had and so far he’s definitely into it. Shocker.
The game we’ve been playing, together – and I stress “together,” because the only time I’ll let my 6-year-old use the Switch is on the weekends, as a treat, with me next to him – is the new Zelda title, Breath of the Wild. Like every other kid in the 80s, I played the original Zelda, and can still remember the sound that plays when you burned a shrub to reveal a hidden passageway, but I haven’t even really seen Link in action for almost 30 years.
Things have changed. Playing the new Zelda on the Switch with my son is crazy because he’s only six years old and the first real game he’s playing is already fulfilling the primary video game fantasy I had when I was a teenager (don’t be gross): you can touch everything! (I said don’t be gross!) You can go on missions and solve puzzles and all that, but you can also just wander the world of Hyrule and pick things up, throw things around, chop down trees, hunt wild boars, freeze to death, etc. You can do whatever you want. It’s awesome!
It’s particularly fun to watch my son decide what to do. It gives me a window into his developing personality!
Is he going to stay on task and go into every shrine to solve a puzzle and receive a reward before moving on to the next mission? Is he going to travel the land like David Carradine in Kung Fu and fight every goblin and skeleton he sees? Or is he just going to wander around and explore the wide-open world of the game?
At first he kind of wandered aimlessly, and tended to panic and hand the controller to me every time a threat appeared, but it didn’t take him long to start looking for something to do – and enjoying a little rough-and-tumble when he bumped into a monster.
Mostly though, Detective Munch is pretty task-oriented. He loves going on adventures and wants to solve every quest (as an added bonus, the game forces him to read, as descriptions and instructions frequently pop-up on-screen) but when he hits a dead-end, he’s not opposed to starting a brawl, or going to the edge of the map to see what’s there. He wants to win the game (which, unless I start Googling hints and tricks, will probably take until his teen years) but he also wants to have fun and explore and, somewhat alarmingly, destroy things.
After I showed him how to chop down a tree and use bombs to open a secret passage, he started going on a rampage, razing forests, bombing indiscriminately, and generally just maniacally demolishing the countryside.
Anarchy and mayhem aside, he’s actually proven pretty resourceful when it comes to solving the puzzles, and it probably won’t be long before he’s showing me what to do. In fact, on the rare occasions I get my hands on the controller, he already likes to yell at me to do what he wants me to do and then get frustrated when I don’t understand him and suddenly we’re screaming at each other.
Like I said, quality parenting time.
Disclosure: I received a Nintendo Switch to use in the crafting of this post, but all opinions are my own, especially the one wherein I demand they release a new version of Bionic Commando already!