Tuesday, December 30, 2008

December '08 Round Table: The Future is Now!

This post is my December entry into Corvus Elrod's Blogs of the Round Table. This month, Corvus asked us to think about how gaming will impact our familial relationships in the future. As always, thanks to Corvus for organizing this round up, and to everyone else who contributed earlier in the month. Feel free to jump in with your visions of the future.

Last month, in an attempt to cleverly disguise my lack of inspiration, I sidestepped the Round Table prompt about gaming's current role in my family and instead talked about gaming with my hypothetical future family. Like many of my clever schemes, it ended up backfiring on me: Corvus logically capped the discussion on families with a prompt asking us to talk about gaming's future role in our families. I had resigned to sit out until January, but then I went home and visited my parents during the holidays...

A couple of weeks ago, my dad came home from Target with a small, pearl-white companion. When I asked him what had possessed him to buy a Wii, he replied that it was in stock, it was relatively cheap, and it seemed like a fun thing for he and my mom to try out.

Because of their busy schedules, my folks barely had the thing out of its packaging when I arrived on Christmas Eve. There are four of us in the family, and I intended this to be a gaming holiday. I came loaded with the tools for fun: two extra Wii-motes and nunchuks, a copy of Wii Play, Boom Blox, and Super Smash Bros. Brawl (for Eric and me).

I held my breath while we booted up Wii Sports. After a few minutes of shaky pointing and a quick tutorial on button placement, we swung our way through a few games of doubles. Later, my mom schooled us in ten frames of Wii bowling. We capped the night by taking turns standing in front of the TV, shouting “fore,” and chasing that hole-in-one.

The day after Christmas, we made our foray into Boom Blox. My folks were pleasantly surprised at the intricacy and precision of the game's physics, and we shared a good laugh playing the Jenga-like games together. “Family game time” quickly turned into “couch diplomacy ” as everyone learned the strategies and techniques to negotiate the mechanics and social nuances of the game.

The last day of my visit happily coincided with the advent of high speed Internet in my folks' house. After making sure everything was working, I immediately connected to WiiWare, downloaded a copy of World of Goo, and called people into the family room with evangelical fervor. My brother, my dad and I all ended up playing through the first chapter. Building structures by committee is a hilarious, if chaotic experience.

In my last round table post, I wrote: “Video games always seemed to be the missing fourth pillar, as the generational gap seemed a bit too wide to for my dad to jump.” I am happy to report that this holiday season has proven that statement to narrow-minded and wrong.

While it is true that my folks and I will probably never sit down to a rousing game of Gears of War, that does not mean they are not able to play or interested in video games. The medium's diversification has my folks more interested and engaged in the gamer community than they have ever been. Regardless of what fanboys would have you believe, the Wii offers deep gaming experiences which are made more powerful by their accessibility. It felt great to spend a weekend sharing the fun with them, knowing that we were finally sharing in gaming culture together.

Last month, I imagined that the day my family would find common ground on video games was decades in the making. Today, I realize that the future is already here: my folks have a current-gen gaming machine in their house even though their kids do not live with them anymore. Most importantly, this situation did not arise from a change in their attitudes towards games. My entire family can share common video gaming experiences because gaming itself has expanded to allow for this type of sharing.

This future was unexpected, but I could not be happier about its coming to pass.

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