My 2 sisters and my parents never really understood my brother’s and my own fixation with videgames. They mostly accepted it, understood it was something that we enjoyed, and at some point they were happy that we made successful (even if a bit rollercoaster-like) careers out of it. The closest thing they got to enjoying a videogame was watching me play Ico.
Marta was sometimes curious about some games when she was much younger, but since then she kind of felt that videogames were a terrible way to waste one’s spare time. It was not until very recently, when her husband Javier was given a Playstation 2, that she had a gaming device at home again. She still didn’t care much for it, but then he bought Lego Star Wars 2, and yesterday I showed her Loco Roco on a PSP.
Javier loves Lego Star Wars 2, and Marta has found that she loves watching him play. The game is wonderful: extremely polished, very respectful of the license we all grew up with, while visually fitting with the Lego designs. The developer, Traveller’s Tales, added a lot of funny details, the kind of things any of us might have role-played with our Legos or Star Wars toys. But more than anything, the game is a joy to experience. None of that "overcome this challenge" or "Game Over", just play and enjoy the puzzles, activities and jokes without stress. Next time I visit them I’ll give them a spare pad, because the game apparently supports two-player cooperative.
Even more interesting was her appreciation of Loco Roco. She picked the PSP and spent about one hour playing 6 or 7 levels, having fun at the whole thing and learning the ropes slowly. Initially she didn’t care much about picking all the stuff ("I have 7, that’s enough I don’t need more and the guy just grows bigger and fatter with them"), but after a while she bragged about finishing a level with 12/20. She has kept my PSP for a few days, and I’m sure she’ll be playing the game until the batteries run out. I expect her to be uninterested in learning all the things in the game, and to be turned off by more mundane tasks like saving the game and being repeatedly asked about overwriting the previous save file. Still, the whole evening was an eye opener for me about what videogames can mean to non-gamers like them. Intellectually I knew most of this, but seeing it happen in front of me was great.
We’re still quite far from removing all the classic "gamer" lingo and "hardcore" details from mainstream videogames, or achieving the ease of use of books, TVs and DVDs. But we can keep trying, because there’s a lot of people out there that are ready to drop some TV time in favor of games that appeal to them.
And I could definitely see them having fun with a Nintendo Wii in the near future. Xmas time… gifts… hm… 🙂