A few years ago DH bought a used Nintendo 64 for us to play with. DD was not much past the age of 2 when she started showing an interest in it. Before long she was able to use the joystick. Over the next several months she showed an aptitude for “virtual world” games that was quite impressive. She started with Banjo Kazooie, a game where you go through several levels, solving puzzles and beating the bad guys (very cartoonish in this case, and not scary or overwhelming). You also learn new moves along the way, so that towards the end you are dealing with at least half a dozen different key combinations. DD deftly maneouvered her character, memorizing all the moves effortlessly and also showing a great mental map aptitude – she could find her way around the fairly complex virtual world without any trouble. From that game she moved on to Banjo Tooie, and then Zelda and the Ocarina of Time. The latter was interesting because the characters spoke in text. Thus, she needed an adult to play with her. However, in the game you have to learn 12 songs and play them using four keys on the controller to perform various magical feats. She had no problem learning the songs, and showed a remarkable ability to remember them even after not playing for a while.
A few months ago, we upgraded to a Nintendo Game Cube. DD and DH conquered Zelda, Legend of the WindWaker. This game had more puzzles than the previous Zelda game we played, and once again we were impressed with DD’s ability to solve these puzzles. Sometimes she figured them out before we did!
Video games have a bad rap, and I’m sure that me and my kids are going to Waldorf Hell for indulging ourselves. But I have no problem with them playing Nintendo. We have not had any issues with our kids wanting to play them to the exclusion of any other activity, and it is not something that is played with on even a daily basis. I’ve been impressed watching DD play and feel pride in her ability to succeed at them. I fail to see any reason why this shouldn’t be treated as anything other than just one of a number of kinds of activities that my kids (and the adults, I should add) enjoy doing every now and then. Besides, in our family video games are rarely played in solitary. Instead, two or more of us tend to gather round and cheer each other on. DS has been showing an interest in the games for a while now, although I wonder sometimes if he thinks it’s just another cartoon. Clearly he understands that the person holding the controller is interacting, however. He likes to hold an inactive controller, and has started experimenting with the toggles and buttons. I’m sure it won’t be long before he starts playing as well. In the meantime, he’s happy to watch his sister defending the Universe. The two of them set those chairs up themselves, and I just couldn’t resist taking their picture.