On Arcades, Part 1

Well, this week I had delayed the blog post from Sunday until Monday because we had a Plan that did not follow through: take Charmander to an arcade.

It was supposed to be his first “real” arcade experience, but it didn’t happen, and upon further thought, he has had some decent arcade exposure, I guess. Husbachu and I still went, but the kids all stayed with their grandparents and splashed at the pool near said elderly folk’s home. While we were at the arcade, we saw several other people come in with small children there, and it made me a little extra disappointed. At least we were able to play stuff together in relative piece. The DDR cabinet had Caramell Dansen on it, which is a fad that just did not last long enough for my taste. Please, internet, let’s go back to making every single fictional character ever do this happy, stupid dance.

Anyways, arcades with kids. At first, when I realized Charmander had been to an arcade before, it was the boardwalk ones that I thought of. Those *kind* of don’t really count at all. They’re mostly just crane games and poker and ski ball and what have you. Then, I remembered there was that one that had all those retro machines, like The Simpsons game and stuff, so there’s that. He didn’t actually play any of the games the last time we were there, though, because it was at least 2 years ago. After that I realized, if I racked my brain further back, he had another arcade experience: An exhibit at PAX East, a gaming convention, featuring an arcade museum. (PRO TIP: Do not take a very small child to a convention with you unless you enjoy spending an early night alone with them in a hotel room while everyone else is having a blast and making the most of all the money that was spent to get you there.) He was really young, then, and I know he doesn’t remember the experience. Oh, and I took him to see Wreck-It Ralph in the theater, which portrays arcades in a kind of hilariously wholesome light. The movie scared him a little bit, though. Ah, well.

When I first met Husbachu back in the day, he had been planning to open his own arcade, which sounded uber awesome to me. Unfortunately, that dream has died. Arcades were an important part of his childhood; his own father would have the games babysit for Husbachu while he caught up on his reading. I know that my husband would like his own son to share in the experience with him. Here’s hoping the next time I intend to write about, I will actually have that to write about. Until then, I’ll be dreaming of winning the lottery and opening a  in our town.Club Sega franchise in our town.


Screen Time

Ah, Screen Time. That is a Thing where I live, and probably where most of you live, too, although it wasn’t when I was a kid. I remember, as a child, hearing somewhere that in Japan, people watched TV for an average of 8 hours a day, and thought to myself, “Is that all?”

Every day's great at your Junes~

All of our childhoods

There was important stuff to watch at all hours of the day, and when there wasn’t, there were video games to play. My mom would occasionally kick my outside to play with some rocks by myself or something, but overall, she wasn’t terribly concerned that I was melding with the couch. Well, she didn’t like me playing “that damn Nintendo”, but mindless TV was generally OK. I know that Husbachu’s parents actively encouraged their son to be absorbed into the Midnight Channel, because it kept him quiet, and they’d gladly do the same to my kids, but they know I feel Screen Time is a Thing, and I make a Fuss about, and they also live in Fear of me. Maybe.

Is it weird that I limit something that I enjoyed endlessly in my own youth? It does feel fairly hypocritical. Becoming a parent changes you. The same person that reminisces about playing Skies of Arcadia for 13 hours straight back in the day is the person who now reads articles like this and decides that her own kids need to be raised without these binges. “But it was fun!” “But it isn’t healthy!” And that’s really it. I look at myself, and, while I’m happy with whom I have become, I could certainly be healthier, physically and socially, and too much Screen Time, I feel, are at least a part of why I am the way I am today.

Anyways, I was just thinking about this because yesterday, I bent the rules and let Charmander play Kirby about an hour longer than I normally would let him do his thing, and at an earlier part of the day, because we were all having a day off, and he was super excited that our friend was lending him the game. (Yup, he’s playing Kirby Triple Deluxe like he wanted to). He had soccer in the morning, and a party at the park later in the afternoon, so I figured he was having plenty of physical activity and socialization that day, and it wouldn’t be a big deal. Wrooooooooooooooooooooooooongo! He went crazy with frustration at a level eventually, and began crying and raving and carrying on like some teenage CoD player or something. It was pretty awful, and it lasted for a while after he stopped playing. In comparison, today he died 5 times against a boss, but kept his cool, persevered, and beat it. The difference? He was having his normal block of Screen Time for his usual amount of time.

What is he used to? Well, we normally operate with bout 45 minutes after lunch, and then another half an hour to an hour before bedtime. That’s for the 5 year old; the 3 year old usually ends up not getting that second block (and honestly, he usually doesn’t care). Back when I first started trying to enforce Screen Time rules, there was a LOT of resistance, and a lot of grief when the time was over, similar to the break down we just had. However, having the screen time at set times of day REALLY HELPED. It became scheduled, so my kids stopped trying to sneak it in because they knew they would get it. The afternoon time slot is pretty much guaranteed (unless they try to sneak in earlier Screen Time, although going to preschool usually helps avoid this), otherwise Mommy would never get a break and would possibly start breaking things instead. I said earlier that the time slot lasted for “about” 45 minutes. This is how it works if they play a video game, since I have them stop after completing x amount of stages, seeing how it’s just rude and frustrating to make someone stop playing when they’re in the middle of trying to accomplish something. It used to be they’d watch Caillou at this point, so that was more of a set time, but whatevs. Sometimes Squirtle will still watch that, or maybe like, Daniel Tiger (who he once told me he loves more than his brother), because he doesn’t really play much in the way of video games yet. The evening time slot is earned by the following:

  • Stopping Screen Time promptly in the afternoon
  • Cleaning up all the toys that cut holes into my feet at least by the 5th time I’ve demanded it
  • Attempting to eat dinner
  • Not being a horrible person in general
  • Accomplishing all this before 8 o’clock

Squirtle goes to bed at 7:30, hence one of the reasons he usually doesn’t get the second block of Screen Time. Also, he never cleans up the toys, so there’s that, too. Getting that extra Screen Time is an amazing motivator for Charmander, though. In some ways, it probably helps him behave better, provided I keep it under control, unlike yesterday where it went unchecked too long and he tried to destroy the world with his screams. But yeah. In all things, moderation.

Are you an avid gamer that enforces Screen Time on your kids, or possibly doesn’t? Or a non-gamer parent with thoughts on this? Or a kid with parents that enforce this stuff? Sound off in the comments below; we should share!

Saying “Hi!” to Kirby

This weekend, Charmander expanded his video game horizons. Well, it really began on Friday. I had stuff to do and I wanted the kids out of the way, so I granted them a bonus afternoon screen time session of watching some brain-rotting YouTube videos. Looking back, I don’t know why I didn’t just put on some normal, wholesome, brain-rotting TV. Probably it was because that’s what the kids asked for. Specifically, they enjoy watching the videos of Zack Scott. I swear, I will go into detail some day about how and why, but the point is, this is whom they enjoy watching. (I was very relieved when, upon checking his Facebook page one day, that OTHER people also let their preschoolers watch him; he’s very popular with the 5 year old crowd. Just note that he keeps his videos’ ratings in line with the actual games’ ratings, so if he’s playing a “T” or “M” rated game or the like, the language will match. Always screen your “Let’s play” videos before letting your kids watch them). Anyways, I let them pull up the channel via our PS3 (because Charmander CAN do this himself), but with the caveat that they couldn’t watch a video of Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare. Because I said so, that’s why. Squirtle noticed that there was a video with Kirby, and I OK’d watching that.

Well, Charmander was able to put some pieces together in his mind upon watching this playthrough of Kirby Triple Deluxe:

  1. This is a game for a system we own
  2. Mommy and Daddy are capable of buying games
  3. This game looks fun
  4. Mommy and Daddy should buy this game

At least, I figure that’s what went through his mind, because he asked. He hasn’t really asked for games to be bought before. Ok, well, that’s not entirely true. We’ve been in stores, and he’s asked for Wii U games, but we don’t have that system, and he’s asked for PvZ: Garden Warfare, but that requires an XBOX Live Gold account and always being online, which is not happening. But this is a game that he asked for without seeing the box. I said we’d talk to Daddy about it, which is a fancy way of saying “No, and I don’t want to talk about it right now”. I put him to bed later on, before Husbachu got home, and thought nothing else about it.

The next morning, I find Charmander sitting with a Wiimote in his hands playing the NES Kirby’s Adventure. Oh, good; we purchased that a long time ago on the Virtual Console, so it’s like it’s free at this point, which was why Husbachu fired it up for him.

If you can't beat 'em, eat 'em.  Best slogan ever.

You eat that box art, Kirby. That’ll teach ’em.

He claims that if Charmander can beat the game, maybe in the distant future we can buy him Triple Deluxe. Maybe. Maybe he’ll have forgotten by then! We just don’t want to spend money on games for a child who will likely not be able to play through the game himself. It requires more manual dexterity than a tower defense game does. Case in point: he was too stressed to beat the bosses on his own. Husbachu did the classic battle against the tree for him, and I took care of the first onslaught of Meta Knight. He did play through the rest of the stages up through most of the second world, so that was pretty good, at least. Now I’m wondering if mine and Husbachu’s backseat gaming is causing Charmander to rely on us too much. Maybe he wouldn’t ask us to do it if we weren’t sitting there next to him looking so capable. Anyways, after I did the Meta Knight fight for him, he seemed to be getting whiny, and then I discovered he’d been playing video games for an hour without having breakfast or anything like that, so we had to stop and act like humans for a bit. Later that night, though… he wanted to watch game play videos of Triple Deluxe again.

What's pink and sucks?

Eat that… stuff in front of you… Kirby. Is it us? Are you eating us?

And then he wanted to watch it again the next night, and this night as well. Two weeks ago, for show and tell at his preschool, he brought along some Plants Vs Zombies K’Nex. The week before that? A plush PvZ Zombie. And some random time before that, he brought along those cut outs I mentioned making for him before. But this week, he brought along a big Kirby plush we’ve had sitting around for ages.

Is a new era dawning? Is our home life about to become entirely about a pink ball with feet that devours all that crosses his path and absorbs his foes’ powers? I don’t know for certain. He is still playing PvZ daily, probably because this month there’s a special “party” every day in PvZ2 that awards special prizes. It is kind of refreshing to see some real enthusiasm for SOMETHING THAT’S NOT PLANTS VS ZOMBIES. Not that he hasn’t had other interests this entire time. But this is a nice change of pace. And always remember: If you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em. Thank you, Kirby.

Free Comic Book Day!

Soooo, yesterday was Free Comic Book Day. Sincere apologies to all my rock-dwelling readers who would have liked this information YESTERDAY. I was going to post about it earlier this week, but then I had to keep the kids alive and forgot. Whoops. Also, you know, comic books are not video games, and this is a video game blog. But fear not! There were video game comic books given out for free, so we can talk about that!

Charmander has had prior experience with video game comics, so I thought this would be a good event to further his interest. He’s actually played Mega Man BECAUSE he likes the manga. Yes, comics are inspiring! About a year back, a friend gave me his collection of the Mega Man Megamix and Gigamix graphic novels, intending for me to read them, but my oldest son grabbed onto them, and I’ve never really had time to look over them myself. Every time I would try sit down with them, he would make me read over the Robot Master’s bio pages again.

No bookshelf of ours is complete without a PvZ book.

These were mint condition when I got them. You can see the “love” they have received.

I have read some of that first issue to him, but the actual action gets a little too intense for him, I think? He just likes looking at the pictures, and hearing about the characters, as opposed to hearing all the word bubbles. The old NES games, though, are honestly a better pace for a preschooler, and he was very happy to “play” them. It was also an interesting study in how much patience he had acquired at that point in time. First, we had him try it out on the Mega Man collection for the PS2. We had to drag out the PS2 itself from storage for this, as we are not blessed with a first gen PS3:

PS2s have a pretty good length cord for the controllers

Husbachu, Charmander, and Squirtle ignore the mess around them for more important things.

This seems idyllic, but we actually didn’t put up with this for very long. There are too many buttons on that controller for that game, so we actually ended up doing some more digging around, and pulling up the NES from storage and having him play on that.  He worked very hard for a fair amount of time, learning how to navigate each screen without taking deathly damage.  And then, you know, Husbachu ended up playing most of the game for him. He’d go through the stages, and let Charmander tackle the Robot Masters. That is something that is very different from our own childhoods in gaming: parents that can help you play the game. I certainly didn’t have that; I had parents that would help me turn the game off, and that’s it. Also, here is my childhood NES now collecting dust on a dresser, because we’re too lazy to put anything away in this household:

By the by, those games on the side are totally for sale.  Give me money.

By the by, those games on the side are totally for sale. Give me money.

But anyways, Charmander loves Mega Man, and he loves the video game because he loves the comics. And luckily, one of the comics being given out was a “Mega Man and Sonic the Hedgehog Flip Book”. Yeah, in the video game world itself, Sonic is besties with Mario now-a-days, but in the comic book world, the Blue Blur and the Blue Bomber hang out for afternoon tea and robot busting and stuff, which makes more sense to me than the former relationship, but I digress. The book itself is actually Mega Man X based, and after waiting half an hour in the hot sun to get into the comic book shop, Charmander was actually against picking up this book, which was kind of exasperating to me. I guess he was content with the actual Sonic/Mega Man crossover comic that we paid for outside, and felt full up on the franchises? Or maybe the X franchise seems too intense for him.  The original Mega Man looks so simple and approachable even while angry, while X looks more intimidating overall.  That’s supposed to be cooler, right?   I picked it up on his behalf, anyway, and he did enjoy it when he was back home, and re-hydrated and full of grilled cheese sandwich:

PRO-TIP: He cannot read

It’s almost as if he can read it.

The comic itself is just X’s backstory, somehow told with only one panel featuring Zero, and it isn’t even a very dramatic rendering of said Maverick Hunter’s hair. Ah, well. The flip side of the comic is Sonic, and I don’t actually remember seeing Charmander look at it, which is surprising, because he actually likes Sonic a lot.  He has multiple Sonic shirts, and has been asking for Sonic underwear and possibly a Shadow the Hedgehog shirt.  Most of his knowledge of the games, however, comes from watching YouTube videos, which I will get into in a separate post some… time… but yeah, I was kind of disappointed he didn’t show more interest in it. The Sonic comic itself presents the mighty claim of “ALL IS REVEALED”. I looked it over and had more questions afterwards. Like, when the heck did Nicole, Sally’s personal computer, get some kind of real world avatar? I’m sure that’s left a lot of you with even more questions, but I will just let you look that stuff up for yourselves. At any rate, I was hoping he’d be more into that flip side because Sonic comics were a big part of my own youth. I collected/poured over them for many years. I had been telling people I stopped at issue 50, but looking over my pile just a few minutes ago, I see that I actually made it to issue 61.

Scattering comics willy-nilly on your unmade bed shows the utmost respect for them.

Scattering comics willy-nilly on your unmade bed shows the utmost respect for them.

The collection of these fine pieces of literary art came at great risk to my own personal well-being. You see, my mom didn’t like me reading them, didn’t like to take me places to buy them, and overall didn’t like me buying them period. Also, I was only allowed to ride my bike around the block until like, high school or some nonsense, but I had to break the rules over this cause. In unprecedented rebellion, I would ride my bike out multiple blocks away, purchase these books with the random change I had hoarded, and then sneak them back into my house inside my shirt. So stealthy. I also had to eventually carry the whole collection around with me as I’d go out places, as there was a very real fear of my stuff being trashed by my mom while I was gone. It wasn’t that the collection was getting too heavy to carry around that I stopped buying them, though: it was a conscious choice that I made, because I thought it was getting childish to read them or something. Or maybe I just needed to save all those extra coins to buy actual video games or anime or something. It’s getting a little blurry. I guess the point is, I don’t follow it anymore, and my son isn’t interested in starting to follow it. Ah, well.

Back to the actual event for a moment, though: the surprise hit of Free Comic Book Day for my kids was the Hello Kitty comic they were giving out. I would highly recommend checking this one for your preschool age kids, regardless of gender. It’s very cute, without actually being stereotypically girly, and there’s no dialogue, so they can pick up the story by just following along the boxes. Squirtle decided that he wanted multiple copies of this book, and nothing else. And on the actual video game related comic end for adults, there was an issue of Street Fighter, which feature Chun Li fighting street while juggling groceries. That’s a pretty typical day for me, too.

Next year, I’ll probably be taking the kids out again for free stuff. It’s possible that my oldest will be able to read by then, so it’ll be interesting to see if his tastes in comics will have evolved. In the meantime, we’ll share what we’ve already got together.