There have been many instances in my parenthood thus far in which I’ve known exactly how I mishandled my mothering know-how. For example, when my four-year-old son told me to “go love myself,” I knew right away allowing him to listen to the Beibs was my mistake. I understand my kids are their own people, meaning I don’t push them to like one thing over another. You can imagine my total disappointment when the oldest kiddo refuses to watch Goonies or listen to classic Madonna. I have a strong urge to force them to like the things I like or liked as a kid, but it’s like trying to stuff a rabid cat into a carrier with your bare hands. I know when I’m beat. Mostly. (I’m firm on cutting off the Biebs.)
However, I do not understand why they won’t get on the Pokémon GO bandwagon. This isn’t a nostalgic trip down “but mommy loved this when she was young” lane, so what gives? What am I doing wrong? My husband downloaded the app to his phone a few days after it released. We ran out to the front yard with the kids and immediately found a Squirtle. I assumed their enthusiasm would grow. Not so much.
Everyone I know is searching for Pokémon. Not me personally. I’m not a gamer or interested in finding Pokémon on my own, but I’ve driven by neighborhoods where parents are searching with their kids. They huddle together and laugh and smile, and I’m like damn, I would do this for my kids. I would Pokémon GO for them. There are videos of seekers stopping traffic in Australia, there are news articles of seekers finding dead bodies, and while I don’t want to fall off a cliff, this craze holds my interest more than any other video game app ever has—if you don’t count my short-lived obsessions with Crossy Roads. Or Angry Birds.
Let’s be real, whether or not people are playing this game, they are at least talking about it. But no matter what I say, or how interested their friends find the game, my kids just don’t care. The engagement with the rest of the world that I desperately seek for them does not hold an ounce of appeal.
So, what are my little gamers interested in playing? Here’s a list and short breakdown of the five games keeping my kiddos occupied this summer.
Minecraft Story Mode Episode 7
This is a given. My daughter lives in the world of Minecraft, and nothing could contain her excitement this week when Episode 7 dropped. Of course, she whipped through it in less than two hours, but the entire time nothing but happiness and joy filtered out from her bedroom. Episode 6 introduced a group of my daughter’s favorite YouTubers as characters to the narrative, but Episode 7 continued with the regular story play of Jesse. Replay value is moderately high, especially when she gets to invite her Minecraft loving friends over, but the engagement level is really low.
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Out of all the Lego video games released so far, this is my favorite. I don’t know if they had me in mind (the super slow, non-gaming mom) when they developed this game, but while playing with my four-year-old, I only had to look up a help video once. After we finished the main game play and unlocked a good amount of characters, my husband came in behind me and collected enough studs to unlock the option that multiplies the stud worth. This is some true family team work that allows my youngest to free play and obtain the fun characters he recognizes. Replay value is super high, and the engagement level is moderate depending on who feels like playing.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
ACNL won VGX Award for Most Casual Game, although my oldest doesn’t really care about award-winning games. She likes animals and being in charge. This 3DS game allows her buddy to jump into her world and vice versa when they are sitting side by side on their devices. It’s got great replay value when she’s in the mood to rule.
This is one I’ll never understand. It’s like a circle thing that eats other circle things and everyone is on a server trying to eat each other’s circles. Kiddo plays this on the iPad all the time. Like hours upon hours, although there is no communication with anyone else or explanation as to why this game even exists. Can’t argue with the quiet time though, so I’ll continue to monitor her circle eating. Replay is all the time. Engagement with others is a big fat no.
iTunes says this is the “largest user-generated gaming community,” and I guess that’s great. Kiddo loves the variety of games available, although some of the titles appear to be inappropriate, and I make sure to monitor what she plays. She also doesn’t play with a login, so I don’t have to worry about her being a part of the actual community. I’m overprotective like that. She complains some of the games are glitchy, and she has to have a great connection to stop any lag. Replay value is every day after she earns her coveted screen time. Engagement is no, because mommy says so.
I think back to being a nine-year-old and still refusing to let go of my Barbie Dream House and My Little Pony collection, neither of which my daughter cared to play with when I bought her a collection of her own. I should’ve learned my lesson then that my kids are going to go their own way no matter how I try to influence them. My husband always laughs at my efforts and questions if I liked what my mom liked. Yes, I did. She played Patsy Cline, and I still think “Walking After Midnight” is one of the sweetest songs I’ve ever heard. Black and white movies fill me with a nostalgic warmth. My daughter asks why the television color is broken. The connection to my past is never going to happen, and my connection to their present is at a lag.
But I think I finally get it. If mom thinks it’s cool, then it’s not. I should buy her a T-shirt with that concept, but I don’t think she’d wear it. So sorry, Pokémon GO. We aren’t the family for you. Blame the kids.
Read the rest of the Mom’N’Pop Culture series.