There comes a time in our children’s lives when they must learn the agony of a crushing gaming defeat. Who better to teach them this than the people they love the most?

In my house, gaming is a family affair. Each of us has our genres of preference, but when it comes to settling our differences, nothing beats good old-fashioned competitive gaming.

Wii Sports is usually good for this, and of course any fighting game, but the more creative the challenge, the more memorable the lesson.

Recently, my nephew, thanks to the magic of emulators, introduced my daughters (11 and 8) to Diddy Kong Racing and Super Puzzle Fighter II. I am not particularly skilled in the former, so I let my nephew handle that life lesson. Actually, his girlfriend provided the lesson, much to my nephew’s chagrin. “It’s not really a competition; I always win,” she explained matter-of-factly as she kicked everyone’s ass.

But Puzzle Fighter, now that’s all me. My kids have come to dread Morrigan’s condescending little laugh, especially when I do it outside of the game.

Puzzle Fighter was one of my favourite games growing up, so this was not only about life lessons, but about nostalgic bonding. Like many of the puzzle games that dominate mobile apps these days, Puzzle Fighter involves matching coloured blocks and then breaking them with power ups. The competitive catch is that for every chain one person breaks, the other player is hit with an equivalent cascade of obstacles. With proper strategy and a little patience, the obstacles can be turned back on their deliverer with brutal effect. Needless to say, I am a master of both delivery and return, much to my kids’ (and my nephew’s) frustration. Note: I did concede to play on level three while they played on the easiest levels.

But I do NOT give mercy rounds.

Mama’s gonna knock you out: Playing Avengers: Battle for Earth at Fan Expo 2012

Sorry kids. Mama’s gonna knock you out, because I firmly believe that children need to learn to deal with disappointment and defeat and the best way to teach them is by having them experience it first hand. There are no mercy rounds in this family.

After my crushing victories, I always take the time to sit down and cuddle with them and discuss areas of possible improvement:

  • Are you effectively using the block button? After all, the best offense is a good defense.
  • Special moves are exciting, but often leave you vulnerable if you fail to pull them off. Know when to simply sweep the leg, instead of trying for that epic 20-hit combo.
  • Button-mashing is not always your friend, but sometimes it’s the best way to defeat enemies.
  • Always be ready with a counterattack.
  • Always be ready for a counterattack to your counterattack.
  • If you keep getting your butt handed to you, step back, bow out of the game, take some time to breathe and process, then practice on your own for a while until you’ve mastered.
  • Focus on a particular character or style that reflects your own strengths. Don’t just pick a character because they are cool.
  • Be aware of your character or style’s weaknesses and learn how to compensate for them.

I’d like to think that such lessons will carry them through their young lives and prepare them for the hurdles of adulthood. I look forward to the day when they will take this knowledge and use it against me, proudly unseating me from my throne in a shower of condescending laughter and shiny crystal blocks.