These Aren’t Your Father’s Video Games, Apparently

photo credit: loresjoberg Peace in our Time via photopin (license)

They’re the three words a dad doesn’t want to hear from his daughter.

“It’s complicated, dad.” When did I lose touch? When did I become irrelevant? At what point did the things that matter in my daughter’s life slip off my radar; so far that when I try to regroup, attempt to understand, she could just shake her head and gives up on me?

This wasn’t a Hallmark movie conversation with my teen about boy drama.

It wasn’t with my 11-year-old about her own developing life. This happened on a lazy Saturday morning, when dad decided, yes, he will take a shot at Mario Brothers with a 7-year-old.

Mind you, it’s not the first time I’ve played ‘modern’ video games.

I know how to hold a Wii controller. Usually. I know about lives and worlds and that mushrooms and turtles are bad and gold coins and flowers that flash are good. Beyond that? There was schoolin’ to be had.

I peppered her with questions

Hence, the first grader, sighing heavily, and telling me, “It’s complicated, dad.

I was asking about Yoshi (the green dragon I suddenly rode), and then … How can you throw both ice and fire balls? Which button are you supposed to push for either one? How are you supposed to know when to “bubble up?”

I peppered her with questions, I realize.

It wasn’t until I asked how come I could hop off Yoshi’s back and nail him with a fireball, but he wouldn’t die, that she finally put my curiosity in its place. “It’s complicated, dad.” Yes, it is.

I was too young to be a pinball wizard, but I also wasn’t very good at all at Pitfall.

And all you needed was arrow keys. The Wii remote has directional keys, an A and B button and a couple more, I believe. I’m not sure. You can also wiggle it. Seriously? Back in my day, it was a joystick and a button.

And you hardly used the button.

My worlds had one world in them

Back then, it was me, blowing a modest fistful of quarters bumbling around the first two levels of Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, and Frogger. No high scores. No multiple worlds. No cars or characters unlocked.

No wonder Mario Brothers is too complicated.

Not so much for Marie, age 11. She’s bounced off a few monster centipedes, outfoxed an angry, armored turtle beast, and rescued a princess with considerable fanfare. Impressive. She cuts through worlds and villains the way I do pizza slices.

She’s the girl who will someday pick up a golf club and say, “Hmm, what’s this?” then probably hit a hole-in-one.

She puts the remote down after her victory.

Me: What now, Marie?

Marie: What do you mean?

Me: What do you have to do next? You just saved the princess.

Marie: Nothing. I’m done.

Me: Done?

Marie: (sigh) Yes. I did all the levels.

Me: All of them??

Marie: (sigh No. 2) Yes. I’m finished.

Me: I am too, Marie.

I am, too.



  1. AnnMarie says:

    My sons want me to play Xbox with them constantly and I don’t get it. The darn controller has so many buttons that I go right when I want to go left and left when I want to go right and what is the X button for??? I kicked butt at Pitfall by the way and had the high score in Asteroids but these days, I leave the confusion to the kids.

    1. I know – they talk about circle this and that, and it’s not only that there are 17 buttons on the dang things, but there are *combinations* of buttons to produce different effects. I don’t I know 17 things to do with myself in person, let alone as Luigi. I think our kids would go brain-dead playing Frogger now.

      Either they’re going to be the brilliant generation that figures it all out, or they’re going to all be grey-matter-fried and laying around on couches, wondering why they didn’t just listen to us.

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