April 7, 2009 8:00 AM | Mister Raroo
[In an interesting mash-up, the latest instalment of Mister Raroo's regular GameSetWatch column uses one of his wife’s blog posts as the backbone for this article, discussing the trials and tribulations of parenthood -- specifically about how being a dad has changed his gaming tastes.]
From Akemi Monster to Car Monster
Not too long ago my wife Akemi wrote an entry called "Taking After Our Child" on her blog that discusses how becoming a mother has led to her taking up interests should would normally have no taste for simply because our son loves them. One of the key examples she gives is how even though she’s never had any inclination to think twice about cars, our car-obsessed toddler has given her a new appreciation for them.
Akemi remembers, “When I was pregnant with our son, my husband and I decided that we wanted to keep the baby's gender a surprise. We not only liked the idea that the birth would be like getting to open the biggest surprise gift ever, but we also wanted to avoid the trap of receiving piles of gender specific shower gifts. The thought of ending up with a collection of ‘My Little Slugger’ or ‘Our Princess’ apparel truly appalled us. We were determined to raise our child in as gender neutral a way as possible. And then...our son was born.”
Indeed, though we didn’t intentionally steer Kaz toward “boy” interests, those seemed to be what he just naturally gravitated towards. For example, from before the time he was a year old, he loved playing with balls, usually in the form of throwing them directly at my head (often when I wasn’t expecting it). He seriously possesses an amazingly good arm for such a little guy! But it was in past few months that he found his true love: cars.
Little Motor Head
Akemi gives a wonderful account of just how infatuated with cars Kaz truly is. “He still has a very limited vocabulary and so most of our conversations with him are spoken in ‘car.’ I'd say that at least 90% of the words that come out of his mouth during the day include the following: car, truck, train, vrrrrrrroooom, choo-choo, beep-beep, and OH!-AHHH! (sound effects of cars crashing). We have even witnessed him mutter the word ‘car’ in his sleep and as the first word when waking up.”
Growing up, most of my “cars” I had as toys were actually in the form of Transformers or M.A.S.K. toys. I had a small collection of die-cast cars, but for the most part they saw little play. It’s not that I didn’t like cars, it’s just that other toys seemed more exciting, and I certainly wasn’t going out of my way to give Kazuo such an obsession with cars.
Akemi says, “You always hear about parents who want their children to follow in their footsteps, but as my husband and I have never had any real interest in cars, I can assure you that his interest in cars has nothing to do with him taking after us. In fact, rather than us pushing him to be just like us, I have found that we are being inspired by his passions and so in some ways we are taking after him.”
The interesting thing about Kaz’s current car phase is that, in some ways, it’s led to a shift in our interests, too. As Akemi says, “While my husband and I continually try to expose him to a wide variety of learning opportunities around our community, we also realize that the best way to connect with him is by supporting what he loves most. Right now, that just so happens to be cars. So, this has translated into my videogaming husband spending more time playing racing games than I have ever seen him want to.”
Racing Down the Road
I have never been a huge fan of racing games. There are a few exceptions to that rule, though, because I enjoy the more arcade-like racers including Mario Kart, OutRun, Excite Truck, Splashdown, and Ridge Racer. Even then, though, I more often than not play video games from other genres. I also never directly made an attempt to get my son excited about gaming, and in fact he still isn’t very interested in video games. That is, unless I happen to be playing a racing game, in which case he’ll run over and plop himself down into my lap.
I love snuggling and playing games with my son, and if he’s awake, I’ll usually play a racing game just because I know he’ll get so excited about it. The neat thing is that by playing more racing games for his enjoyment I’ve actually come to better understand and appreciate the genre. In fact, I revisited some of the racing games in my collection that had sitting on a shelf collecting dust and it’s been like discovering lost gems I never knew existed. Of course, seeing Kaz pump his fist in the air while his cute little voice chants “Go! Go! Go!” helps make the experience all the more exciting.
What I’d never considered is that such a diversity of genres exist within the broader racing genre, and it wasn’t until recently that this fact stood out to me. RPG fans might enjoy a game like the Playstation 2’s Road Trip, which incorporates many role-playing elements such as traveling to different towns, speaking to (automotive) inhabitants, and leveling up one’s carcharacter. On the other hand, gamers who enjoy platformers might take a liking to Dashin’ Desperados on the Sega Genesis, which shares just as much in common with its Neo-Geo big brother SpinMaster as it does with other racers.
At this point, what interests my son is more or less my guide for what types of racing games I decide to try. Kaz doesn’t have much interest in futuristic or stylized racers like F-Zero or WipeOut, but instead would rather watch me play games with more recognizable cars such as those in Sega Rally Revo or colorful characters like Diddy Kong or Mario. Still, as I’m becoming more inclined to explore the depth of games that exist within the genre, I’m finding that I’m trying games that I’d never have given much attention in the past. It’s like a whole new world has opened to me.
The Next Lap
Even though Kaz is a car maniac now, I have a feeling his focus will change in the coming years and I’m curious to see what types of interests captivate his attention. Perhaps he’ll join a soccer team, take up the violin, or collect stamps. No matter what he ends up liking, chances are Akemi and I will somehow end up exploring his hobbies by proxy. I don’t expect Kaz to become a miniature version of me, and I hope I can keep this idea in mind as he grows older. My only true goal is to teach him to be a kind and responsible person.
I have a feeling that not only will Kaz prompt me to try new game experiences, but he’ll certainly expose me to new life experiences as well. Akemi obviously feels the same way. “While there are life lessons that we certainly hope to pass on to our son, I think that my husband and I are realizing that the learning path really goes two-ways. Whatever our son falls in love with next will surely guide us to discover more about the world that we never took the time to look at on our own.”
[Mister Raroo is a happy husband, proud father, full-time public library employee, and active gamer. He currently lives in El Cajon, CA with his family and many pets. In addition to writing for GameSetWatch, Mister Raroo irregularly writes content for his blog, Moments. You may reach Mister Raroo at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
[Missus Raroo (Akemi) doesn't consider herself to be a "real" gamer, but between listening to her husband excitedly talk about games on a regular basis and trying her hand at a select few titles herself, she knows a thing or two about video games. She lives in El Cajon, CA with her husband, son, and pets. You may reach Missus Raroo at email@example.com.]
Categories: Column: Game Time With Mr Raroo