As you may recall, Santa delivered a 4 year-old Wii to our house about a month ago, and that little white console box might as well have been a Pandora’s box.
We never want our kids to get lost in another world and forget the real one where people and things matter, so we were very cautious about how much video game time (electronics in general) we have. Having said that, we thought we might try playing Wii for about a half hour about one or two nights a week as a family… so Santa delivered.
I know video games have come a long way since I was a kid, but we thought we would start our kids off on the classics, and Nintendo offered a Super Mario Brothers for their Wii console. Elements of the older games still remain. You still fight mutated mushrooms, turtles throwing hammers, and Venus fly-traps that rhythmically go in and out of pipes, but, the part we didn’t have as a kid was the ability to play simultaneously with 4 other people (Mario, Luigi, Yellow Mushroom Man, and Blue Mushroom Man)! Since the baby is not interested in games just yet, this is the perfect scenario for all of the others to play together. Also, if you die, and you still have a man left, you will eventually float by in a bubble. If someone doesn’t mind bursting your bubble, you may reenter the game. Yes! Not only will my kids get to play and have fun together, they will learn teamwork too, methinks.
Not so much.
First, let me address playing style.
Oldest Son – “If I get to the end first, I win!” I explained several times that they are playing as a team, but he is still interested in getting there first. The problem is, everyone is on the same screen. If you run off ahead of everyone else, the side of the TV pushes all of the stragglers forward, whether they are ready to move or not. Nonetheless, in his mind, the object is to get to the finish-line, so stopping for coins, stars, or Yoshi takes a back seat to making good time.
Oldest Daughter – “I’m having fun even though I’m crying!” She really enjoys the game until she falls off a platform or gets squished by moving blocks. Then she gets super upset… but keeps playing. She’s also the one that works so hard to keep the four-headed snake moving together. Needless to say, her and the oldest boy have gotten into numerous arguments.
Middle Son – “Whatever my man is doing on the screen, I’m also doing it in real life.” Seriously, if it wasn’t so bad for him, I could watch him play video games for hours. He jumps when Mario jumps. He moves his feet when Mario runs. He leans in one direction or the other when Mario is close to danger. Usually after a level or two, he has unconsciously jumped all the way to the front of the TV, which becomes a big distraction to everyone else trying to play.
Youngest Son – “What, this place is dangerous?!?” I swear, this boy is cannon fodder. I keep thinking it is just because he doesn’t fully understand what’s going on, but he will absolutely walk into a pit, turtle, or anything else… While the other’s are fighting Bowser, he’s just enjoying the stroll through the country-side. The good news is, Wii keeps track of the number of continues each player has, and he gets excited about his “high score”. He even gloats about it to the others.
Tonight, after Bible time, it was a little early for bed and we haven’t played Wii in over a week, so I thought it might be fun for about 45 minutes while Beth and the baby went to the bedroom and folded laundry.
It started out nice enough… The first few levels were nice. A few bumps and bruises, but overall, things were good. However, as the levels got more difficult, a friendly game of Mario morphed into a civil war.
The middle son had bounced his way in front, and was definitely told by the kids on multiple occasions to move, which only fixed things temporarily until he bounced back. The oldest son was running up ahead of everyone else and dragging the stragglers off of cliffs, into turtles, or into walls, killing them instantly. This definitely made the others mad, especially the oldest daughter. She refused to pop his bubble a couple of times because “he’s not nice”. She also shouted to the others that they needed to catch up, and if they didn’t hurry, she was going to leave them. Another eruption broke out when a question-mark box was hit to produce four eggs that instantly hatched and created anthropomorphic dinosaurs to ride (Are they all named “Yoshi”?). I thought it was nice that everyone got one, but they spent about a minute arguing about which one they wanted… they were all different colors, and it just didn’t make sense for Mario to ride the blue one and Luigi to ride the yellow one. Through a series of mounts and dismounts, accidental dismounts, and unfortunate accidents, all of the dinosaurs were made extinct again. Several random times, the youngest son managed to avoid danger when everyone else died, and suddenly, knowing their continuation depended on his timely popping of their bubbles, they all turned to him shouting things like “Press 2”, “Set me free first”, “Walk over here”. Usually in a matter of seconds, while he’s listening to everyone and trying to decide what to do, a mushroom would walk into him, killing him instantly. This caused an eruption of frustration, and, in the oldest girl’s case, tears. To add insult to injury, this would usually lead to him telling everyone that he was winning the number of continues tally… and trash talking a bit.
I gave them the “one more round and it’s over” warning, which obviously put a ton of pressure on an already tense situation as they had to “make this one count”. Since the middle son had the number #1 controller, he decided the level, and through a series of accidental button taps, took them to one of the first levels that they played, angering all others who wanted to do the water level that they were on one last time. This time the oldest quickly dragged all of the others off a cliff and ran into a turtle within a matter of seconds, ending the “fun”.
Frustrated, tired, angry at one another, and with tears in their eyes, we ended family-fun game time and went to bed. Only the baby, who did laundry with Mami, was in good spirits. I quickly realized that this was no state to leave the kids, so despite wanting to get them down quick and watch “Parks and Recreation”, we had a teachable moment instead:
1. Wii is for fun. If we can’t have fun while playing it, we are taking a game way too seriously.
2. If Wii can’t be used for fun, we won’t play Wii any more (this led to more tears, but I accepted it, given the fragile state Mario had left them in).
3. We (not to be confused with Wii) are a family and a team always, and we always act nice to one another.
4. God, family, church, school, and friends are all more important than Wii. That’s where we need to devote our hearts.
Wii is now on a probationary period… If tears, bad attitudes, and sibling problems persist, a Wii will be up for sale on “Midlothian/Mansfield Moms Buy-Sell-Trade” soon. I hope they can learn to put things into perspective and not get so wrapped up in a video game in which the outcome doesn’t matter. After all, we only have one man and no continues in life… We have to make them count for things that do matter.
At the dinnermesa,