Top 10 Lessons I Learned Playing Mario With My Kids_Alex guest post_header image

10 Lessons From Playing Mario With My Kids

We here at BKLK completely understood why Alex from DadRites.com chose to shut down his dad blog, but that didn't stop us from lamenting the loss.
Luckily Alex has scribed a spectacular guest post for you to read right here!

I’m a Nintendo Geek. Always have been, always will be. While other people are counting their head-shots and kill-stats, I’m collecting gold coins and rescuing princesses. I love the innocence and the cartoon animation. Nintendo produce games I can play in front of my kids and I have done, a lot. When my daughter was about 1 my wife bought me a Wii for Christmas. I spent many a happy hour with my little girl dozing on my lap while I ran through levels of Mario and Zelda, indulged in a spot of stylised violence in Smash Bros and experienced the all-consuming rage of the blue shell in Mario Kart.

Mario Kart in real life_go kart nintendo on street_mario & Luigi costume
Photo by Miki Yoshihito. Click on image to view source.

Before long the little girl was not so little anymore and was joined by her brother. The Missus and I played Mario Kart and the kids sat on our laps with ‘magic controllers’ to join in. Magic controllers don’t actually control anything, but they didn’t know that. Time passes and before we knew it, the kids were playing with us. We looked for 4 player titles so game-time would be family-time. Early this year I bought a Wii U and we played Super Mario 3D World from start to finish… as a family. It was brilliant.

Super Mario 3d world image

It also taught me a few things. So here we go:

1. Patience

Sweet Jeebus, Merry and Pippin! INFINITE. FECKING. PATIENCE. Here’s a wee bit of context for you, my girl is 6 and my boy is just 4, the first few times we played it was very gentle, easy-going and relaxed. I spent most of my time picking up the boy’s character and carrying him over the tricky bits. It was cute, it was easy, but then he got better. In fact, he got surprisingly awesome amazingly quick! So now the Missus and I were contending with two kids (two MASSIVE personalities) who want to do their own thing.

‘We have to get across this bridge’

‘Screw you, Daddy! There’s something shiny over here!’

‘Leave that Mushroom for me please, I’m small… Damnit!’

‘Stop throwing me off the edge!’

‘This way. THIS WAY!’

‘Left! I said left! No, your other left!’

(My kids have never said ‘screw you’ just so you know)

Family brothers playing classic original NES Nintendo_classic controllers
Photo by Amy. Click image to view source.

2. Team Work

With that in mind, we completed a whole game as a family. We got through every single level, we collected every single green star, every stamp and got to the top of every flag pole. For those of you who know Mario games, you’ll know this is quite an achievement. We had to learn to work together. We acknowledged each others’ strengths and weaknesses. Daddy is good at the Captain Toadstool Levels, RatGirl is epic at killing bosses and RatBoy is a total boss in a cat-suit. And the Missus? Well the Missus is annoyingly good at everything.

Nintendo NES_Mario 1 Up mushroom truckers cap hat_Get A Life_Unimpressed son
Photo by Mike Mozart. Click image to view source.

3. I swear too much

Oh man, do I swear too much. I’ve always known this but Mario brought out the demon in me. Mostly I’m in a red mist of computer-induced fury but on one memorable occasion I think I shouted,

“For fucksake Luigi, you green-hatted bastard, get up the top of the fucking pole you dirty stripper!”

Dad and kids play original classic Atari 2600 home console_video game_advertisement_1970s
Photo by Matthew Rutledge. Click image to view source.

4. Don’t underestimate

I lost count of the amount of times I said to the kids, “Do you want Daddy to do it?” only to fall off a ledge myself and watch on as my children finished the level. RatBoy and RatGirl defeated Bowser BY THEMSELVES. That’s right. They had no help from mum or dad. We were dead already. We sat in open-mouthed awe as our kids completed this level…

And RatGirl has an unerring ability to spot secrets from a mile away. She seems to be able to sense the locations of hidden tunnels, pipes and caves. It’s kind of freaky. We’ve learned to totally trust her instincts.

In fact, we depend on her.

Balding middle aged man commited to playing original classic NES Nintendo console_World Championship 1990
Photo by Ben Stephenson. Click image to view source.

5. Persistence

There were plenty of levels that had us completely dumbfounded, levels that we just couldn’t complete and levels that we explored a thousand times but could never find that final hidden green star. When we completed the game on the first run-through and then went back to collect all the hidden items, we decided to do it in order and not skip a level until we had everything. The kids, of course, would protest that they wanted to do a different level but we said “No, we have to stick to it to get it done”. Before long, the little sponges were following their parents’ example. I remember one occasion I let the kids play by themselves while I cooked dinner. I heard RatGirl tell her brother, ‘We aren’t quitting RatBoy, we’re sticking to it until the job’s done!’

Brilliant!

Wii till you sweat_dedicated Nintendo geek nerd player
Photo by Sean Mason. Click image to view source.

6. Satisfaction

Imagine all four of us finally beating a level we’d been stuck on for weeks or finally completing the whole game! It was an enormous sense of satisfaction, of achievement; something we did together. I’ll admit, I was a little upset when RatGirl’s ‘What we did on holiday’ project at school was called, ‘Complete Mario’. She could’ve mentioned the camping, the fishing, the gardening, the tree climbing and all that but no, she was proud of completing Mario so fair play to her.

Angry Mii character
Photo by Eben Selker. Click image to view source.

7. Anger Management

This kind of goes hand in hand with number 3 and number 8. I could try to bullshit this a bit and say that we’re ‘passionate people’ but let’s tell it how it is; gaming can make you angry, especially platformers. When you’ve tried to run through a level a thousand times and you almost make it but someone else cocks it up, it is very hard to resist this…

Of course I have NEVER hit my kids with a keyboard but you get the point, my wife and I are passionate, excitable gamers but the kids are just kids. They copy modelled behaviour and it’s already bad enough that I swear. We’ve pulled each other up a few times… but saying that, we’ve also given the kids 5 minute time-outs for being dicks:

Dont be a dick_family motto_made of lego

The boy went through a stage of thinking it was hysterical to pick another character up and throw them off a ledge!

Oh, the rage!

But…

8. Prioritising (it is just a game)

There is absolutely no point in getting angry about a game is there? It’s as ridiculous as arguing with a 3 year old (have you heard that Louis CK sketch? Totally worth it!) It’s just a game! Certainly not worth destroying a relationship with your family over! And this is the reason why I wanted to write this; I honestly think gaming with a family can be a very beneficial and healthy thing. It’s like a little microcosm of the world; little challenges and problems to overcome that give a sense of satisfaction and achievement but are, ultimately, meaningless. And that’s good!

Surely if a family can overcome the nonsense of gaming together then they can get through some of the real crap life will throw at them (unless of course my son gets big enough to actually throw me over a ledge!)

1980s girl in sweater playing classic original NES Nintendo console_Legend of Zelda_retro flashback
Photo by globochem3x1minus1. Click image to view source.

9. Know when to concede defeat

We finished the whole game!

Almost. We haven’t completed Champion’s Road. We gave it a good go but we just couldn’t do it. I found the video of someone else completing it and showed it the wife and kids

We decided as a group that our lives would be better off if we simply conceded defeat. There’s no way the 4 of us would be able to get through that!

And you know what? We all breathed a sigh of relief afterwards. There’s nothing quite like solving a problem by realising it doesn’t have to be a problem at all.

10. Exceptional bribery

And finally, some functional parenting help. The kids LOVE gaming so it is the perfect bribe! I know it may seem like all we do is play games but the kids are not allowed to play on a school night and they only get to play alone as a reward – it is usually a strict ‘family’ activity. During term time we only ever play on Friday or Saturday and the kids only play if they complete a series of jobs first. Yesterday they asked me if they could play Mario Kart and I said, ‘Sure, but first you have to make your beds, clean up the toys, draw a picture (each) and play in the back yard for an hour.

They played out the back for nearly 3 hours because they got distracted but when they eventually came inside they still saw the 30 minutes of game-time I gave them as a reward.

Children playing Nintendo Wii in the loungeroom_kids boys_video games
Photo by Makelessnoise. Click image to view source.

In the eyes of my kids I’m the best dad ever. To everyone else, a bullshit artist! But whatever works, right?

I don’t want my kids to be addicted to gaming. I don’t want it to take over their lives but everything in moderation. The thing with this sort of gaming though, by playing Mario as a family, we’re making memories.

With a little less swearing I’m sure they’ll be awesome ones!


All images used in this post are used under Creative Commons Attribution Licensing. Please click on each image to view the original source and to discover the artist.

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  • Tash from Gift Grapevine

    The family that plays together, stays together right?! Bravo on finishing the game as a family – that’s a huge achievement and something that the kids will remember and look back on fondly. And if it made a school project then it must have been pretty special!

    • David Hawkins

      Alex has inspired me to buy a Wii U! That’s what I’m taking from his awesome guest post. And then, as soon as Little L is old enough, it’ll be family House of the Dead shoot outs and gore.