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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

From Game Maker to Game Tester

Several years ago Munchkin Boy and I downloaded a game making program. This was one of those things that he really wanted to do and I did my best to be supportive. He wasn't reading yet, so his making games required me reading the directions. It was a slow process and I was easily confused, but we did end up successfully creating a couple of basic games.

His interest in game making passed to interest in other things.

A couple of days ago, he started talking about that program and about making games again. When I got up this morning (5am!) he was already up working on a new game. I actually thought maybe he had stayed up all night, but, no, he slept, and got himself up at 4 this morning. He tells me, "It's great getting up so early. I had the computer to myself. I got so much work done!"

He's always been an early riser, but the wee early morning hours have long been my own time. It's going to be an adjustment, sharing this space and time of day if he decides to make a habit of it. On the other hand, he's making games and I'm no longer reading directions and trying to make my brain think in ways it simply does not. (It was probably more about interest than ability, but still...) In fact, as he's talked about his progress in the last 24 hours, he's saying, "remember this and remember that" and I truly have no memory of the process. Just the fact that we did it -- together. The details of how the program worked all fell out of my head as quickly as I had accomplished the task at hand.

He remembered, though, and he is now building on what he remembered and adding new information to his arsenal. Yesterday afternoon he spent some time on some Wii games that he hasn't touched in quite a while. He told me he was looking at games differently now. What makes a game good? What makes a person want to keep playing it?

I am struck once more by how this role of mine is constantly changing. I can maintain interest in game making from a distance now. I am no longer required to read directions or help figure numbers. There is a sense of relief, yet I know that my children aren't done asking me to step outside of my own comfort zone or area of mastery in order to help them find their own.

It would have been easy, several years ago, to say, "You're not ready to make a game yet. You'll have to wait until you are older." If a mother isn't there to help fill in the blanks when you aren't quite ready to go it alone, what is a mother for?

Had his interest back then gone much deeper or longer, I probably would have looked for someone, another resource, to fill in the blanks more capably than I could myself. Figuring out how to best facilitate has always been the challenge.

At the same time, I feel a bit wistful for those days when we'd work on making a game together until my head hurt and I had to take a break. I miss the way he'd sit beside me and lean into me with the weight of his whole body when he was absorbing new information. I miss the way he'd get impatient for the action part of the activity and would distract me from the task at hand with his chatter and ideas.

Oh wait... he still does that...

I miss when we had weeks-long projects that required the two of us, head-to-head, to get it accomplished.

Now I can test completed games and provide feedback. I can be a person he bounces ideas off, and I will enjoy this role for as long as it lasts, for my sophistication as a game player may not meet his criteria for long.

For now, he can make games and I can play them, and whatever we do tomorrow... in the future... will be a learning experience for both of us.


Anonymous said...

Watching and guiding children as they grow and develop character and personality is truly the most amazing thing! I love reading about your perceptions of your children almost as much as I enjoyed my own experiences as a mom with youngsters.
Thanks for sharing.

Harold Hendricks said...

It is cute that you are your son's game tester. It is good that your son is exercising his brain in such a way at a young age. Making games is no easy task.

Harold Hendricks said...

It is cute that you are your son's game testers. It is good that your son is exercising his brain in such a way at a young age. Making games is no easy task.