News Article

Parent Trap: Children Are Our Future, So Let Them Play

Posted by Andy Robertson

Family Gamer's Andy Robertson on the topic of game length

The perfect game length is a personal thing. Those with oodles of time will want maximum value from their purchases and demand at least 30 hours of gameplay, but those with less time — such as myself and the many other games-playing parents out there — may prefer games to be shorter. I like to be able to complete games in less than 20 hours.

However, there is another side of this that is often overlooked and offers a universal measure in terms of value for money. Beyond the time it takes to complete the campaign, it is also important to consider how long you keep playing a game for — how many weeks, months or years later are you still going back to play, even after completing it.

This is not only the gatekeeper of video game classics, where we still enjoy Zelda: Ocarina of Time or Super Mario Galaxy even though we completing them years ago, but also an excellent marker of value – and a particularly useful one for a family.

To this end there are a number of games — some that could be considered to be too short or not fully fleshed out — that my family have returned to play again and again over the years. Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort are two excellent examples, as is Go Vacation. These are games that we may have “finished” in terms of completing challenges, but that we still play on a regular basis.

The most recent addition to this category is Wii Party U. After the initial blush of excitement and racing through the different TV Party, GamePad Party and House Party modes I had thought the family would move on to other titles (there’s now no shortage of choice on the Wii U after all). However, I keep finding them coming back to Wii Party U.

Some of this has been particular games that have really clicked with the kids and kept them playing for longer. The Baseball and Football GamePad challenges have featured heavily here. Something about huddling round the Wii U controller without the need for the TV and the simple fun has made these games really “sticky”.

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Lost and Found Square has been another of the games we have gone back to play again and again. Here it is the unique challenge and experience that has drawn them back, along with the excuse to shout and jump around as they try and help each other find the right disguised Mii.

Finally the Mii Fashion Plaza board game in Wii Party U has been the longer challenge that the family has kept on playing. Here I think the appeal lies in the layered nature of the challenge, board game, dress-up game and mini-games.

All these different modes in Wii Party U have something in common with other games that offer longevity; they may appear simple but the more you play the more you understand their complexity. The interesting thing here is that with Wii Party U that complexity is not only in the game mechanics, but the human relationship, communication and interactions they create.

Playing GamePad Baseball may only offer a simple one-stick control, but play against a sibling and it turns into a subtle game of outwitting, bluffing and double bluffing your brother or sister.

We need to talk not only of game duration but also of longevity when assessing our top choices. Wii Party U ticked that box for my family, but I’m sure there are other titles for you that you still play months and years after completing them. I for one would love to hear what they are, so feel free to share your thoughts with a comment.


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User Comments (28)



ikki5 said:

Wii U Party really is a great game. Tons of fun... though you really need friends to play with you for the best of the game. That is the only downside. Computers are fine but... they don't make up for the fun you'll get with friends.



Mommar said:

I like to read these articles particularly because I don't have a family or children of my own. I have a WiiU and I often wonder if my niece and nephew might benefit from playing it. My brother seems to only view things from a singles gamer mode still and doesn't seem to see the value in having one or what could be accomplished with the kids if he did (also, his wife kind of sucks when it comes to the kids playing games.)

This article seems to suggest what I've always assumed could be fun times with my niece and nephew, or fun times for my brother's family if why would only buy their own WiiU.



Gerbwmu said:

I grew up playing video it's only natural that I want my children to play games as it's an excuse for me to play more, but as a parent I'm also mindful of the types of things they experience at a young really is why I opt for Nintendo over other options. I know there will be no shortage of quality games for my children and I to enjoy playing together.



rjejr said:

"a universal measure in terms of value for money"

For the longest time I've had a $1 per hour ratio for my video game playing. I think this comes from pretty much only playing JRPGS on the PS1. And while this may not seem realistic today w/ $60 games that last 6 - 8 hours I find Gamefly and Redbox and used game deals help me keep pretty close to that goal.

Being a father of 2 sons myself one thing I immediately noticed about that video was how young the kids look. My boys are 8 and 11 and I still think of them as boys - well because they are boys - but they are very different than the kids in this video who look to be 4 or 5. We've played Wii Party and Wii Play Motion but never for long. And they seem to have outgrown Wii Sports and Resort and Go Vacation as well. Wii Sports Club held there attention for about 5 minutes. Now they spend a lot of time playing multiplayer - every Pikmin 3 co-op level they can - and Skylanders 1 and 2 while they wait for Santa to bring 3. Problem is, they are both very sore losers and therefore only play co-op modes. Even in the 400+ hours they've put into SSBB it's mostly been teaming up against the AI.

So on the one hand I've been a very poor parent teaching my children how to lose properly, but OTOH they are very good teammates considering they are 2 1/2 years apart. And we are all very much looking forward to playing SM3DW together. Even my wife. Well she's not excited as we are, but she is looking forward to it.



andyrob_24_7 said:

@rjejr it will be interesting to see how tastes and gaming behaviour changes as my children get older. The boys being 6 and 8 perhaps I'm not seeing the same pattern as yours yet. Have they tried Disney Infinity? My kids like that because it's more co-operative and your can go your own way.



andyrob_24_7 said:

@Gerbwmu finding games to play together has been a key one for us. I'm often surprised by what we take to. In fact since writing this we've had a resurgence with Let's Catch WiiWare game. It's not only surprisingly detailed game-play mechanics but deals with significant issues like abandonment, family break up and unrequited love. Certainly lots to talk about.



sinalefa said:

Well, for me Smash Brothers is one of those games. Also Excitebots.


It is not a nice thing to lose. My brother and I are both grown ups (I am 34, he is 41) and we never play competitively. Guess some people never learn to lose, haha. When we play together it will always be a co op game.

Hopefully that will strengthen your boys' bond with each other, instead of making them trying to feel superior to one another.



Flowerlark said:

Hmmm, there are quite a few games that I keep coming back to, but I'd say the top one is Wind Waker. Even though it's a single player game, my family and friends love to sit around and watch me play it since I've run through it so many times I've become an expert at it. It's become a delight to me and family to play through it again and again, even 10 years later as we experience the WiiU remake (though we still prefer the original).



Gerbwmu said:

At 5 & 3 we play a lot of Mario Kart, Wii Play, Wii Sports, Lego City, Wii Fit U and Nintendo Land. They also love to watch me play any Mario game and at points they take the controller and play for a few minutes.

The 5 year old is starting to get the hang of the gamepad and is in love with Edge and Toki Tori.

Wii Party U is a family Christmas gift that I'm sure they will enjoy. I will probably buy SMB3D after Christmas as well. after listing all those games I feel like I'm letting them play way too many video games.......the dilemma of being a parent......



idork99 said:

No kids personally but I am the cool uncle with the video games amongst my nephews and nieces. Although they have many options to gaming, the latest craze seems to be Super Mario 3D World. Most games, they'll play it a bit, have a little fun, and that's it. With the newest Mario, they can't seem to get enough. I always tell the older ones to wait for the little ones in multiplayer. But I love how the older ones teach the younger ones and they all seem to get on the same page quickly. Mario is only been out for a couple of weeks but I feel that the kids will be playing this for the next couple of months and well beyond.

Now, the problem is convincing the little ones that the crown the older cousin gets isn't all that important



IxnayontheCK said:

Though my son is only six, Ocarina 3D has held him like no other. (mind u i don't think he has a bloody clue what the ultimate goal or task he needs to complete is on it) I agree, a long game for the sake of being long is pointless. Keep us coming back long after it's left the commercial spotlight!



rjejr said:

@andyrob_24_7 - My kids own about 30 Skylanders toys, w/ many more "Swappable" ones to come, so we're avoiding Disney Infinity. Though had it been "Disney" Infinity and not Pixar Infinity I might have talked them into it. I want to play as Thumper and Jimminey Cricket and Timothy and Happy and Baloo. How do you not make a level based on pink elephants on parade:

or Bare Necessities:

I know Briar Rabbit will never happen though as Disney has distanced themselves from Song of the South but I love this song from my childhood:



unrandomsam said:

All I want is it to be enough that I am not wanting to play anything of its type for 5 years. (And you have to get better at the game in order to progress.)

I got that with Super Mario Bros 3 / Super Mario World / Donkey Kong Country Returns.

Something like Rondo of Blood isn't very long once you are good at it and that is fine as well. What I don't want is something you just go through every level without any trouble at all.



CureDolly said:

I have often noticed that what is or isn't a good game varies not only by who one is, but by who one has to play with. There are games I love when my sisters are around that I would hardly bother to play by myself.

I don't like competitive gaming much either - I don't like losing and I don't like making someone else lose. In fact I have often thought that is one of the great things computerized gaming has brought us - unlike older board or card games - the ability to play WITH rather than AGAINST each other.



Artwark said:

Starfox game where you use the gamepad's screen as a radar and the tv as means of flying. That would be awesome!



bonham2 said:

As a father of four, I really appreciate articles like this. I also appreciate reviews here at Nintendo Life when they review it from the perspective of a parent or for the children. Too often other websites will review games and say they aren't challenging or the mini-games are too shallow and give it a bad score. Well, I don't care what a 35 year single guy that plays FPS games thinks about Wii Party U. Quite frankly, I have no interest in Wii Party U. However, I KNOW my kids will like it, so now I find myself checking out reviews.

As for games that hold their value, we still play Mario Kart Wii almost every night. My kids really like Nintendo Land now, although I am SO SICK of Mario Chase. I find myself buying games that I know my kids will enjoy playing or like Lego City, Rayman, Animal Crossing, etc.



unrandomsam said:

@andyrob_24_7 All I know is what I was playing at age 8.

Wonder Boy III : Dragons Trap / Ultima IV / Phantasy Star / R-Type and Arcade games when I could all on Master System (50hz so slightly easier).

At age 6 I was playing 8 bit computer games which were much harder than Master System and I wasn't very good at them but I still played them.

All I know is even though it was difficult after trying and failing to really get Ultima IV for at least half a year my ability in English went from low to high. (Reading and Writing).

Making stuff too easy has no benefit whatsoever and it costs the parent lots more.



KyleB said:

@bonham2 I agree 100%. I have learned now with 3 kids that if I want to play a good amount of video games they have to be ones my kids can either watch or play with me. Anything else I play when they are asleep. I am ok with that and it works well. That is why I have Nintendo systems and I have no complaints about that.



luigifan2000 said:

nintendo land is definitley the one i play alot. even after getting all the stars. i was so sad when my little sister sat on the disk...



plunkettmonster said:

Growing up I had a narrow or shallow view of video games and who played them, gaming was for gamers. Gamers to me were loners who preferred their entertainment in an interactive fashion, not family units sharing together a wicked good game on the boob tube. Needless to say my opinion changed considering video games after I had children and of course the Wii made its debut, gaming is now part of what we do as a family. Games like Wii Sports Resort and Mario Brothers Wii and new titles on the Wii U like Wii Party U and Bumpie's Spin the Bottle are now weekly family events. We enjoy gathering in front of our idiot box and well, making idiots out of ourselves as a family. Quality family time is important to me because I know it helps build strong family ties that endure time. Now I am not saying video gaming is the tie that bonds families together but games like Wii Party U and the like help strengthen family relations because they are activities that we do together. I actually encourage my sons and wife to play games together, something that never crossed my mind back in my twenties, before kids, its a rather strange unpredicted turn of events. Not only does playing video games help improve and make enjoyable family time, something that I think has been missing in many households across America for years but it is a great way to help your children learn to play together, and how to lose or win in an appropriate manner. This comment may be a bit redundant to your article but what you say is true Andy, and I have witnessed it first hand many times over now.



Stuffgamer1 said:

Funny...when I played the Baseball game with my brother, I kicked his donkey very unsubtly and we agreed it wasn't worth returning to. Honestly I don't think there's all that much to come back to on Wii Party U in general...certainly not like I would have hoped. But let's be fair, here...I'm the youngest in the house at 24, so mileage may vary wildly by age.

A game we DO keep coming back to is Sketch in Game & Wario. So simple, but loads of fun anyway.



Genesaur said:

Metroid Prime and A Link to the Past are probably my most often revisited games. The latter, in particular, I've beaten so many times, I couldn't even guess an actual number.

A couple others that I frequently revisit but never really beat are Gradius Galaxies and Ikaruga. I do love my space shooters. And then, of course, there's stuff like Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown. That one always comes back.

I've probably spent more time with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate than any one game - perhaps Sonic Adventure 2, in its heyday when my brother and I managed to do literally everything in the entire game.



element187 said:

@Mommar you need to get your Wii U in front of your nieces and nephews. I love bringing the Wii U over to my brothers house and playing with my nephews. We have a ton of fun, it reminds me of all the fun me and my brothers had when we were growing up playing Nintendo games in the 80's and 90's.... I still need to bring over SM3DW to play, I'm sure that one will be epic in four player (nephews are 7 & 10).... I picked up a 2ds for my 7 year nephew for Xmas to get him hooked on Ninty games early.



element187 said:

Games that are not heavily based on story tend to have the longest tails of replay value, I don't think I will ever stop popping in an old version of Mario every now and then and burning through some levels...

Story based games tend to not have a reason to pop in once you complete the campaign. So my story based games I tend to gravitate to the ones with the most content. $50-$60 is A LOT of money to drop on a story driven game that is less than 15 hours long (cough cough TLOU I rented because if that)... Zelda games tend to have 40-60 hours of content, I think my Wind Waker HD play through was 65 hours. Although I was disappointed with the duration of the 15 hour campaign in Pikmin 3, the mission mode + dlc make the amount of content perfectly acceptable



FritzFrapp said:

Nice to see a mention of Go Vacation in the article. That was a fabulous game, absolutely crammed with content. It's begging for a Wii U sequel with online multiplayer and Miiverse integration added.



ThreadShadow said:

"And now, because the children are our future, here are the children of Springfield Elementary, with a song they call, "The Children Are Our Future."

"Children, Children. Future, Future."

Ha! All joking aside, great article. Playing games with the whole family is wonderful, and no systems provide that experience better then Nintendo's systems.

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