There seems to be a line that separates video games and anyone older than 50. If the Wii has taught us anything it's that games with simple controls might be the gateway to get older players. Simplicity is something everyone likes, but everyone knows the lack of any good content is essential to an engaging experience. The controls can be simple, but if the content is not engaging, then why keep playing.
Iím proud to say that my mother, who is now 62, is a gamer. No, she is not a casual-gamer, female-gamer, or even an elderly-gamer. She is a gamer in the purist sense of the word. In a weird way video games have helped my mother out of a depression and through some hard times in her life. If it werenít for games, my mother might have been stuck in a long, deep depression.
Five years ago, when I was 18, my mother had her first heart attack. It's a day I will never forget. I came home at about 10:20 PM. I went straight to my motherís room and fell face first on the bed. It was a joke I constantly did, but it did annoy my mother, anyway, my mother had trouble sleeping that day, she got up and went to the bathroom only to return to bed seconds later. I was tired that day and almost went to sleep admittedly on my motherís bed with my clothes on. Around midnight I was awoken by my motherís moaning. She was sitting on a chair across from the bed with the lamp on holding her left arm. At first I thought she hit her arm, or maybe she slept on it, but it quickly became apparent that something more serious was happening. I went to my room to wake my older brother and told him that our mother was in pain. We took her to the hospital and waited for two hours. Now, I donít want to rant on the health care system in America (this blog is not about that), but when you have a 50+ year old women screaming in pain, then I would assume that she would get immediate care, but that didnít happen. The doctors saw her only when enough people complained that my mother was dying in the waiting room. I could write a separate blog post about this, but I digress.
It turned out that my mother had kidney diseases. This resulted to my mother taking dialysis 4 times a week for 4 hours, a ritual she still does to this day. Not only that, but a year and a half later my mother got stomach cancer. She had a surgery that removed 90% of her stomach, so you can imagine how my mother looks now. This all seems bad, and it is, but to be honest, Iím kind of pissed at how she handled these events Ė my mother told me she had cancer the day of her surgery, but I digress with those details.
After all the surgeries and doctor appointments, my mother was left bored at home. At the time I was working at the Sports Club/LA in Rockefeller Center. I saved up enough money and got myself a black Nintendo DS lite, which, by the way, was extremely difficult to find. I went to four gamestops in the village with the girl I was dating only to be disappointed. We next went to the Toys "R" Us in Times Square only to repeat that disappointment. We finally went to the Nintendo World Store and by luck I got the last black Nintendo DS lite. Funny enough, I would end up buying myself a new DS because my girlfriend (at the time) took it to work and when I did have it - my mother would take it from me.
My mothers day consisted of sitting on the couch sleeping, or watching TV, whichever came first. I would notice how miserable my mother looked each day, so I decided to show her New Super Mario Bros.
At first she only played the mini games, but she quickly graduated to the main game and ended up beating it Ė grant it, it took her a while to finish, but she finished it. This was her first game ever and she actually beat itÖwell, with my help she beat it. To my surprise, she would end up playing the game over and over and over again throughout the day. The best thing about portable gaming is that you can easily pause it, watch Judge Judy
, and go back to it or do both simultaneously. It really made me happy to see that my mother was now occupied with something; she wasnít wasting her time sleeping and laying down in the couch staring at the wall like she did the months before.
After a few months, I bought myself Professor Layton and the Curious Village
. This game for all intent and purposes was for me, but my mother quickly grabbed it away from me. Layton
would be the
game that my mother would absolutely adore. The simplicity of the controls, along with the funny, yet eccentric storyline was more than enough to grab my mother interest, but everyone knows that the Layton
games are all about thinking and that
is something my mother loves!
ďA game is making me think? They make those?Ē my mother told me when she was stuck in a puzzle mid-game. Layton
would end up being one of my motherís favorite games; currently she is finishing second game.
I would introduce her to other similar games like: Hotel Dusk
, Puzzle Quest
, Picross 3D
and most recently, 999: Nine Persons, Nine Hours, Nine Doors
. I think itís pretty obvious to see the theme here: my mother enjoys puzzle games, even though 999
is more of an interactive novel, than game, she is finding that title interesting. While the DS is her main system of choice, she has played one game for the Xbox 360 and thatís Portal
. The simple controls, small play areas, and direct objectives are simple enough so anyone can follow, but has the challenging puzzles my mother craves for. It did take my mother a while to get use to the controls and even now sheís not fully comfortable playing the game - she still has to look at the buttons to know what they do, but to my surprise, my mother actually beat the game, but I must stress the fact that it took my mother almost six months to finish the game. She doesn't play it like us, but plays it at a slow pace with many abruptly stops. In other words, take a youtube video of someone playing Portal
and slow down the video significantly. Portal
ended up being one of her personal favorite games ever, but not every game has been successful. For instance, my mother thought Flower
was boring, and really couldn't get into Braid
that much. I really don't see her getting into Halo
, Call of Duty
, or Crysis
. The way I see it, her enjoying a few games is better than none.
Recently, because of financial situations, I had to sell my 360, PS3, and Wii. I was stuck with a DS, which Iím perfectly happy with, but I feel like Iím missing out on some great games. During the fall I bought myself a new laptop. Itís an Acer laptop the size of a netbook, and it can play some games pretty well (Iíve played Mass Effect 2
on this laptop). As we all know, Portal 2
was released, and I downloaded it today. So far Iíve gotten the first part done, and Iím amazed at it, and with the power of technology I am able to take my laptop to the living room, hook it up to the TV with an HDMI cable, connect a wired Xbox controller and let my mother have a go. Actually, my mother is playing the game right now as I write this. Iím using my old laptop that constantly freezes on me to write this blog post, but itís good to know that my mother is finally happy, you see, my mother has not been the same ever since she had the heart attack, even with the joys these puzzle games bring her Ė she still isnít the same. The poor women still cries in pain at night, canít sleep, can't eat, vomits constantly, etc, but itís good to know that video games can at least bring her a little bit of light in these dark times sheís going through.