Spider-man came out a few days before I returned from China, so by the time I got home I was late to the party and played nothing else until I felt like I’d caught up—which, for me, was the start of act 2. My boys will watch me play any game, except Cities: Skylines, and Spider-man is no exception. But this time, they both decided they wanted to play. My kids typically don’t like single-player games; they’d rather choose multiplayer 9 times out of 10. So I sat each of them down on a PS4 and helped them start a new game, then stayed there with them to help them learn the controls and finish the first mission of defeating Wilson Fisk.
As work and life got a little out of control this past year, I found myself sitting and playing games with the boys less and less. I started craving chill single-player games to help manage stress while the kids got really into Fortnite and not much else. The 8-year-old had a small surge of Minecraft when one of his school friends came over and showed him how to build something called an end portal, but then he pulled that friend into Fortnite instead. Over the past year we’ve tried to play new games, but I never took enough time to explain the controls and show the boys how to play. I didn’t realize this until we sat down to learn Spider-man.
Spider-man’s swinging and combat mechanics are simple enough at first. Hold R2 to swing, press Square to punch. But the game quickly throws new techniques at you—especially in combat. The 4-year-old couldn’t keep up and by the time he reached Fisk he was exhausted (to his credit, he reached Fisk on his own, only asking for help to find a vent because he can’t read the tutorial messages), with no energy left to fight the villain. The 8-year-old went on to defeat Fisk without asking for any help, taking everything I showed him and everything the game told him, and using all his available tools on that final fight. I didn’t even brief him on QTEs (Quicktime Events); he figured those out on his own.
What’s remarkable isn’t that the kids played Spider-man for nearly an hour. What’s remarkable is my kids played anything other than Fortnite or Ninja Turtles. They’ve been so averse to trying anything new, and I think that’s entirely my fault. New games are difficult. You have to learn new controls, and the muscle memory you’ve built from dozens of hours of another game won’t help you in the new one. But perhaps the biggest problem was me. Because I was too busy or unwilling to sit down and spend the time needed to help them understand the controls, they never wanted to try anything new.
So learn from my mistakes, and sit down with your kids and help them understand how a new game controls. If it’s new to you, learn together. Be available to answer questions and come back to help if they encounter a new problem. They might just discover a new favourite game out of it. If I’d been more available, would we have a different story to tell about Destiny 2? Probably not, but one can dream.
ESRB Rating: Teen
Spider-man carries a Teen rating from the ESRB, and one day I’ll finish that ESRB rating so I can just refer to an article about my opinions on it. The ESRB’s Teen rating comes from “Blood, Drug Reference, Language, Violence.” Some of Spider-man’s finishing moves can be pretty brutal, but there’s nothing here that isn’t appropriate for my kids. I think the ESRB gives anything a Teen rating if it involves enemies shooting guns with bullets—Disney Infinity somehow being an exception. I let my kids play Mature-rated games as well, because the ESRB doesn’t rate on the difficulty or themes, only on what players actually see or hear. Check out the ESRB ratings guide until my article is finished.