Super Mario Odyssey with a 4-year old

Super Mario Odyssey

Sam, my 4-year old son, has been playing video games for a while. I say ‘playing’, but ‘experiencing’ or ‘letting them wash over him’ might be a better way of describing it.

Mario Kart, Super Mario Party, some Paw Patrol game and Sonic have all featured with mixed success. Most, he’s really enjoyed (particularly the Mario games) but the process of getting him familiar with how to use the controller requires significant parental patience, particularly for one who has played games as long as he can remember, and was surely never a hopeless beginner himself…

During a recent visit to see the cousins (2 young boys of similar age), the kids spoke about Super Mario Odyssey at length and it reminded me once again of the joy that can be had by just recalling an experience, or describing it to a friend. Of course, at their age, they haven’t seen anything like it before – video games seem almost like magic, and they can’t help get into an excited frenzy when they think about playing.

So today was the day to give Odyssey a try – an idea I introduced to him in the morning, before having to, for the next few hours, say “no, it’s not yet time to play”. It’s a game I’ve owned for a while, having originally got it with the Switch, thinking that it would one day be a good way to introduce the boys to gaming. I’d played it by myself for just over an hour and, honestly, got very little from it. There’s nothing wrong with having fun with Mario games without kids (I’m very capable of doing so) but my time to play is so limited that I’d rather focus on something that’s been designed with adults of similar taste to me in mind.

The beauty of Odyssey, which Sam reminded me about at regular intervals this morning, is that someone else (a second player) can throw the hat. And eventually, after quite quickly realising that Sam wasn’t going to be dexterous enough to control Mario, that’s the role he took. It required relatively little training (one button to throw and bring the hat back, and the stick to move it) and we were good to go, and player 1 and still retain control of throwing if they need to.

A screenshot from Super Mario Odyssey
Not pictured; the hat (which is wildly off-screen as the goombas close in).

After an hour we were both about ready to stop, but not before I promised that we could play again some other time. Without doubt we’ll give it another go – video games are something I’d love for Sam (and Alex) to grow up enjoying. And if I can keep introducing gaming in small chunks, and giving them time to practice (without pulling my hair out), then my dream of having our very own family Warzone squad could still come to fruition.

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