Being A Dad

There are a few certainties in life - it's guaranteed to rain after you wash your car, the sun will rise and set (one's in the East, one's in the West, I can never remember which is which) and your kid will play video games.  Some kids more obsessively than others, but the sooner you make your peace with that, the better.  

The problem is there are millions of games out there (and judging from my house, millions of game systems to play them on) and it's hard to tell which games are appropriate and which are not.  

When I was growing up (after the Civil War but before Lady Gaga) the only determining factor when choosing a video game was whether it was lame or not. Now days the same decision involves whether or not they show brain matter when you run over a guy's head with a car.  

Fortunately, there's Lego.  I have to admit, when I first heard that they were making video games out of Lego's, I just assumed it was yet another blatant money grab from a toy company.  And it probably is, but they're really cool and kid-friendly for a number of reasons:

They're cheap - Jackson has Lego Batman, Lego Indiana Jones and Lego Star Wars for the Wii and each were less than 20 bucks.  Lego Harry Potter just came out and that's still pretty pricey, but we'll wait it out until the price comes down.  

They're incredibly accurate, but not frightening - the Indiana Jones and Star Wars games follow the story lines of the movies in incredible detail yet even the most intense sequences when animated with Lego figures keep the thrills without the chills.  

The violence isn't violent - whenever you destroy something in a Lego game, it's just a bunch of plastic blocks exploding in different directions.  Same amount of cathartic destruction, less therapy down the road.  That's a winning combination.  

There's just enough there for us old folks - whether it's using the original scores from the movies or an inside joke only those who grew up on these movies would get, the games have the right amount of elements to keep both the kids and the rest of us entertained.  

Another bonus is the game play itself is fairly simple which is a major plus when you consider that no one reads the instructions anyway.  

Would it be better if they played outside and got some fresh air?  Of course it would, but have you been outside lately?  Running around in 98 degree heat or relaxing in the AC playing a video game.  I think the kids might be on to something here.  

You could keep your Mario Brothers, your Halo and your Sonic Hedgehogs - my video game addiction was all about Madden and MLB The Show.  My game system of choice was the Playstation 2 and my intervention came in the form of having kids where I learned to value sleep more than scouring the free agent market for a middle infielder at 3:30 in the morning.  

And so my PS2 sat dormant, collecting dust until about a year or so ago when Jackson started to show interest.  Not surprisingly, he showed the most interest in baseball video games and while he's played them all, MLB The Show remains the king.  

The game offers tons of features to keep adults playing deep into the night, but I'd like to focus on some of the kid-friendly features that Jackson enjoys the most.  

First and foremost, each team is represented with a pretty accurate roster and each ballpark is rendered in super detail (for an additional fee, you can have a smelly fat guy sit in front of you when you play).  

Each team offers several different uniform options including some awesomely hideous throwback choices from the 70s and 80s.  

Virtually every part of the game play is adjustable - automatic or assisted fielding, base running, sliding and throwing all limit the frustration possibilities for the kiddies.  

Kids, like chicks, dig the long ball so the Home Run Derby option is a popular choice.  

Old Timers are well represented with two teams from the Golden Era (Ruth, Cobb, Wagner, etc) and Silver Era (Bench, Gwynn, Seaver, etc) available for play as is a selection of vintage stadiums including the Polo Grounds and Forbes Field and not so vintage stadiums like Shea the Metrodome.  It's the perfect opportunity for your kids to make you feel really old when they pepper you with questions about players you grew up watching.  

One of Jackson's favorite features is to reset all the rosters via a fantasy draft - he prefers the game's auto draft so he can be surprised to find out which players wound up on each team (he accomplishes this by closing his eyes as tight as he can while dad presses a button).  

From a financial standpoint, you can't go wrong with the PS2 - MLB 10 brand new is less than 30 bucks while the same game for the PS3 is closer to 60.  Yes, you sacrifice features like virtual jock itch, but the savings are worth it.  

Speaking of savings, if your child doesn't know or care about accurate rosters you can get a previous edition of the game for anywhere from $5 to $15 - the older the game, the cheaper it is.  Of course Jackson is such a freak for baseball that he likes to play as many previous versions of the game as possible so he can appreciate the nuances of Jose Valentin's swing from the 2006 season.  

Probably the best feature of them all is that I get to play too and rationalize it as good old fashioned father-son bonding time.