On Sunday, popularity in neck ties, Hawaiian shirts and Home Depot gift cards exploded as families around the world celebrated Father's Day. For our post-E3 2014 celebration, Joystiq asked old, new and non-fathers about the wisdom they'd like to share with their children. Video game-based wisdom, of course.
We asked: "If you had to tell your sons and/or daughters to play one game that helped shape your love of games and explained why you love playing and/or making games, what would it be and why?"
What would you tell your kids?
Reviews Content Director, Joystiq
The first game to come to mind is Mega Man. That surprises me, honestly, but it's true. I suppose it's because Mega Man is an incredible confluence of presentation, form and function. The intersection of music, visuals, skill and challenge is the perfect example of everything that can draw you into another world, all of the elements that allow you to lose yourself there. Even now, decades after I first played the original Mega Man, I go back to the series every year or so, and it's still a thrill to best that stupid, one-eyed block monster. You have to be present in every moment in Mega Man's world, and that makes it special.
Assuming my son grows to love video games, maybe he'll be able to appreciate the same things about Mega Man that I do. But who knows, maybe he won't even like games at all, and that's cool too.
Former Managing Editor, Joystiq / Badass Dad of Twin Ladies
What I love most about games is interacting with a simple series of mechanics and rules, learning how they work, and slowly building skill. Um Jammer Lammy's mechanics are as simple as it gets – push the button when the game tells you to. They're also just fun to interact with, as you get to make cool guitar noises along with the music. Tthere's so much room for mastery, as well. Just how does the game judge your freestyle riffs?
I also think it's important to remember that games can be used to create any kind of visuals imaginable, not just pseudorealistic gunmonsters, and Lammy's paperflat pop-art world is a shining example of what is possible with a bit of imagination. While narrative rarely factors into my love of video games, Lammy's story resonates strongly: you don't have to be a sheep girl to benefit from a story about overcoming anxiety and proving to yourself that you're capable.
Freelancer / Read: Why a TV star quit acting & wrote a book about Earthbound
I won't be surprised if my 15-month-old son's first game is on iPad – perhaps one of those vapid, chart-topping freebies we like to roll our collective eyes at. In a moment of desperation, anything is possible. But if I have the forethought to plan it out, I hope the first game he really soaks in and loves is Super Mario 64. It might not be my all-time favorite game, or even the first I fell hard for, but I can't think of a game that better exemplifies the pure wonder that this medium can impart. It's wildly creative and diverse, yet approachable and easy to understand, and its exuberance and joyfulness are exactly what I'd like my son to take away from gaming at an early age. And by the time he's (hopefully) old enough to play, it will have been 20 years since my own full playthrough. I'm certain I'll be up for another when he's ready.
VP of PR and Marketing, Bethesda Softworks
Skyrim... And no, that is not shameless self-promotion.
Senior Designer, Crystal Dynamics / Working on Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris
Honestly, I've been using games since he was a child to teach him stuff. I taught him how to read with Nintendogs. He had to figure out how to play with things, and he figured out, "Oh, that word means 'ball,' so I can play with the ball and the dog." I've used fun indie games like SpaceChem to teach him the beginnings of programming. We brought him in to be a user tester for Temple of Osiris to play the game and give me more feedback than I necessarily need from him about things he would change and add to the game. That's been great.
The one game to make him a man... it was 20th Anniversary Doom, recently. I met up with John Romero and Dave Taylor and Tom Hall. They were all in town at UCSC and we had a big 20th anniversary Doom thing. I was able to bring my son down, and he played deathmatch with John Romero in Doom 2. That was absolutely fantastic.
Executive Producer on Activision's Skylanders
Honestly? Skylanders. The characters, the experience, the magic, the personality, the variety. It represents everything that I love working on this brand. My kids are 8 and 12, so [toys to life] games keep them engaged. That's what speaks to me and is super rewarding.
The game that made me feel that a-ha moment was Super Mario Bros. on the NES, but this is hard to recommend. My mind was blown when I went into that warp zone. Suddenly, games were completely unpredictable, non-linear, and so creative. That's what hooked me.
If I had a son or daughter I think they would arrive at this same conclusion within just a few minutes of playing Super Mario 3D World. The density of things to be discovered and the attention to detail is just pure magic. My dad (whom is 65) and I play it all it all the time together when I'm home.
Unrelated: He's also picked up 92 Super Mario Galaxy stars on his own. Not bad for an old timer! I guess it runs in the family.
Editor-in-chief, Polygon / Former Joystiq Bossman
My son Loren just turned three months old, so it's going to be some time before he's playing games with his old man. While he'll undoubtedly start on something easy – a pacifying iPad game at a restaurant? – I'm looking forward to sharing some of my most formative gaming experiences with him ... none more so than Doom.
Everything that Doom pioneered will surely seem trivial by that point: online multiplayer, map making, violence. So what better way to illustrate how far gaming has come than to look at that aging specimen, familiar but foreign, something old already replaced with something new? I imagine a quick tour of E1M1, older to him than the moon landing or the Nixon presidency were to me, and I'm reminded he comes from the future.
Art Director, Uber Entertainment / Read: Planetary Annihilation's killer AI
I played through Portal and Portal 2 with my two boys who are eight and six respectively. Initially, I would show them how to solve each room but eventually I got them more involved and looked to them to help me with the solutions. They loved both games. After we finished Portal 2, I showed them the Portal 2 level editor. They loved the idea of putting a level together and then playtesting to make sure everything worked as expected. They also realized how much work it takes to put together an experience as good as Portal.
There are times where I have to work late on a deadline and they ask why I miss their bedtime. I tell them that making games is a creative job and in creative jobs not everything ends up exactly as you think they would. Sometimes, things take longer than you think they do. Portal 2 level editor has given them a small glimpse of what it's like to make games and in a small way they get what I do for a living. For Father's Day, the boys and I spent most of the day playing games together. Suffices to say, they had a fun day with their dad.
Managing Editor, Polygon / Former Joystiq Rabble-rouser
It would probably be Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. It's such a wonderful display of the way games can be used to tell stories and create emotional connections in ways that could only be achieved through play. Plus it's short, and I'm assuming children have very small attention spans.
D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die and Deadly Premonition Director
When I was growing up the two games I played most were Ice Climber and The Legend of Zelda on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Those were my favorite.
Red Robot / Famously British on 1UP Yours, Formerly of GamePro and CBSi
Some of my fondest gaming memories of sitting down with my dad and working through the old LucasArts and Sierra adventures together. We'd jot down notes, and we'd work out the puzzles together. There were no FAQs to look up online, there was nowhere to go to find help with some of the crazier stuff, we had to work it all out for ourselves. The feeling of triumph when we beat them was fantastic. It was a period of bonding that I'll never forget. Though my kids love games, and are obsessed with Minecraft, Halo, and Titanfall, I think playing Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis would be the one to play with them to really show what made games special for me.
Publicist, Harmonix / Former Destructoid Editor-in-chief
It wasn't my first game by years (my earliest gaming is an exciting blur), but I have fond memories of The Legend of Zelda on the NES. I remember seeing it in a Nintendo Fun Club Newsletter and being immediately floored by how vast the world was. I bugged my parents to pick me up a copy on the way home from work, completely blind to things like finances and the concept of lower-middle class at the time by some miracle, they made it happen, and I was playing Zelda that very evening.
For me, The Legend of Zelda perfectly encapsulates so many things that can make video games great -- adventure, discovery, a sense of learning and growth, and the ability to complete transport you to another place. It contains so many of the building blocks for helping them not only develop skills that will help them in other games, but in life. Because the world is full of Moblins.
Founder & creative director, Hinterland developing The Long Dark
Since my kids are younger (8 and 6), I can't really recommend the games that really inspired me to want to create games – Half-Life, Deus Ex – but I look forward to the day where I can sit down with them and share those incredible experiences.
I compare it with experiences like the first time reading The Hobbit to them, or the first time seeing Star Wars, one of those rare, special moments where you get to connect with directly with your kids despite a gulf of decades between you – not only connecting as children to an adult, but in many ways, all on the same level. All experiencing that sense of child-like wonder.
Not every game is Journey, and not every game has to be, but once in a while you find a game that has the potential to touch that special place where you really lose yourself in an experience that can be transformative. And whenever I experience that, or get to witness my kids experiencing it, I feel grateful that games are my medium of creative expression.
Happy Father's Day!
[Game Images: Capcom, Sega, Nintendo, Bethesda, Zachtronics, Activision, Valve, Starbreeze, Sony]