True, Portal 2 can hurt your head if you play it too much. True, the soundtracks on YouTube of people playing Portal 2 are mostly filled with silence or the occasional, “Hummm,” as players struggle to figure out the level. True, sometimes after I solve a level, I am not even sure why it worked the way it did. So why, then, should I keep playing Portal 2 multiplayer?
After the jump, I’ll come up with three good reasons.
First, it’s not so much Portal 2, as what I’ve learned playing Portal 2 with Aaron these past few weeks. The main thing is this: Aaron’s not at all crazy about sharing his gaming time, no matter how noble the cause might be. I suppose that was obvious prior to our collaboration, but I’ve gotten a better sense for just how passionate he is about gaming. He was the one who made the observation about Portal 2 and YouTube in the opening paragraph. He was trying to set my expectations for the game and wasn’t even familiar with it himself. I’m sure a healthy part of my exuberance here is more about watching him grow into a young man with his own volition and drive. No longer am I the one he depends upon for answers. Now if he wants to know something, he wrestles it out of YouTube. And that’s a good thing, because I’ve got a limited amount of intelligence and he’s got a lot of questions, some of which are about things I’ve never been particularly good at. For example, geometry and fractions. Hello?
Second, and even more exciting to me, Aaron’s interest in gaming has flourished even as mine has waned. He isn’t gaming out of some misguided sense for impressing his old Dad. This is who he is right now. This is my son. He actually wants to be a professional gamer. When I first learned this, I felt mildly panicked. I can’t tell you how shamed I feel publicly admitting that. I am not one of those parents who insists his child must become a doctor or lawyer. I was fully prepared to accept a decision to become an artist, a musician, or even an actor — whatever made him happy. But professional gamer? That hadn’t even crossed my mind. It was an unexpected choice that I have since grown more comfortable with. I realize that the big upside here is that he’s coming into his own. Will he go on to win fame and fortune in the highly competitive world of professional gaming? No one can know. But what’s certain is this: Aaron has the necessary confidence to assume a pose in the world. From the only Oscar Wilde epigram I know by heart: “The first duty in life is to assume a pose. What the second is, no one has yet discovered.” If Mr. Wilde had lived in the twenty-first century, I bet he would have been a gamer.
Third, it’s stupid to wait for that perfect console game to come along to reinvigorate my desire to game. Why? Might never happen. Much better to jump onboard right now and make do with my own limited knowledge of consoles and the latest crop of games. And I can do it, too, if I just reset my own expectations. Instead of the savant gaming dad I’d always imagined I’d be, I can be the curmudgeon gamer dad that shows up and complains about the tiny print on the hand held controller. Okay, maybe emulating the curmudgeon gamer is going too far. But the point is I can be flexible. If there is one thing I know about being a father, it’s this: it absolutely doesn’t matter if I don’t have the perfect harmonious blend of interests and outlooks as my kids. More important is the part about showing up.
So that’s why this Wednesday, after work, I’m looking forward to an hour or so of Portal 2 multiplayer.
Aaron and I have made it to the bonus level! At one point, I thought we might have to bail on the game. But in the bonus rounds we have discovered new physics toys, including blue bouncy goo paint. My interest in the game has been invigorated. Not to mention that finishing the game also satisfies my natural inborn urge to complete everything. Got to get good gaming value.
Meanwhile, I have promised my daughter that we’re going to sit down together to explore her big gaming passion, Minecraft. I’m taking these hard won insights from playing Portal 2 with Aaron and rolling with it.
Click here for the previous Portal 2 entry.
Tim Elhajj lives in Bellevue, Washington. His first book, Dopefiend: A Father’s Journey from Addiction to Redemption is forthcoming from Central Recovery Press in September 2011.