Thursday, May 5, 2011

Your MOTHER'S a gamer!

Oh wait, I mean my mother.  Silly me!

My mom and I get along quite well, really.  I don't call enough, of course.  (Who ever does?)

But she and I live on different technological planets.  I'm constantly on AIM, on GChat, on Twitter and sometimes (rarely) even on Facebook.  I blog and I game and I carry an Android, a Kindle, and a DS in my purse.  I've been using computers fluently since I was four and we had a Commodore 64-compatible Atari computer in the house, and I've spent the 21st century upgrading and building my own gaming PCs.

Mom technically has an e-mail account.  (I know because I helped her create it.)  I'm not sure she knows how to use it.  She could, of course, but mainly, she just strongly prefers not to.  Tech is not her thing -- and that's cool.

But she had some brain & neurological problems in 2009 and 2010.  During her recovery, doctors told her and my dad that she needed to keep her brain active.  I remembered a nun study from when I took neuroanatomy (half of AP Psych) back in high school many years ago, and the studies about how crosswords, other puzzle games, and indeed even video games had helped senior citizens (which mom is not yet, for the record) age in a more neurologically healthy way.

So of course, I did what any gamer would: I thought, "Mom needs Brain Age."

After running the idea past my dad, I got mom a DSi XL for Christmas last year, and my husband went in with me on getting her Brain Age and a cartridge full of crossword and word-search sorts of games.  I wanted to ease her into it; the DSi menu is actually a lot more confusing than the DS Lite menu that the two of us were used to.  But the bigger screen and easier-to-hold stylus were necessities.

I gave it to her feeling mildly nervous, and half expecting that, come late 2011, I might find myself the owner of a gently and seldom used burgundy DSi XL.  But we showed her how to use it, and gave her the games, and stood back.

"Your mother spent half the night playing Brain Age," my dad informed me a couple of mornings later.  I grinned.  "Glad she's getting some use out of it."

M and I had a pile of DS games with us, as we'd had plenty of time to kill in our 16 hours of round-trip Amtrak time.  (Well, the trip home ended up being more like 13 hellish hours all by itself, but that's a different story.)  I had Professor Layton and the Unwound Future in my bag, and I handed it to mom when she expressed curiosity in other games.

90 minutes later, she brought it back, expressing exasperation -- not frustration with an inability to play the game, but clear annoyance with writing and game design functions.  Annoyances that I share.  (There's a reason I pick up my Professor Layton games for $10 or less these days.)  After she left the room, I turned to M and wondered, " my mom... becoming... a gamer?"

Christmas was five months ago, and Mother's Day is this weekend.  Dad's told me mom could really use more DS games and so I just sent her Brain Age 2 and Plants vs Zombies.  (I hope the PvZ DS port is good -- I've apparently put 55 hours into it on Steam but I don't know first-hand how it handles for portables and just grabbed it on spec.)  She's still asking after Professor Layton so when M and I head up for a long weekend in June, I plan to bring her our copies, as well as the first one or two Phoenix Wright games to try.

I really shouldn't be surprised.  My mom can school anyone at cribbage and until I was almost 17 she could almost always beat me at Boggle.  Games are for everyone.  Mom'll probably want to kill me when dad prints this post out for her and she finds out I've turned her into a gamer.  But they're good games and it's for a good reason.

I promise, mom: I'll never try to drag you into Portal or EQII.  We all have our limits.  But yours are way beyond where I foolishly thought they were.  Happy Mother's Day.  :)

[Edit, 05/08/2011: I called my mother yesterday and she says she's completely hooked on Plants vs Zombies and her brain's only been eaten twice.  Success!]


  1. See now, both my children (now in their 20's) learned their gaming from me and MrsJay. Boggle and cribbage were definitely in the mix. Gaming is gaming, computer or no.

  2. My mom plays Spider Solitaire. I had her playing PvZ for awhile but it was too stressful.

    [Obligatory remark about the games Sara_L_R's mom plays.]

  3. I've nothing meaningful to say, but had to add that I love everything about this entry. Go you, and go your mom!

  4. My dad stopped playing video games cold turkey after he and a friend of his played Asteroids on our Intellivision all night one night. He had an epiphany after that, and just never felt the urge to play games, really ever. Trivial Pursuit, and other big group games, usually at family gatherings, but that was really the end of the game playing for him. Thankfully he's never begrudged the fact that I keep playing them through my mid 30s, or at least hasn't complained too much about it. The fact that his wife plays a lot of Bejeweled and other casual games may have something to do with that...

  5. Awesome. Take it slow, and let us know how it goes. What did you end up using for the enclosure?

  6. Up and running! It's a Rosewill Challenger case. I'm pretty pleased with it,
    I didn't cut up my hands inside it like I did scavenging in old cases for
    parts that turn out to be useless because since I last built a desktop in
    2002 apparently the world moved on from IDE to SATA cables.

  7. Came over from Ta-Nehisi Coates, good post. I'd often tried to find various train related games for my dad when I was a kid, but it never quite worked. I wonder if I should try brain age for my Mom. She does enjoy sudoku but that still may be too much of a jump. I'd love to get her into Pheonix Wright if it was an option.

  8. Boggle and cribbage are by far the most common games my husband and I play together, too. My parents still play cribbage every night after dinner.

  9. What a lovely Mother's Day post! I hope your mom enjoys gaming for many more years to come.

  10. I'm glad this wasn't a post about how your mom was addicted to that farming game on Facebook, I'd hate to see the follow-up intervention post.

  11. I think I plan to introduce the Ace Attorney series to mom by saying, "Okay, so it's if Law and Order were a wacky Japanese comedy."

  12. I went over to a retirement home and saw elderly people playing games casually, and I asked one of them "why do you spend so much time on that game?", she said "to exercise my brain. It's one of those things you need to do while you live."