Ryan Thomason

Geek Dad Report: Am I His Ultimate Protector In Game Too?

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We’ve started letting our 5 year old play on my old Nintendo, of course, he loves Ninja Turtles Arcade.
Now, I’ll disclose this early on, after a couple of game sessions we couldn’t make it past the first level in the game. Eventually, I realized it was a Konami game, and well, you know what follows if you’re a retro gamer. Before using the code, the time that I beat Rocksteady with barely any health, and zero lives was full of high fives and him doing a guttural “Yeeeaaahhh!”. It’s hard to equate it in terms of achievements, but he was so breathlessly excited the first time we beat that level, he kept whispering about it as he fell asleep that night. Then we came upon BeeBop in level two, and well, it took a couple of more games for me to get past him and into the 3rd level, where Baxter Baxman is easy enough to beat. The snow level on the 4th stage was the tipping point, usually we hit a wall here.

Thing is, it’s hard enough to keep him from getting hit by the bad guys on screen and running out of lives quickly. It was doubly hard enough to tell him that he couldn’t take my extra lives to stay in the game. I remember playing with my brother as a kid and running into similar frustrations, I think on luck, we made it to the Technodome once, once When I played with my brother, I was typically doing my own thing, talking crap and trying to make sure I had a higher score of guys taken out at the end of each level.

That is not the case when I was playing with my son.

He’s always Leonardo, because of two factors, he wears blue (Lincolns favorite color) and is the Leader. Lincoln likes being the leader. I go for my childhood favorite of Donatello. The first game, the first screen I started wandering around taking out every guy, then I saw Lincoln get hit by a foot soldier and it infuriated me. I quickly went down and smacked the foot soldier. “Thanks for protecting me Daddy.” Was Lincolns first response. From then on, I mirrored Leonardo, doing the A+B combo to take out guys in a single big hit instead of prolonging any screens. My tactic was singular in nature as he started developing an understanding of playing the game, protect my son at all costs. I never cared about my bad guy count, they quickly grew disproportional compared to his output. As he got better, my count decreased a little, but I still mirrored him, still focused intently on where he was on the screen and smacked any guy that dare try to doing a flying kick or take a swipe at my boy. Eventually, this tactic proved to serve us very well. As long as I was able to keep him protected, the less lives he lost and had to borrow from my lives after he ran out, the more I had to take on the boss fights. Oh, the boss fights.

This was the first time I found myself taking on Bosses in a two play game all by myself. Lincoln knew these guys were hard, and typically he was low or out of life. “Daddy, you NEED to beat him! Don’t lose your lives! KEEP ME SAFE! I’ll jump away and not get hit!” That was my typical scenario as we progressed into any boss fight, him leaping and dodging out of the way while I tried my best to take on the Boss and not get hit, I actually got pretty good at it. As Lincoln jumped and tried his best to stay on the opposite side of the screen while I pressed the attack, he kept encouraging me, telling me how good I was at making sure he didn’t get hurt, telling me I was the best, telling me we had to get to the next level. It was a type of encouraging gameplay that I’d never experienced in my whole life, and damn, it felt good every time we progressed a little bit further in the game. All the high fives, all the guttural “YEAH’s” everything was worth it.

I spent a lifetime playing games with people, talking trash, getting into arguments about who was dragging us down, etc. This time, I felt so damn good as a player that it was infectious to do keep playing. Once I remembered that I could use a Konami code, we spent the next game getting all the way to Shredder before we had to turn it off. Well, I didn’t want to turn it off, my wife said it was time for dinner and without thinking he hopped up, turned off the Nintendo and ran upstairs while I sat there, mouth open as the sudden ending of our game. A couple of nights later, and a one and a half hour game, our longest, ever we beat Shredder. We high fived, he had a twinkle in his eye, we beat the game, our first Nintendo game, together.

My thumbs were sore, my eyes were tired, but Lincolns avatar made it through the game to the very end, even if he had to borrow a vast amount of my extra lives. We encouraged each other, we shared an amazing experience, and he told me I was his favorite protector. I will always be his protector, in game, and in life. At least, while he’ll still have me in the game world, once he finds out how bad I am in most games that aren’t retro games or strategy games, I may have to ask him to protect me in turn. I just hope he’ll have me.

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