My Three Year Old, Pokemon, and Me

I started playing Pokemon Moon last night. I’m just two or three hours in and I have eight Pokemon in my collection so far. This is the first game in the series I’ve played since Pokemon Black back in 2010. I’ve gone on record in the past saying that the mainline games aren’t my favorite in the Pokemon franchise. I actually really prefer the Mystery Dungeon series to the RPGs. I definitely see the appeal of them, especially for younger players, but with so many RPGs to play it was always further down my list than games like Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy.

What I have discovered, however, is that my three year old daughter loves this game. I booted the game up right after dinner to just mess around for a few minutes. I hadn’t planned on really getting into the game at that point. My daughter saw that I was playing something and she crawled up into my lap and watched me play. She curled up with her head on my shoulder so she could be comfortable and still see the screen. I had already made the choice as to who my starter was going to be, but once I got to that point, before I could even choose the Pokemon to accompany me she said, ‘Oh, look at that blue one, he’s so cute.’ Now you have to imagine that in the voice of a three year old girl. I had no choice. Little did she know that was who I was going to choose anyway. It made the choice crystal clear. Popplio was my starter.

pokemon-moon-screenI don’t give my Pokemon nicknames. They are always just the Pokemon’s type as the name. I do that for two reasons. The first is so I can remember what type of Pokemon they are. The second is because at this point I couldn’t come up with more than 700 different names for them all. I don’t even bother. They’re just Popplio, Bidoof, Oshawatt or whoever they happen to be.

I finally got to the point where they would just let me run around exploring and catching Pokemon without having to worry too much about the story. She always sort of checked out during the parts where they were talking and she’d watch her brother play Minecraft. When the battle music would come on, though, she’d focus right back in on my 3DS. She was enthralled by watching me battle other Pokemon. She’d comment on the different types. There was a lot of ‘Oh, it’s a cute ladybug’ or ‘Look at the cute caterpillar. He’s so tiny.’ She would laugh when Popplio would use the water gun attack. She said it looked like he was spitting on the other ones.

I’m really glad I got the Exp. Share item last night. I was trying really hard to sort of play the experience game to keep my Pokemon leveling up at a fairly equal rate so no one got too far ahead of anyone one else. I tend to play those games with one or two characters who always get far ahead of everyone else in experience and levels, if the XP isn’t shared amongst everyone in the party. You can’t really play the game that way with a three year old on your lap though. I had Yungoos or Ledyba out to start a fight because they were my lowest level Pokemon. My beautiful, red-haired daughter wouldn’t have any of that. If I started a fight with anyone other than Popplio I heard, ‘You can only use the blue dolphin when you fight’. I had to remind her multiple times that Popplio was a seal and not a dolphin.

abby-wheel-barrowI ended up playing the game last night for about an hour and a half with her curled up on my lap. I’d give her the 3DS whenever I needed to care for the Pokemon. I’d let her comb their fur after fights and feed them a berry (or whatever they are). It became a great interactive experience for the two of us. She’s not really very interested in video games, and I’m okay with that. She loves to be in her own little world making up stories with her stuffed animals or drawing pictures of herself with giant legs and arms. She doesn’t have to like video games, but if there’s one we can play together I’m all for that.

It was getting close to bed time and I told her to go get her jammies for the night. I was told by her that I couldn’t play while she was gone. I said okay. She went and got her jammies. We made it as far as the Pokemon school. I got beat by the teacher, rather handily the first time. We turned the game off, my wife and I did the usual bed time routine of a story and a song and the kids went to bed. After my wife went to sleep I grabbed the 3DS and did a little bit of XP grinding with my crew to hopefully have a better chance against the teacher. I haven’t advanced the story any at this point. I don’t know yet if I’ll go ahead and continue or if I’ll wait until tonight so my daughter can see me finally win that fight. I can imagine there will probably be many more nights like that, and I’ll cherish every one.

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