In this dual interview, Dad and gamer Fraser Manley shares some parenting expertise, and his 4-year-old daughter, Savannah, talks about playing the third-person shooter Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare—which we’ve written about before.
Pixelkin: What games do you enjoy playing most with your daughter? What are her favorite games?
Fraser: Prior to Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare we would only play together on occasion. Minecraft and any Lego game were practically our whole gaming portfolio. Savannah would spend most of her time playing with her brother at Minecraft or Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Zombies (I don’t have a problem with them playing shooter games; I think it’s great for their hand-eye coordination).
Lewis is incredibly competitive and two years older, so Savannah spends most of her time getting bullied in and out of computer games. I think that’s why she enjoys playing with me—she knows she can act like a 4-year-old and not get punished for it. However, on occasion the pair of us focuses and works as a team as if two adults were playing. Savannah and I have even beat the level score on Garden Warfare previously held by Lewis and me.
Savannah loves games. I’ve seen her sitting on the couch with the tablet playing all sorts of games. She loves making and decorating virtual cakes, or even joining her mum dancing or playing Zumba with the Kinect. Lewis is competitive (he doesn’t like to lose), so he struggles to get into new games, where Savannah is different in that she’ll play it regardless and stick to it.
Pixelkin: When did your daughter start playing games? How long have you been playing games?
Fraser: About the age of two-and-a-half, when she was doing the Zumba on the Kinect, would be the earliest. It wasn’t long after that when we got her a Nintendo DS. She would play with my tablet whenever it was available, but back then she didn’t really understand what she was doing. She learned quickly and was soon able to play the Xbox.
I was about the same age when I started playing games (I’m 33). I am the youngest of four brothers, and we always had computers in our house. So I was exposed to gaming constantly, and I had a great brother who would show me lots of stuff to do with computers as I grew. Unfortunately my father started an engineering company and I went into that line of work instead of computing, which is what I had learned all my life up to that point. Apart from the Amiga and the [Sega Genesis] Mega Drive, I have owned or had in my house every computer or console that’s been mainstream.
Pixelkin: You mentioned reading Plants Vs. Zombies fanfic to your daughter before bed—have you found that the fan community around games is a good resource?
Fraser: It was a spur-of-the-moment thing. We couldn’t find a book, and as we were in the kitchen talking about how we beat Lewis’s score, I offered her a Plants Vs. Zombies story.
The problem we had was I didn’t read the site rules about the rating system ahead of time. I began to read a story that, by the blurb, seemed good fun, but as we progressed into the second page and it all started to get violent (and I mean really violent), we both looked at each other and shook our heads.
Fortunately the next story was far more child-friendly. The story was about this girl who met a bunch of talking, zombie-killing potted plants at the end of her garden. The plants needed her help to move them about as they had no feet, and zombies had started trying to get into the girl’s house. The story was actually really fun, and by the time of the second chapter Savannah was fast asleep. However, I carried on reading to the end.
There was a host of stories I could have picked, but I found some of the structure difficult and awkward to read, which I presume is what can be expected of fan fiction.
Savannah and Lewis have both been painting pictures of the plants from Garden Warfare. In fact, one of the pictures they painted has been retweeted by @PlantsvsZombies. It was a green cactus with red googly eyes. The painting has been favorited a bunch of times, too, which made the kids happy.
I would like to help the kids write a story based on Googly Eyes for the fanfiction community. From what I gather, the plants don’t have any names apart from what type of plant they are, so we wanted to do a naming story to introduce a gang of characters based on the pictures the kids draw.
Pixelkin: What’s your favorite part of Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare?
As Savannah is climbing over me while I’m typing this, she says she loves dressing up the plants and opening the sticker packs. It depends on which side she is on, but it’s bad zombies vs. good plants or bad plants vs. good zombies. Her favorite is the Chomper. You can tell, though, that there is nothing in the game she doesn’t like.
As adults we are conditioned to play the game, but Savannah runs around and looks at stuff—she points out the mini carrots in the garden that we have to defend or points out some other landmark, which I’ve quite frankly missed, since I’ve been playing and not examining the surroundings.
Pixelkin: Do you like playing games with your dad? How come?
Savannah says she does because she gets to play and she can play the way she wants without the thought of anything else but fun. She also says I help her play the game and teach her.
Recently I taught her that picking an end garden was better, since the zombies can only come from one direction, while the center garden has zombies coming from all angles. So every time we play, she thinks of our garden defenses and where she can put healing plants that have the least chance of being attacked by zombies. She is getting smarter every day.
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