Final Fantasy VII is not a game I believe a 6-year-old should be playing. It has a lot of vulgarity, a very complicated story, and adult themes that would go right over a kid’s head. Despite this, it’s a fantastic game with some deep and satisfying combat and amazing bosses. When trying to make the game palatable for a 6-year-old kid, you have to insert a buffer. My mom was that buffer for me.
My mom took the reins of the controller and played through all 40 hours of Final Fantasy VII with me. She read all the dialogue while acting as a pretty rigid censor, but I got the gist of what was going on. I loved the story of a group of misfits saving the world. From then on role-playing games were my favorite, and I owe it all to playing games with my mom.
I had trouble with reading and comprehension as a kid. I didn’t really catch up to where I needed to be until I was 10. But that never bothered my mother. She knew I was interested in deeper stories and helped me get through books like Harry Potter just because I loved fictional worlds so much. Games were a different story. I was good at playing them, but paying attention, reading, and knowing where to go next was the real challenge. Sure, I could breeze through The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, but with Final Fantasy, things got a bit more complicated.
My mother was very understanding, though. She knew how much my brothers and I adored video games and wanted to get involved since she was interested in them too. My trouble reading and desire to play the bigger and more complicated 3D games just seemed like the perfect opportunity to participate. It started with me helping her through A Link to the Past. Since she worked for an airline company, her hours were long and tiring, and she’d be gone in the early morning. I made the best of it, though, playing into the night to get through extra tough dungeons with her.
Making and memorizing maps as I played a game was second nature. I knew where everything was, but when it came to puzzles, I couldn’t keep up. In our team, I played and she’d help me get through all the bonus areas. It was a give and take. When I wanted to play Final Fantasy VII and probably wasn’t old enough to understand or appreciate it, she said she’d help me get through. She played and I helped her get the right items for the right situations. I understood the systems, and she understood the characters. We both got something different out of the experience, but I wouldn’t have gotten anything at all from the game without her.
Playing through Final Fantasy VII again, I see all the explicit dialogue that my mom cleverly omitted from my experience. She turned something fairly mature into just a carefree experience of gameplay for me, since that’s what I wanted. But she enjoyed the evolution of the characters. Her censorship never tarnished the wonderment of exploring and defeating enemies. We even beat the last boss together. That was such a trial that we jumped and screamed with joy at the end of it. It’s engrained in my memory every time I play a role-playing game now, and I love the genre so much because of this first, deep experience I got to have with it.
With the Legend Zelda: Ocarina of Time the roles were reversed. She had trouble with it, so as she played, I became her guide and gave her tips. The roles were reversed. It was different experience, actually being able to teach her as my elder. To this day she loves to remind me how she is a cool gamer mom and that she “totally beat Ocarina of Time.”
My love for video games is a deeply shared experience. My mom and I beat the biggest and baddest bosses, and we still reminisce on the days of Final Fantasy. I wouldn’t love games as much as I do if it wasn’t for her. She was clever enough to take a game and make it something I, a fresh-eyed 6-year-old, could really enjoy. The wonder of playing the game with her is something I hope I can share with a family of my own some day.