Video games are huge business. People spend billions of dollars world-wide on a hobby that for many is their primary source of entertainment ahead of film or television. It’s an audience that continues to grow larger every year, and yet most of the big video game developers and publishers seem to have no interest in cultivating new players. There’s an entire generation of children that are growing up and being introduced to gaming on their phones and tablets while companies like Microsoft and Sony seem perfectly content to sit back and watch those potential customers pass them by.
Nintendo on the other hand seems to making a greater attempt than ever before to make their games comfortable and accessible to younger kids. I wrote last year about how Super Mario Maker was a fantastic way for you to create non-threatening levels for your children to play and introduce them to the mechanics of gaming while also honing their hand eye coordination. The one issue with that is that it takes a decent amount of time for an adult to craft these levels for their kids, something that maybe not all parents are able to commit to.
Two recent Nintendo games have introduced features that will be popular with kids (and their parents) who want to play but either get frustrated with difficult games or are too young to be able to grasp the mechanics of the game, and as a bonus they don’t require Mom or Dad to spend hours crafting a level. In Poochy & Yoshi’s Wooly World for the Nintendo 3DS, they introduced “Mellow Mode” which includes a fluffy canine companion to follow Yoshi around through the levels helping players collect items as well as giving Yoshi wings to float over hazardous pitfalls. It doesn’t make Yoshi invincible, but it does take the edge off of some of the more difficult portions of the game. Not to mention he’s just cute as all get out.
The big one for me though was a part of the recent release of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Nintendo Switch. They’ve introduced options for both auto-steering (which prevents players from veering off of the road) and auto-accelerate (which keeps the pedal to the metal so tiny fingers can focus on steering). These genius features not only allow for our kids to enjoy the game without constantly driving off a cliff, but now we are able to enjoy the game WITH our children when they would have otherwise found it too intimidating. Adam’s son is only 2 years old, and yet now they are able to play this game together and both have loads of fun. It really is nothing short of a game changer for tiny tots.
I’m predicting that some people will probably have an issue with these features, saying that we shouldn’t be making everything so easy for kids and that they need to get used to losing as a part of life (and that’s not completely wrong), but I think that dismisses the fact that some kids just can’t deal with the anxiety of challenging games as well as others and that by creating a comfortable environment for them to participate, it could help them boost their confidence. Not to mention there are some great stories of children with various disabilities or injuries being able to play the game because of these features. It’s really something that’s long overdue and hopefully will be embraced even further with future games.
It’s not just the increased accessibility though, Nintendo continues to create games that are both appealing and appropriate for younger gamers in a way that the other two major console makers just aren’t doing. There used to be a time when there were tons of options for kid friendly games available on all platforms, but that just isn’t the case anymore. And if we want to ensure that our kids keep coming back for great games instead of the garbage that tends to clog up the app store, I suggest developers get on board before they lose the next generation to Mommy’s New Baby Girl – Girl’s Care & Family Salon (it’s a real game, look it up).