Why Can’t My Kids Just Quit a Game When I Tell Them To?

It’s dinner time and you’ve just told your kid to turn off the game they are playing, and instead of saying “OK” and shutting off the game, they say, “Give me a minute” and then take another five or more. Sound familiar? Frustrating? Want to know why they can’t just immediately turn off their game? I hear you. This is what’s going on. 

Not every game allows the player to save whenever and wherever they want. Without this understanding, parents can actually put their kids into a very frustrating situation. Imagine reading a book, and being told to close it, and when you pick the book back up, the book will only open to the beginning of the chapter you were reading. So you have to start the chapter all over again, no matter how close you were to finishing it. Then when you get partway through, you’re asked to close the book again. And again, the next time you pick up the book you have to start the chapter over from the beginning. Doesn’t sound fun, does it. When you ask your kid to stop their game immediately without understanding how long it takes for them to save their progress, you are putting them into a tricky situation. They don’t want to not listen to you, but they also don’t want to have to redo all the work they just accomplished the next time they start the game. 

How do we, as parents, stop this loop? By finding out how our kid’s games save, and then working with our kids on an appropriate ending to their gaming session. To help you with that,  here are the most common ways a game saves. 

Save function is accessible anytime: There are many open world games, such as Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Xenoblade Chronicles X, or games like the Pokemon or Fire Emblem series that have a save anytime function. When you ask, your child should be able to answer positively and save and shut off their game. This will take a minute, but generally it’s a quick save and off. 

Pokemon save screen

There are exceptions, of course, like dungeons (they may need to quit or finish and exit the dungeon to save) and boss battles. Here’s how I handle those two exceptions. If the kids are in a dungeon area and are close to finishing, I generally let them finish. If they’ve just started, I ask them to quit. If they are in a boss battle I usually give the kids a couple of chances to defeat the Boss before I tell them they’ll have to try next time they play.

Game save is available at the end of the level/match/race: In games that have levels/matches/races, you usually cannot save your game progress until after you complete the level. Games such a Splatoon, Hyrule Warriors, Mario Kart, and Super Smash Bros fall into this category. Most of these type of games will auto save when the level is over. A manual save option will also become available at this point. It’s important to know how long a game’s level takes. Splatoon and Mario Kart matches/races only last a few minutes, while Hyrule Warriors levels can be completed in less than fifteen, but have a sixty minute time limit, and Super Smash Bros can actually be tweaked with different time limits including an infinite (never-ending) time limit. If my kid’s game saves after the level, I will give them a warning that they have to shut it off after the level they are on, or let them know they don’t have time for a new level. If they’ve just started a long level I will ask them to stop as we don’t have time for them to finish. 

The player has to reach a save spot to save: Some games have specific areas where you save your game. Kingdom Hearts has circles you step in, Horizon Zero Dawn has you light campfires, Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has bird statues to save at. In that case, I give the boys time to get to the save spot and save before they leave the game. It may take a few minutes to travel to one, as some game’s save spots are few and far between, but it it worth giving them the time to save their progress.

You can save Skyward Sword at bird statues

The game auto saves for you: Potentially the most frustrating for both the gamer and the parent, this kind of save is one you cannot predict unless you have previously played the game or level you are on. You simply do not know when the game will decide that checkpoint time has arrived and boom you get a save. Not to be confused with checkpoints in a level where if you die you will respawn at the checkpoint, but if you shut the game down you have to restart the level, this kind of save will allow you to shut down the game and the pick up at the checkpoint next time you play. Lego Dimensions does this. If you hit a checkpoint and turn off the game without quitting the level, you will start at the checkpoint the next time you turn the game on. The Last Guardian auto saves when you reach a new room/puzzle. The same goes for Sly Cooper, Ratchet and Clank, and Yooka Laylee. All of them have auto saves for certain collection actions/events in the levels or when moving from one area to the next. 

Jak and Daxter power core collection gets an autosave (check) and dance

These are the saves we have to be most patient with as a parent and most accommodating with as a gamer. If I tell my kiddos that they need to stop the game at the next autosave, I am keenly aware that it may take some time. If the kids are playing one of these games, I will try to give them a sizeable warning for how much time they have available to play. That way they can manage how many levels they can accomplish and can stop themselves as close the the time limit as possible. Not that it always works out, but I want them to learn to manage their time. 

Let tell you about a time when we failed at managing this kind of save. Skylanders, in particular, has been an issue for us when it comes to auto saves. The game doesn’t save until the end of the level, and the levels can be long. One night, when it was close to bedtime, we told the kids to shut the game down when the level was finished. I wanted to give them time to complete their work. And I love watching how they work together in a cooperative game like Skylanders. Fifteen minutes went by. “How long till the level’s over, kiddos?” They tell me they are more than halfway through. Another fifteen minutes goes by. Another check from mom to see how much longer. “Soon, we hope,” is the reply. Ten minutes passes and from their response to my repeated questioning, I can see they are starting to panic a little. Where is the ending to this level? Is mom going to make us shut it off before we can save? I can see they really don’t want to have to repeat the amount of work this level is requiring, but they simply don’t know where it ends. When all was said and done, the level had taken them nearly an hour longer than they thought it was going to. They were definitely late for bed that night. So what did we learn? Not to start a new level in Skylanders a half hour before bedtime. 

Does that mean I always let the kids save a game at the expense of life? No. Take for example what happened yesterday. I needed to take the eldest to an appointment. I gave the kids a five minute warning to get their shoes on. When I came downstairs, the youngest was still in his PJs playing Soul Calibur (game saves at the end of the level/match/race) and we needed to leave. I tell him, “Hey what are you doing? Get your clothes on, we gotta go.” And he broke down. Turns out he was in the middle of the arcade, which is a series of matches that when completed unlocks a character, and he had been trying to beat the second to last match and failing. Turning off the game at that point meant starting the arcade over from the beginning. I expressed understanding with why that upset him, but told him we still had to go. He would have to restart later. When we got home, I looked up strategies to help him beat the guy he was struggling with and now he’s unlocked the Apprentice. 

I hope this gives you a better understanding of why someone can’t simply turn off a game the second they are asked to, and how to strategize for the ending of gaming sessions. When a new game comes into the house, make learning how the game saves a priority. Your gamer will thank you. 

We Missed Bedtime by Half an Hour

Yesterday, we got to bed late. Boyo number 2 asked to play Hyrule Warriors with me shortly after breakfast. I said yes. He is a fanstastic partner to have in the game, especially if I need a secondary high rank character just to make it through the level. Long story short, life got in the way and there we were putting the game in almost at bedtime. Because a promise is a promise. We made it through four levels before I had to begrudgingly call time. I’ll gladly sacrifice a little sleep time to get the chance to play with my kids, and keep my word to them.  

Ganondorf always wears this when I play him

Balancing Our Kids Use of Technology

You’ve heard the voices that are getting ever louder in the mommy blogging community that technology is bad for your kids. I know. I’ve heard it, too. For me though it’s a little personal.  Gaming and technology are a part of my identity. It’s been hard not to feel as though those comments are a direct attack on who I am and what I do. Which is why I’ve been a little quiet. You see, I’m not going to write AT you guys, admonishing you about technology or games or how it is or isn’t ruining your kids or how you’re depriving your kids of future work endeavors or learning experiences. I don’t want to write from a place of anger or defensiveness. So I won’t. If you guys see me go quiet it’s because there’s a storm in my head and I won’t share it until I see what is left after the storm passes. And then I will show you not what destruction the storm has brought, but how clean the air smells, how fresh the sky looks, the little drops of rain left on leaves. So yeah, here we are. The storm has passed. Let me share what I’ve learned. 

Maybe we need to start again. Hi. I’m a gamer. And a mom. I care about my kids a lot. But you get that because you’re a mom, too. And we do worry about how to raise our kids because that is our job and our heart. You probably have a gaming system at home, or a tablet, or maybe you lend your kid your phone sometimes, or let them use the computer at the library. And maybe you find your kid plays games and you don’t really get the appeal, but whatever. You figure they’ll grow out of it like all kids grow out of playing with toys…. Wait! They might not “grow out” of their love of technology and gaming. It might become a career for them, or it might be one of their favorite hobbies as an adult. The percentage of people and adults who play video games has only grown over time. Denying that or degrading games and technology to childishness is the same as saying people should grow out of fantasy based books. C.S.Lewis himself said that as he grew older he realized that the desire to hide or push away “childish things” was the actual childishness and that as a fifty year old he had finally reached the point where he could read fairy tales openly. So let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that we can avoid all gaming, or perhaps let’s embrace what video games and technology have to offer us without guilt. 

No one will deny that what a child needs most is interaction with their parents. But this mom doesn’t expect you to light yourself on fire to keep your kids warm. Mom’s, don’t do that! Don’t lose yourself while raising your kids. It’s not healthy for you..or for them. Maybe you need a shower desperately so you plunk the kid in front of the TV to let them watch a carefully vetted show that teaches them different music styles. Or maybe you give them a puzzle game to play in the car on that road trip to your parent’s house. And then maybe you kick the kids out of the house to go sword fight with sticks in the backyard. It’s all about balance. What I want, moms and dads, is to be able to help you with that balance. 

Here’s where me being a gamer comes into play. I have loads of knowledge and history and experience with video games. I play new games all the time, I read about them, I watch the kids play, I play with the kids. I’m pretty discerning with what I let my kids play, how long, how often, what they play at their friend’s houses, what their friends play at mine. So I’m here to be what I’ve been for moms randomly in stores. I’m a guide. When you are in Target or GameStop and you’ve got that crazy mom who’s suddenly full of all kinds of words and enthusiasm about the game your wondering if you should get for your kid? That’s me. You are always going to know your own kids best, and make the best decisions for them, but I can give you information to help you make your decisions. 

You can go ahead and keep reading the mommy blogs who tell you things like, “I’m so glad I had a childhood before technology took over.” I read them, too. After all, I am a mom and care about my kids development. Being a gamer, I know I will be exposing my kids to technology on a regular basis, which makes me even more concerned that I achieve the right tech/non-tech balance for my kids, and that I give them worthwhile games to play. My hope is that when you get to the point where you realize that you and your kids need a balance that includes technology in moderation, or when you are looking for a video game that will be just as beneficial for your child as a good book, you will come here. I can help you out. This mom plays video games. Watch how I play, how we play, and take from our experiences what you think would be a good fit for your family.  

I’m a gamer and a mom, and I play video games with my kids. I’m teaching them how to balance their use of technology and gaming in their lives because I believe that technology is not going anywhere and I want them to know how to make it a tool before they’re out on their own. 

Series of Quotes #2

A reminder to not make technology out to be the bad guy. As parents, we can guide our kids through social media and technology. We must give them the knowledge to make smart decisions, not withhold tech from them in an effort to stem the inevitable issues that come up with social media. I don’t let my kids have access to Facebook at their age, but I certainly tell them about how people abuse social media to hurt others and how it can be addicting. I will always arm my kids with knowledge, logic, and kindness. You’re raising good kids, people. Don’t neglect or shy away from this part of their education, too.

Combining the Old with the New

I often bring my cross stitch projects with me to work on while at my kids’ events. Usually people will stop and talk to me about it, whether it’s their own experience with the medium, or just to ask what I’m making. This time the comment was from one of the dads at my kid’s Pinewood Derby who said, “That’s an interesting combination.” This was right after he said that cross stitch was a dying practice and whistfully mentioned that his grandmother used to stitch. But he wasn’t talking about me doing a gaming pattern. Which I was. He was referring to me combining an old art, with new technology. I had my iPad in my lap, and was working off the pattern stored on it.

GameofThread’s beautiful pattern from Etsy

When I say I want my kids to learn to use technology as a tool, this is the kind of thing I’m referring to. I want them to be able to incorporate technology into their lives to make make it easier, without letting tech run roughshod over the real world. If I didn’t have the cross stitch pattern I was using in digital form, I would have to carry sheets of pattern with me when I wanted to stitch outside of my house. Usually the patterns will fold out into large dimensions, like a road map, and are black and white.  They are very cumbersome and hard to read. Technology allows me to have a digital pattern that is in color, that I can enlarge to make sure I’m getting my stitches right, and that I can take with me where ever I go. 

When the guy at the Derby pointed out the combination I was using, I paused. I hadn’t seen the juxtaposition of new and old that working on my project created. I had just seamlessly taken the new form of patterns and gratefully run with it. I embraced the freedom digital patterns contained without noticing how striking it was sitting next to an ancient art. I’m glad he said it. I was then able to take the time to show the kids what he was talking about, and hopefully give them a better perspective on how technology can make crafting and art more accessible and easier to manage while preserving the nature of the medium. I hope that as more people become familiar with digital patterns and see how useful and easy they are, cross stitch will no longer be referred to as a dying art.

Mooking About = Game Over

As a parent and gamer, I’m always watching the kids to see if they are near the tipping point of too much gaming, not enough real life time. While I know that gaming has many benefits for them, I also believe in a balance between gaming, reading, outdoor activities, crafting/project making, hanging with their friends etc. There comes a point at which the gaming is no longer being productive, where they have crossed the line from purposeful gaming, like solving puzzles, facing difficult enemies, persevering through failed attempts, learning rhythm and timing, and so on, into what in this house we call “mooking about”. Mooking about in real life is awesome. It might look like laying in the grass and watching the sky or playing Lego battles between the Ice Queen and the Forest Elves or drawing pictures of new sword ideas. Mooking about in a game, however, is one of the big signs that for my kids video game time is done. 

There are a lot of games which allow non-productive gameplay, the worst offenders being sandbox games and open world games. If a game doesn’t give you a goal, or gives you the possibility of hanging out in the game without needing to be working towards something, then my mom feelers go up. Sometimes this results in an outright ban of the game (Minecraft and Lego Worlds for example). This does not mean that those games don’t have merit, it just means that I know, KNOW, I’ll be having to police the game and the mooking about behavior more than it’s worth. Other times it means that I’m on high alert when the kids are playing the game to make sure they are enjoying the game, being productive in the game, and that the game is not being used to keep boredom at bay. There is a huge difference between enjoying a game and mindlessly playing a game. It looks similar to when you are enjoying a TV show versus when you are watching TV and nothing good is on, but you keep watching anyways.

I find it’s usually with Boyo #2 that I have to be careful of this behavior. It often looks like this: 

  • In Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild trying to attack the villagers and other friendly NPCs just to see how they react or non-quest shield surfing down the same area over and over again.
  • In Garden Warfare 2 it looks like him just running around the main world without going on any missions. 
  • In Lego Dimensions it also looks like him attacking random characters for no purpose or wandering around worlds without accomplishing anything.

When I see him starting this kind of behavior in a game, he gets a warning to get back on track with a mission, or a goal, or a quest. If he continues the mooking, it’s game over, shut the system down, go do something else. Your tech time is up. 

Until he can learn his cues himself for when he is no longer actually playing the game he is in, I will help him set his boundaries. And they will be useful boundaries that directly relate to his behavior and how the game is making him feel and act. Very few times will I set a boundary based on time. Yes, there are times I do use time as a boundary, but as he grows into an adult, I want him to be able to react to other cues. I want him to be able to sense when he is needing to put the game down because he is done with it for now. I want him to recognize when he needs a break because the game has him frustrated as well as when he needs a break because the game has him bored. If I can help him learn those cues, he can have a great life as a gamer.

Amiibo Hunter, Again

My collection of Legend of Zelda Amiibos is embarrassingly complete. So far. Nintendo, however, is about to make that a thing of the past. Unless I decide to become an Amiibo Hunter again. And I really, really don’t want to…but…Zelda. (Can you hear that whimper?)

Amiibos. They are such frustratingly cool little buggers. Which, let’s be honest here, don’t always have much more value than they look cool. But I love my Legend of Zelda Amiibos. They are hands down the most useful Amiibos out there, giving us the spinner weapon in Hyrule Warriors, which ended up being my favorite weapon, items and a new dungeon in Twilight Princess, and outfits, weaponry, Wolf Link, and Epona in Breath of the Wild. One of my friends got her first Amiibo from the Zelda collection. She’s gone on to collect a few more just because of their usefulness in BotW. 

Amiibos are one of the NFC (Near Field Communication) type of toys that I caution parents on. They can easily become a black hole for your money. Or your child’s allowance. I don’t recommend buying them unless you can prove they add value to a game, or they are from your favorite series and you plan to display them. Otherwise don’t waste your funds on these really well made figurines. 

So what’s an Amiibo Hunter? Well at first, Amiibos at first flew under everyone’s radar. It wasn’t long, though, before I found myself lining up for them along with people who clearly never played video games. I couldn’t quite understand the madhouse that the market had turned into, but I was determined to try and aquire the ones my kids wanted to play with and the Zelda ones for me. So I, like many others, turned into an Amiibo Hunter. We would follow the Amiibo Reddit. We would check several stores on release day. We would wait in line and chat with each other about what we hadn’t been able to find. The day I stopped hunting was the day I bought Ganondorf online. That was a step too far for me.

After a while, the buzz died down. Nintendo started re-releasing Amiibos. The online scalpers found them less profitable. Soon, I could just go to the closest store and get what we wanted. The release of the Breath of the Wild Amiibos, however, has reinvigorated the market. At least for the LoZ Amiibos. They really are useful. And beautiful. There are three new Zelda Amiibos coming out this June. The limited preorders sold out immediately. But, the kids will be out of school on release day this time, so we’ll make a morning of it by queuing up at our closest store. It’ll be one more memory the kids and I will get to share.

The husband, however, has his own ideas about how to acquire the new Amiibos.


We Need Four

It’s an odd thing, to climb in bed and start drifting off to sleep only to have your mind suddenly light upon a thought that makes you start giggling. That’s exactly what happened to me Monday night.

my controller next to the dad’s – Photo taken by Amy W. Lewis

Let’s back up a little. Earlier in the day, the husband decided he wanted to play a video game. If you’ve been following along, you know this is a rare and cherished moment for the family. The man is not the gamer in the house. (I’ve even cheekily given him his own hashtag #DadsNotTheGamer) When we get the chance to play with him, we jump on it. He had decided that what we really needed was a four player, dungeon crawling, couch co-op. I was a bit worried because couch co-ops have become harder to find, with those that allow four player being even more elusive. But the man had done his research and had found two of them for us to play. We were all excited as he started the download for the first game. 

It was around 8:15 at night that the download was nearly complete. The youngest, eager to play with his dad, and eager to have a new sword- wielding warrior to play, was on pins and needles. I had to inform him that the download would finish too late that night to play. It was a school night after all. And indeed the download finished just as bedtime rolled around. I sent disappointed kids up to get ready for bed. I was a bit sad, too, but looking forward to playing with everyone the next day. Getting to play with ALL the family makes my mom gamer heart very happy. 

boyo 1 controller & boyo 2 controller – Photo taken by Amy W. Lewis

After I had settled down to sleep and started to drift off, the giggling commenced. It woke up the husband. In the dark of the bedroom I said these words, “We only have two controllers.”

Butt-Kicking Has No Gender

Throwback to the day Kid the Youngest said to me, “Mom? Don’t make fun of me if my favorite character is a girl.” And I replied, “Why would I make fun of you? My favorite character is a boy, and you don’t make fun of me.”

Link and Chill

What Are You Doing, Link!?!

In an awkward turn of events, there is a shrine in Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild that can only be activated while Link has no clothes on. I had to wait around for things to happen, so I was treated to all kinds of squeamishness while Link sat on my screen in his undies. It was hillarious. I caught probably my favorite pictures of the game so far. 

Yup. There’s Link, the Hero of Hyrule in all his adorkable glory, flexing. 

P.S. I have a very understanding husband