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.
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.
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.
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.