In the last few hours of Father’s Day, I wanted to put together a post of a more personal nature, as a thanks to my own dad for his regular support of this game thing I do. My interests and his have a significant divergence, and as much as I was taken by all the things games are and can do, my dad isn’t the type I’d normally see as a gamer.
As a dad myself, I know that sometimes you show interest in things that you normally wouldn’t give time to, and that it’s something you do to encourage them. Occasionally we get crossover where our own interests align with theirs, but there’s never enough to restrict it to that alone. I know that the overlap we had growing up wasn’t as extensive as I imagined it in my earlier years, but that I still had a chance to share something that meant a lot to me, with him.
While it’s hard to narrow down a lifetime of game-related experiences with my dad into an exhaustive list, I’ve chosen to skim over moments like outscoring each other on Pinball Fantasies, trialling weird field positioning in Ian Botham’s Cricket, game after game of FIFA 95 on the Mega Drive, and of course, working together to get past the US-centric age gate quiz on the first Leisure Suit Larry game. Instead, these are the games that stood above the crop, at least as ones we played together.
PGA Tour Golf
My dad used to play Golf on weekends, and it wasn’t uncommon for me to accompany him on the course (and then to the 19th), but I never took to the sport in the same way that he or my brother did. The closest I came was golf on the computer, which we started off with the old Leaderboard golf. There were subsequent golf games that were played as well, though it was the PGA Tour 96 game that saw the most activity for a seat-swapper.
There was a degree of showmanship to how we played – my dad, my brother and I – it left the confines of a safe clinical game once someone was either ridiculously ahead or drastically behind, and instead gave way to daring feats that dodged whatever hints or guidelines were on offer.
What stood out most about the game is that even as we had our strengths, particular holes or even courses that were easier for our respective playstyles, it always stayed a close game, and one of laughs.
Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos
One of the more divergent tangents for gaming with dad happened a few years ago, when I’d moved back home for a few months. Both he and I had laptops, and together with my brother on the household PC, we’d jump into Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. I’d played the game a lot myself, and both my brother and I had played some of Warcraft 2 when we were both much younger (and when I was a horrible winner), but the multiplayer aspect of 3 didn’t get a look in until well after it was out – and that was with Dad.
Some of it was the base game itself, and I encouraged him to play through the campaign some to get a feel for how the game worked. It was different to what he was used to, but a balancing factor was that much of the way we played it used custom maps, game modes or total conversions – stuff that changed the game controls, units or style to be something entirely different. I was more experienced with the game so it was definitely unbalanced, even when the numbers were stacked against me, but it was still played casual enough to be competitive for all.
In some ways it was reminiscent of time spent learning and playing Chess with Dad while growing up.
ET’s Rugby League
More than any other sport, Rugby League was the most common in our household growing up. I’ve gone through periods where I’ve kept track of the game, though that’s well behind me now. While I mightn’t take note of league like I did years ago, I know it’s a sport that hasn’t had a lot of love in computer games.
Though we tried a few over the years, none of those from the early days hit the right notes, often failing to respond to intent with the right moves. The one shining example then was this computer-based league game that we often played together.
Outside of the regular teams, we went through the team creator to throw together a side named for a spattering of relatives in a backyard team, or custom teams based on the squads of yesteryear, letting us throw onto the field a premiership-winning team from what’s now thirty years ago.
Hooves of Fire
At around the same period of our run on Warcraft, there was a Flash game on Facebook that got popular with my dad, brother and I – my dad most of all. What became a good distraction to us younger two instead became a serious pursuit for dad, the likes of which wouldn’t return until fantasy football took over.
We each had our way of putting our horses together, breeding them and trying to get a serious stable on, but while I treated it pretty casual, my dad had a system for building a stable of strong horses (along with naming conventions to keep track), all so he could put his winnings ahead of either my brother or I.
Monkey Island 2
A game of note on its own, Monkey Island is pirates, bad beards and a fearsome zombie to many, but to me it also means late nights, working through puzzles with google’s other predecessor: Dad.
It’s the last on the list, but it’s the first that comes to mind when I think about playng games together. There were many puzzles in the game where we looked at them and just… stopped, taking the time to identify what the problem presented by the puzzle was, then how we’d solve it, and finally what options we had matched our intended solution. This was the way of adventure games before affordable walkthroughs or in-game hint systems, but it also meant that a difficult game also gave us a kind of quality time that we wouldn’t have otherwise had.