We are going to start this week’s Parental No-Scope with a bit of a rant. Today I want to talk a bit about video game accounts, video game setup and how hard they make independent gaming for kids. As a mother, I have a major problem with video games and their “ease of game setup”, especially when it comes to families and children.
When did video game setup get so damn complicated? Now I know I’m verging on the “You know, when I was a kid…” conversations, and I’d like to think I’m not that outdated yet…but you know, when I was a kid, you could jump into a video game without creating 14 accounts and multiple passwords.
If you had a spare 15 minutes you could jump into some Sonic Adventure. You could do some running around in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, save and leave before mom would call you for dinner. We used to play Super Smash Bros backstage between scenes when I did theatre. There was no game setup required.
Here’s the inspiration behind today’s rant: This week I had both my children plus my 11-year-old niece and 7-year-old nephew over for the day while I was working from home. They were heading home about an hour after lunch, and when we were done eating they asked if they could play something on the Xbox Series X. My son never wants to play on the bigger consoles, usually only the Nintendo Switch.
“When did video game setup get so damn complicated?”
So obviously, he doesn’t have an account set up with Xbox. I was happy to have them play on mine, but what could they play? While I’m working, with a time limit? Next to nothing. I went through the games I had in my library trying to find something they could couch co-op. I had nothing except for Minecraft, and they wanted something different. Super Animal Royale looked fun for them, but they couldn’t play it on the same system. Fortnite didn’t interest them because they weren’t their own accounts.
We eventually found MultiVersus. Yes, I know, it is rated teen. They will be fine, I promise. My issue lies with how it was impossible for them to just hop into a game. MultiVersus requires quite a bit of video game setup, you need an account with WB Games. I can accept that. It’s a teen-rated game, this means a parent is likely to be in charge of the game setup and approve it for anyone younger. So I did that.
After scanning a quick QR code on my smartphone, the game setup consisted of a display name, email, profile picture, birthday, country and language. I can hop online and connect the WB account to Twitch, Xbox, PlayStation, Discord, Steam, Epic Games, Apple and Google. I can add friends with a WB display name or email. You can add, remove or block people too. All of this is well and good, but it doesn’t allow for a quick dive into a game before it’s time to go.
Once all the game setup was said and done, I got them set up to play a co-op game, and thought they’d be on their way. Nope. Now there is a game tutorial. Even me, at 33, doesn’t remember a damn thing they showed me after I powered through the MultiVersus tutorial to get the kids playing faster. Eventually we just bailed on the chance to unlock Wonder Woman and planned to let them button mash their way through the game.
We are now five paragraphs into the “quick description” of the struggle it became to get my children into a video game they could play without a complicated game setup process in the short time they had left. I think that in itself shows how complicated games have gotten. It just isn’t an easy feat anymore.
I don’t want my kids stuck to one system. We all have our preference, and just because the Nintendo Switch is more kid friendly, doesn’t mean it’s the only option! I’ve learned from that experience that I need to start thinking about the systems we have in case the mood to play something new strikes them.
For each system—Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, even Steam, Gameforge, Epic etc on PC—I plan to get them an account set up, plus some games downloaded and the video game setup complete to prevent all this last minute frustration (thank God for game storage). Between their patience and mine, it wasn’t a chill 30 minutes, I can tell you that.
That being said, I know there are still plenty of kid-friendly games that they could hop into without the need for game setup. They ended up in ol’ faithful Minecraft after all. I’m just thankful they can read building instructions now and don’t get stuck in holes they dig anymore. But all of this has led me to think about just how much children need to rely on their parents just to play nowadays.
Independent play is really important for children. They need to learn how to problem-solve, explore, create, and really learn how to exist without a parent hovering over them. Unfortunately, this level of assistance isn’t just needed with video games. Do you have any idea how many toys need tablets and apps nowadays?
My first experience with this was the Sphero Bolt, which I can understand because it is an in-depth STEM learning tool. However, when I found out how many LEGO sets now require their app to give you the building instructions, I was incredibly frustrated. “No, you can’t build your new LEGO set, your tablet is dead” is a sentence I have actually had to say. Some do come with written instructions still, but not all of them.
“Do you have any idea how many toys need tablets and apps nowadays?”
Some really popular games on the Switch might let you and your kids jump in without delay, but playing them across more than one system can be a hassle. Take Animal Crossing New Horizons or Pokémon Sword and Shield for instance. Great games for kids, but if they play on the main Nintendo Switch, and also want to play on their Switch Lite, it’s not just a matter of popping the cartridge in the new system.
Transferring Cloud Saves on some systems can be a real pain, so make sure you keep that in mind when they get their own device. Animal Crossing involves backing up your data, using an entirely separate app, loading it onto the new system, and even then it will make the island unusable on the old system.
If you share a family island, you either need to start a new island on the new system and move just that character over, or give up on the island on the original system. We actually made sure to have my son all set up with a new island before we gave the Switch Lite to him, so he didn’t have to wait to start playing!
There are a few games that do things right, though. Take Kirby and the Forgotten Land, for instance. Though it requires a Nintendo account to play, it doesn’t need to be user specific. Kids can hop into a game on their parent’s account, create a save, and it’s off to the races. Minecraft is similar, though I do appreciate when my children play on their own seed (map).
My son is seven. He has a Hotmail account, Gmail account, Nintendo account, and Epic Games account already. My daughter is three. She isn’t gaming yet, but she is gaining interest. My kids are going to end up having more accounts than most adults do. If there are any parents out there trying to keep track of their accounts and passwords, and now their children’s, I highly recommend the app Keeper to keep it all straight (we even need an app for our apps!).
I understand technology and video games are ever-changing, and that a lot of these accounts and processes are there to keep our children safe. Sometimes, though, I miss the days of throwing in a cartridge, choosing one player or two players, game save one, two or three, and being on my way without the need for any game setup. Though they exist, they aren’t the games our children are begging to play anymore. I’m off to create some new accounts!