Friday, October 19, 2012

New-Found Respect for the Nintendo 3DS

When the Nintendo 3DS first came out, I admit it.  I was a hater.  A detractor and a scoffer.  It's not my normal style, but I felt like the 3D was a total gimmick, and most review sites backed up my lukewarm reception with their own.

When the new larger 3DS came out, our son inherited the "old" 3DS from his Dad.  My daughter had inherited my older regular DS, and as our trip to Disney approached, it became more and more evident that the old one wasn't going to make it.  The thing was literally hanging by a single hinge.  I mean, really it was almost as old as she was.  And knowing that both an Adventure Time game and a Skylanders game are slated for the 3DS this year, I decided it was time to get her a replacement.

I went into the local Gamestop (where everybody knows our name) and they happened to have a used pink 3DS available.  As the clerk walked me through the features, things I had dismissed as silly like the augmented reality stuff activated by cards, or the shooting game that uses real faces to make the characters, I realized that while that stuff wasn't very interesting to me, it probably would be to the kids. 

I surprised her that night with it, and she immediately started investigating the thing.  Because it had a previous owner, all sorts of games and features were available that my husband hadn't unlocked his old DS, so suddenly the kids were working together to get it all going on my son's DS as well.  I was especially appreciative of the feature where you have to take the DS for walks in sleep mode in order to accumulate what the kids are calling "pig points" that can be used to buy puzzle pieces for different puzzles.  They love that part.

And then we went to Disney.  You might think I mean that having these was the best thing ever in the sense that it kept the kids quiet and waiting patiently in lines for busses and rides.  The old "tv babysitter" concept.  I won't deny there was a small element of that in there, but it was by no means the true benefit.  Though this picture shows them both intent on their own games, the majority of the time was excitedly checking to see if anyone new had "visited" them (loads and loads of visits, from all over the world, and the DS shows you where people who visited your DS are from, a little geography they actually cared about).  They worked together and showed each other new things, complimenting each other when they would finish a battle or a quest, or make a new cat soldier.  The coolest thing about it all was, neither one of them played a single DS cartridge game.  This was all stuff that is just baked into the handheld itself. 

They both took pictures of things we saw at Disney, and my son started emulating the park photographers, taking family pictures where he would direct us to "make scared faces" or "point at the ground" like they had.  So cute.  They had hours of fun just recording pointless little voice snippets and coloring the speech balloon icons so that they formed patterns.  They made, re-made, and re-re-made their Mii characters just to play with hair and face options.  Oh, and I almost forgot; you can turn off the 3D, and that is advised for children under 7.

3DS, I may have judged you prematurely.  I think the handheld phase of my own gaming career is over, but I'm very impressed with the creative and teamwork-encouraging elements you've incorporated.  Silly things that a grown-up wouldn't think twice about, but they were captivating and amazing to our children, in an interface that allowed them to explore and discover new features all on their own.

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