On Friday, my oldest daughter experienced a major geek landmark in her life. While I suppose some people may not notice or understand the importance of the moment, but as gamers my husband and I both shed a tear as our little girl chose her first alias.
My daughter has played MANY games, my husband scored many a reader rabbit (and other similar fare) at garage sales from the moment my bump was securely growing. A few years ago he even claimed an "all-in-one" at a sale and upgraded it, coupled it with a froggy keyboard and speaker set (thanks woot!), Hello Kitty mouse (thanks Aunt N), and a USB wireless adapter - perfect for any kids machine, simply pull the adapter and the internet disappears! Not only on the computer, but she's had several opportunities on our wii, our PS2, and Daddy's gameboy. But Friday was something special. Friday was different.
We have this game, Animal Crossing: City Folk. I've been an Animal Crossing fan for a while, it's a fun distraction, a bit frustrating in that it wants a lot of game time, yet doesn't have quite that much for a person to do, but still fun and simple and cute. It's also very reading and writing intensive. Both of my daughters think it's lots of fun to take my character (or dad's) and walk around watering flowers, fishing, etc. It's not a talking game though. The characters (all of which are anthropomorphic animals) talk in speech bubbles with sound effects. That means that when we let the girls play we if they chat with anyone or try to do anything with our characters other than wander, we are looking at a prolonged reading aloud session.
I'm not opposed to reading to my kids, but this stuff really wears. The game is loaded with useless repetitive banter. The menu screens are verbose, not obtrusively so, but they aren't consistently worded when having conversations with the characters. Sure it adds to the variety for older players, but you can't just tell the kids to pick the answer that starts with the "S" or something like that. So that leads us to what happened on Friday.
My daughter has been eagerly learning to read and doing quite well. Even her teacher says that she isn't missing steps as she rockets from preliterate to reading small chapter books, road signs, and pamphlets. On Friday, we decided to give her the chance to start her own character in our Animal Crossing town. In order to do this, she had to choose an alias for her character. Now of course, since she probably wouldn't go online with the game (and she definitely won't go on with anyone we don't know), she could have used her own name as she has on her reader rabbit games, but she didn't!
She informed me immediately that her character would be named Georgie! I have no idea where this name comes from, but I like it. It makes me think of Lady Georgina in Shooting Fish, which is doubly cool because my daughter also wants to be a doctor (if you haven't seen Shooting Fish go rent it! trust me). In fact the game for whatever reason wouldn't allow the name Georgie, so she had to use Georgina (which meant we ran out of room for fun characters, but that's ok). So we spent several hours on Friday getting Georgina all set up. The game has a very very very dialog heavy intro (which made me wonder if we weren't jumping a bit early), but we slogged through, me giving her breaks by reading some sections and her struggling through some of the senseless banter and phrases she definitely wasn't familiar with.
By dinnertime on Friday she'd only made it through the first two beginning jobs and I was thinking, we made a mistake. Georgina just wasn't ready for a full appearance. Now I was horrendously debilitated by a cold this weekend and while I was resting on Saturday, Daddy allowed her to play some more. When I came out to see everyone, I saw that she had happily progressed through the remaining missions and was reading the screens with more and more confidence. Then she told me all about the memo she had written for the town bulletin board. I began to see that the timing was perfect! Her writing is still limited and her reading is still slow and she needs help with the random big words, but things are going well.
My oldest has her first avatar and her first alias. She's learning not only how to read, write, and about work and money, but about role playing. She's learning how to separate reality from her game life. Her character doesn't look like her, she enjoys that! It's such an advanced thing for her to treat Georgie as a creation of her whim and yet still an extension of herself, separate, but still a part of her. It's amazing to watch. I can't believe how grown up she is already. She's very conscious of spending all of Georgie's money (known as Bells) and still doing all the fun things in the game. I'm so blessed to have such a wonderful attentive daughter.