This month’s game, Wonder Project J, is often described as a “raising sim.” It’s about a robot boy named Pino whose creator is arrested right before he comes to life. Pino is raised by the robo-fairy/living cursor “Tinker” and an invisible god-like entity, “the player.” The gameplay basically consists of bringing various objects to Pino’s attention and praising or chastising him based on what he does with it. Pino’s first reaction upon seeing a cat, for example, is to punt it. *RIGHT CLICK* That’s baaaaaad, Pino.
As longtime readers/listeners probably suspected, I’m old. I’m old enough to be married and have a two year old son. So, for obvious reasons, this game feels a bit familiar. Especially the substantial portion of it I spend telling a little boy to do something and watching him ignore me in the most extravagant ways possible.
But that is something Pino shares with other things besides two-year-olds. Puppies, for example. Or Siri.
The true parenting experience is in the bits where you do nothing. Doing nothing is a big part of the game. You put Pino into challenging situations and just . . . watch. In the game’s “battles,” you and the robo-fairy are just passive observers, unable to interact with your boy in any way. If you prepared Pino well, he’ll solve the puzzle, win the fight, not kick the dog, etc. If your priorities were wrong, you lose a little time and maybe a little money, and you go home and think about how you’ll teach him better tomorrow morning.
That’s it. Given the fact that you can save at any time, the only real way to lose Wonder Project is to give up in frustration. Which is, again, a lot like actual child-rearing.
Kids really do a good job of “raising” themselves, at least in the first few years. They’re naturally curious, naturally inventive, completely incapable of over-thinking their words and actions—or anyone else’s. And, as I’ve learned on several terrifying occasions, children are surprisingly durable. A parent’s job boils down to (1) preventing electrocutions and septic shock, (2) putting food in child-accessible places, and (3) pretending to be interested in gibberish. That’s, like, not even 60% of a damn. Kids have been programmed by millions of years of genetic trial and error to learn the rest themselves.
And yet it’s so hard. The most important and tiring thing my wife and I do as parents is nothing at all. We have to watch him struggle, watch him fall. Are we reading to him enough? Does he need more space to run around? Those are the puzzles. Save often.