I recall with some resentment the days when Xbox Live was getting under way, and the ability to play Halo against other players around the world became a real thing. It seemed like magic. Until, that is, I actually tried it. I wasn't very good at it, and the experience consisted mostly of me getting my ass kicked while some kid stood over my dead body and informed me that I sucked. And mind you, that's with the player matching algorithm putting me in a game with others who similarly sucked!
Some years later, I remember doing it a few times with my friend Mike in Chicago, doing team-based campaign missions, and that was a little more fun. I never really pursued it much after that, especially after we both procreated.
Fast forward to a few years ago, when Simon was around 8. We introduced him to Portal, because I figured that the physics and puzzles would be interesting to him. I was somewhat concerned about his ability to play, because controlling a first-person game takes some getting used to, and his dexterity wasn't great to begin with. But he figured it out, and before you knew it, he was owning the game. It ended with tears because he felt bad for the gun turret robots that were trying to kill him since they would be alone as his character made it outside.
Late last year, I decided to play through the Halo single-player games again, because I enjoyed the stories and I felt it was worth playing again. Simon seemed to enjoy watching me blow up aliens, so at some point I figured, what the heck, let's try some multi-player.
He was pretty bad at it at first, but it was different because speed and decisive action wasn't a part of Portal. I did not make it easy for him. The more he did it, the more kills he got, and the games stopped being blow-outs. Finally, a few weeks ago, he beat me for the first time, and it was a big deal for him. Now he wins about 1 in 4 times, and while he still gets frustrated at times (as he does with everything else in life... we haven't cracked that nut yet), I can see him getting better. He's thinking in tactical ways. He's getting very precise in his movement, able to move around me while still keeping his guns targeted on me. I haven't really coached him, he's just figuring it out.
Simon doesn't like to be challenged. But in this case, he's been persistent and getting there. I wish we could bottle this up and apply it to reading comprehension.
The family that kills each other, stays together. Metaphorically, of course.