Gaming with Zoe: my daughter’s first time on the Nintendo Switch
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Gaming with Zoe: my daughter’s first time on the Nintendo Switch

Patrick Vogt
28.8.2023
Translation: Katherine Martin

My love for video games has gathered a thick layer of dust. Since having kids, I haven’t made time for gaming. Now, I’m blowing away the cobwebs by handing over the controller to my daughter.

Rather than being a talented or even an ambitious gamer, I’ve always played video games for the sheer love of it. Mind you, I did manage to play Tetris at maximum difficulty at top speed on Game Boy. Whenever I was successful (which I often was), Cossacks would dance around the little green screen to the tune of 8-bit music and a rocket would take off. For whatever reason, I’d always be thrilled with this reward.

Whatever my level of success or staying power, I at least had a lot of fun playing games. And that’s exactly what I want to pass on to my four-and-a-half-year-old daughter. If I’m going to do that, I need to find out if she’s actually into video games first.

Blowing the cobwebs off my Switch

As a matter of fact, my daughter tells me one rainy Sunday afternoon that she really wants to play on the TV. Time to crack out my dust-covered Switch. I’d been dying to get myself the console for ages before eventually buying a used one a couple of years back.

Since then, I’ve used it twice as a handheld to play Super Mario Odyssey. Or was it just the once? Either way, my daughter has given the console back its raison d’être. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get back into gaming myself… But let’s not go there.

Nintendo Switch – Neon red / Neon blue
Game consoles
288,– EUR

Nintendo Switch – Neon red / Neon blue

A surefire crowd-pleaser: Paw Patrol

Mario remains tucked away in a drawer for Zoe’s first go of the Switch. I’ll be saving everyone’s favourite red-capped, mustachioed plumber for when she’s old enough – and skilled enough – for the game. Once we get to that stage, I’m bound to turn to my colleague Philipp Rüegg’s child-friendly game recommendations.

  • Guide

    Family fun in a pixel world: my games to enjoy with your children

    by Philipp Rüegg

For the time being, we’ve got Paw Patrol at the ready. The all-singing, all-dancing cartoon dogs from Adventure Bay seem to be ubiquitous among kids my daughter’s age – even if they’re really just after parents’ wallets. Be that as it may, the moment the logo pops up on the TV, my daughter’s all fired up and ready to play.

Bandai Namco Paw Patrol: In action (Switch, DE)
33,97 EUR

Bandai Namco Paw Patrol: In action

Switch, DE

Bandai Namco Paw Patrol: In action (Switch, DE)
Video games
33,97 EUR

Bandai Namco Paw Patrol: In action

Switch, DE

«Marshall’s doing what I want!»

Paw Patrol – On a Roll is a simple 2D platformer containing neither danger nor enemies. In other words, it’s perfect for a young child.

In the first level, Zoe moves her four-legged favourites – police dog Chase and firefighter Dalmatian pup Marshall – from left to right through a farm using the Switch controller’s joystick.

Arrow signs mark the (unchanging) direction.
Arrow signs mark the (unchanging) direction.
Source: Sofia Vogt

She presses B to hop over obstacles such as wooden crates and hay bales, or to jump onto barn roofs to collect bone-shaped pup treats and golden medallions.

Zoe rarely needs the A, X and Y buttons; using them only for special actions such as opening barn doors or helping a fellow Paw Patrol member. The game tells her which button to press and when.

Fifteen minutes later, she’s rescued the ducks from their dried-up pond with a little help from Chase and Marshall. In doing so, she smashes the first level.

Chase watching Zoe watching him.
Chase watching Zoe watching him.
Source: Sofia Vogt

Minimal help from Dad required

My daughter concentrates really hard on the game, following the instructions to the letter. Her mum and I can’t help but wish she were as obedient as this in real life.

Zoe immediately grasps what she needs to do in order to make the characters run and jump. When a run-jump combo is required, however, she has some coordination difficulties. On those occasions, she lets me help her. The rest of the time, she manages just fine on her own.

Zoe’s grasping the controller like a veteran gamer already.
Zoe’s grasping the controller like a veteran gamer already.
Source: Sofia Vogt

An (over)active pony

Zoe’s also allowed a quick go of the second game I’ve picked out for her. Since she loves horses, My Little Pony was an obvious choice.

Outright Games My Little Pony: A Maritime Bay Adventure (Switch, DE)

Outright Games My Little Pony: A Maritime Bay Adventure

Switch, DE

Outright Games My Little Pony: A Maritime Bay Adventure (Switch, DE)
Video games

Outright Games My Little Pony: A Maritime Bay Adventure

Switch, DE

This game takes things to a new level. Why? Because Sunny the Pony can’t just be moved left and right, but up and down, too. Soon realising that Zoe’s overwhelmed by this, I put the kibosh on her first attempt at playing the Switch.

Zoe may be taken with Sunny, but the controls haven’t won her over yet.
Zoe may be taken with Sunny, but the controls haven’t won her over yet.
Source: Sofia Vogt

Verdict: no more dusty days for the Switch

My daughter did a great job, and enjoyed her first foray into the world of video games. It’s also worth noting that she had no problem putting down the controller after 20 minutes and going off to do something else.

As far as her mum and I are concerned, there’s no reason not to let Zoe play the Switch again. In small doses and supervised at all times, of course. For now, we’ll keep it to very simple games such as Paw Patrol. We don’t want the joy of gaming turning into frustration.

Another thing we’re abundantly clear on is that board games and educational games are still the priority. «Entdecke die Welt» (Discover the World), for example. Incidentally, that’s exactly what we were playing on that rainy Sunday afternoon – and for longer than 20 minutes at that.

Do you let your children play video games? What’s it been like to explore the world of video games together? Do you have any game recommendations? I’m looking forward to reading your comments.

Header image: Patrick Vogt

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I'm a full-blooded dad and husband, part-time nerd and chicken farmer, cat tamer and animal lover. I would like to know everything and yet I know nothing. I know even less, but I learn something new every day. What I am good at is dealing with words, spoken and written. And I get to prove that here. 


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