Recently my wife and I discovered that we’re pregnant. Obviously there are the immediate concerns: finding a doctor; checking out pregnancy books from the library; perusing the list of off-limit foods that, if ingested by my wife during pregnancy, will cause the baby to grow antlers; etc. Just because I’ve sired a whole litter of kids in Fable II doesn’t mean that I have any more of a clue what I’m doing. Still there are no books or experts or BradyGames strategy guides that can tell me how long it will be before the new arrival and I will be able to play videogames together. I may have to wait a few years before we’re able to bond over some Gears of War Horde multiplayer, but I stumbled upon a website recently that may just be the perfect gateway gaming drug for our new baby.
KneeBouncers.com offers a host of whimsical flash mini games that can be played by simply mashing any button on the keyboard—coincidentally, I still use this approach in Street Fighter and Devil May Cry games. In “Wake Up Sammy,” your child can rouse a little green cartoon monkey from a deep sleep by pressing the keyboard repeatedly. Hitting keys in “Music-Maker” simulates the plucking of “Mary Had A Little Lamb” on a bright purple guitar (you can also select drums or piano, depending on your instrument preference). Even an infant can appreciate the delight that comes when you realize the connection between your keystrokes and the action spilling off the screen.
The idea for Kneebouncers came to creator Jim Robinson in 2002 when his third child was nine months old. His two older kids—three and four years old, at the time—were enjoying a wide variety of online games from coloring Clifford to searching for Seasame Street’s Ernie. When he realized there was nothing that catered to infants, he teamed up with a friend named Kurt Dommermuth who was handy with designing flash content for websites and they began sketching out the games and characters that would populate Kneebouncers. Now they just need to invent a peripheral keyboard that can be mercilessly whacked and beaten and smacked and drooled on without showing any signs of wear.
Are you both a gamer and a parent? How did you first introduce your kids to the manifold joys of videogaming? What was your first experience actually playing a game with your child? How long did it take before your kid started trouncing your scores in Guitar Hero? Be honest.
Jason Killingsworth is Paste’s games editor. He is based in Dublin, Ireland, and writes about music, film, tech and games for a variety of outlets. You can reach him online at jason [at] pastemagazine.com.