There are a few things that speak to me, as a parent. And usually driving games are not one of those things. But in this rare case, I must make an exception. The upcoming Wii U version of Need For Speed Most Wanted, developed by Criterion, has managed to sneak its way into my heart.
How, you may ask? It's not just that Criterion has come out and said that this will be the "definitive version" of the game, nor is it that the team has challenged itself to do right by the Wii U, returning to their roots and making a "bespoke edition" for each console. It's not even that Criterion really likes the Wii U and they want to push the technology as far as they can.
No, what really warms the cockles of my heart is the new "Co-Driver" mode, internally and affectionately called "father-son mode". This is the mode where you, the "father" take the Gamepad, and the "son" takes the Pro Controller, or Classic Controller, or even the Mario Kart wheel with Wii mote, all of those will work. The kid does the driving, but the parent, oh boy, the parent gets to assist. From the Gamepad the parent can change day to night, turn traffic on or off, slow down police cars, and even change the car that you're driving at will. If needed, the parent can even take over control of the vehicle. The degree to which you interfere with assist your child is up to you. You can completely take over (if they let you), or you can just give a gentle steering input now and then to keep them on course.
My oldest is 10. That means in 6 years, she'll be learning how to drive. And most likely I will be the one sitting next to her as she takes the family car out for her first tentative drives around the parking lot. How will I react? Can I keep my cool, without being overly critical? Can I provide just enough assistance without completely taking over?
I realize now what Criterion has done. This is not just a driving game, no. Need for Speed Most Wanted is a litmus test for my relationship with my daughter. A simulation of things to come, in which mistakes are not as costly as in real life, but where the ramifications are every bit as real.
Wish me luck.