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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Player of Games, #37: How to Train Your Dragon

In this game you will actually train a dragon.

When my sons were younger, they were huge fans of the How to Train Your Dragon

franchise. Books, movies, shows, toys, all of it, primarily my eldest, who was in that perfect wheelhouse of five to ten years old as the animated films came out. He loved every bit of it. And why not? The storytelling, worldbuilding, and characters are all first-rate, and I'd watch the movies for the scintillating score alone.

During the height of the popularity of Hiccup and Toothless and Astrid (always my favorite!) and the gang on Berk, maybe 2015, we discovered this game for the PlayStation. It was, a bit surprisingly, one of the most fun games I've ever played. There were a couple of different aspects to it: an exploration/discovery mode that involved unlocking areas of the island where you might find different dragons to tame, a resource-management mode for feeding and tending to your scaly charges, training games, and then of course the big in-game test of will and skill and luck, the dragon battles. There was so much coolness to be had in this thing. You could design the colors and ability sets of your chosen draconian companions, cultivating certain breeds to advance past tough opponents. The matches were always challenging, and the supporting side-quest work never dragged. It was a game of good design, good balance, and great pleasure. It's entirely possible that a substantial portion of my affection for this game comes from that fact that my first-born and I played it together for hours on end, and eventually won it together. It was the first video game I remember him watching me play and then trying his own hand at, a passing of the torch that has long since become a bonfire for him and a smoldering cinder for me. But I cherish those memories, and will always be grateful for the game that brought us so much shared entertainment.

That little boy isn't so little any more, now sixteen and driving and dating, but I suspect there's still a stuffed Toothless or too in his room somewhere. We never fully abandon the things we truly love. And if I were to bring up this game, I know he'd smile a little and give me a "oh yeah, I remember that, that was fun." Yeah, man. It was.

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