I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I bought Kirby’s Epic Yarn. I didn’t realize how beautiful a simple platformer could be, but I also never would have guessed how this one in particular ended up changing the way I saw myself.
I bought Epic Yarn for my sister’s kids. They’d got a Wii at some point in 2009 or 2010, but had hardly any games for it; and the ones they did have were absolute trash that no kid should be forced to grow up on. So for Christmas in 2010, I picked up Kirby’s Epic Yarn, wrapped it all nice, and passed it on to the next generation.
At the time I didn’t have any illusions about a single gift changing my relationship with my niece and nephews. That relationship… wasn’t great; I was a disaster when it came to talking with and relating to children, so I’d mostly kept my distance. Occasionally I’d play hide and seek with them or something, or sit and draw with them, but we weren’t close.
I had brought my laptop over a few times and let the oldest, my 4-year-old niece, play Spelunky, which I was obsessed with at the time. She was fascinated, but Spelunky was not the game for a kid to cut her teeth on. Epic Yarn, in contrast, is stupid-easy. You literally cannot lose.
So I handed this game over, and thought that would be the end of it. But as soon as the kids tore off the wrapping paper, they wanted to check it out. I helped them get the disk into the Wii and start the game up, but then they wanted me to play with them. Any time I visited after that, they asked me to sit down and join them in front of the Wii. Eventually my sister started calling me because the kids wouldn’t stop asking her to get me to come over and play Epic Yarn with them.
And suddenly… I had a relationship with all three of them. My niece and I would play most of the time, with the nephews content to watch in awe. Sometimes we would hand off a controller to the youngest and let him press buttons and laugh with glee when Kirby responded on the TV.
I never had common ground with my niece and nephews before this. I didn’t know what to talk about or to do with them. I didn’t know how to be an uncle. Kirby’s Epic Yarn made me the uncle I always wanted to be. It made me a teacher of my skills and videogame knowledge. It brought those kids into my world and me into theirs. It gave us something to get excited about together, to talk shop about, to work together to overcome.
Without Epic Yarn, I wonder where my relationship with my sister’s kids would be now. Would I be in their lives in anything like the way like I am now? Would I be any kind of uncle at all, or just another adult relative they see at family gatherings? Thankfully, I don’t have to think about it.