Sea of Thieves’ pirate life wasn’t for me. I drank my weight in grog, dug up a few treasure chests, and screamed “fire the cannons!” way too much. I got into character and had some fun, yet retired my pegleg just a few days after the game launched in March 2018. I never envisioned going back to it.
I also didn’t foresee the pandemic of 2020, which has pushed many of us to search for new ways to entertain ourselves from the safety of our own homes. Within the Reiner residence, my daughter and I are finding video games are a great way to pass the time. We sometimes play couch co-op on the same screen, but our favorite way to game is on two TVs in the same room that are connected to Xbox Live. Having two Xbox subscriptions is a bit spendy and makes me question why Microsoft doesn’t take better care of families, but being able to move about a full screen independently is the way to go. You can’t beat it.
In recent months, our gaming family has grown to include my girlfriend and her children. Between our two households, we can have four people online at once – it’s amazing when we are all together laughing and enjoying each other’s company. Depending on which children are playing, we are fed a steady diet of Minecraft, Roblox, and Farm Together (a wildly underappreciated co-op experience). Keeping everyone engaged and excited has been tough, as the kids’ interests and attention spans are changing.
Expanding the number of games we can play on any given night makes sense, but there sadly aren’t many family-friendly co-op options out there. To this day I will never understand why the Lego games don’t have online play.
In my search to uncover the next great game for us to play, the name Sea of Thieves surfaced again. Given my unsatisfactory history with it, I decided to ignore it, and instead tried to track something else down. Sadly, no other game jumped out as an option that would check the kids’ numerous interest boxes. With nothing else to try, I thought they may get a kick out of sailing together in Sea of Thieves. My thinking: We could ignore the rest of the game’s activities and enjoy a relaxing evening on the high seas. It was worth a shot.
The game journalist in me also wanted to see how much Sea of Thieves’ experience had evolved since launch, but dissecting content while paying attention to children who just want to play their way can be challenging. That night, I told my girlfriend about Sea of Thieves, walked her through the concerns of pirate violence (and grog), and we decided to give the game a shot.
When my daughter saw the pirate theme on the title screen, she didn’t want to have anything to do with it. She thought it looked scary and “dumb.” After telling her about the boat we would get, she agreed to try it, but just for a few minutes.
When my pirate character spawned into the world, a flood of memories came back to me. I cringed, and thought, “this was a mistake.” My pirate was standing in the same pub I was in years ago, and my mind was suddenly filled with memories of mundane questing and loot. I remembered why I left the game behind.
On our own systems, my daughter and I went through the tutorials and then joined together for co-op play. She ran up to me, waved, and tried to hand me a few grubs that were wriggling around in her hand. She accidentally hit the wrong button and ended up eating them. She giggled and said, “oops!” I told her that her character’s face was turning green and she ran over to my screen to see it for herself. She laughed out loud and then her character barfed all over me. My screen was filled with vomit, and my daughter was on the ground in a full-body laugh.
That’s all it took to hook her. From that accidental snack, she was sold on Sea of Thieves’ player interaction. We moved on to dancing, playing music together, fishing, swimming, and didn’t once think about going on a mission. We were just having fun doing random things on shore. When we did finally board our ship, we didn’t have a destination in mind. We just set sail onto the wild blue yonder, and my daughter used her eyes (and telescope) to tell me where I needed to go next. We didn’t make any progress toward any objectives during our first night of playing. We instead enjoyed each other’s company, as well as Rare’s sense of humor for all things pirates.
When we woke up the next morning, Sea of Thieves was all my daughter could talk about. She wanted my girlfriend and her children to join us on the second day (since they couldn’t on the first). They did that night, and again, we didn’t complete any missions. We just had fun exploring the world together. My daughter got a little scared when ghost ships showed up, and didn’t like seeing me get eaten by sharks, but our second session with this game was even more enjoyable than the first. Having more people playing with us was a blast.
I realized I was liking Sea of Thieves, and it wasn’t because Rare made the game better. I, in fact, don’t know if it is better or not. In the span of a week, we’ve only completed a few missions. Most of our time is spent messing around. I’m enjoying the game more now because I’m seeing it through a different lens. The lens is my daughter and extended family.
Sea of Thieves may not be a game I play with people from my Overwatch and Rocket League clan, but it’s hitting all of the right notes for my family. Games can be experienced in so many different ways, and you sometimes just need to find the right group of people to figure out exactly what that fit is. For Sea of Thieves, the fit for me is family time.