Sea of Thieves’ pirate life was not for me. I drank my weight in a grog, dug up some treasure chests and shouted “fire the cannons!” too much. I got into the character and had fun, but I removed my pegleg just a few days after the game launched in March 2018. I never considered returning to it.
Nor did I foresee the 2020 pandemic, which prompted many of us to seek new ways to entertain ourselves from the safety of our own homes. At the Reiner residence, my daughter and I find that video games are a great way to pass the time. We sometimes play on the couch on the same screen, but our favorite way to play is on two TVs in the same room that are connected to Xbox Live. Having two Xbox subscriptions is a bit expensive and I wonder why Microsoft doesn’t take better care of families, but being able to move independently in full screen is the way to go. You can’t beat him.
In recent months, our family of players has grown to include my girlfriend and her children. Between our two homes, we can have four people online at a time – it’s amazing when we are all together laughing and enjoying each other’s company. According to the kids playing, we get a regular diet of Minecraft, Roblox and Farm Together (a largely underrated cooperative experience). Keeping everyone engaged and excited has been difficult as children’s interests and attention span have changed.
Increasing the number of games we can play on a given night makes sense, but unfortunately there aren’t many family co-op options. To this day, I will never understand why Lego games don’t have online gaming.
In my search for the next big game we have to play, the name Sea of Thieves has surfaced. Given my unsatisfactory track record, I decided to ignore it and instead tried to find something else. Unfortunately, no other game appeared as an option that would allow children to check the many boxes of interest. Having nothing else to try, I thought they might enjoy sailing together in Sea of Thieves. My thought: we could ignore the rest of the game’s activities and enjoy a relaxing evening on the high seas. It was worth a try.
The game reporter in me also wanted to see how much the Sea of Thieves experience has evolved since launch, but dissecting the content while paying attention to kids who just want to play their own way can be difficult. That night, I told my girlfriend about Sea of Thieves, told them about the concerns of the pirate violence (and the grog) and we decided to give it a try.
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 “stupid”. After telling her about the boat we were going to get, she agreed to try it, but only for a few minutes.
When my pirate character appeared in the world, a flood of memories came back to me. I cringed and thought “it was a mistake”. My pirate was standing in the same pub as it was years ago, and my mind was suddenly filled with memories of mundane quests and loot. I remembered why I quit the game.
On our own systems, my daughter and I followed the tutorials, and then we got together to play cooperatively. She ran to me, waved at me and tried to give me some wiggling larvae in her hand. She accidentally pressed the wrong button and ended up eating them. She chuckled and said, “oops!” I told her that her character’s face was turning green and she ran to my screen to see it for herself. She burst out laughing and then her character fell on me. My screen was full of vomit and my daughter was on the floor in generous laughter.
That’s all it took to hang it. From this accidental snack, it was sold on the interaction of Sea of Thieves players. We went to dance, music together, fishing, swimming and we never thought of going on a mission. We just had fun doing random things ashore. When we finally boarded our ship, we had no destination in mind. We just headed for the wild blue over there, and my daughter used her eyes (and her telescope) to tell me where I should go next. We made no progress towards any goals on our first night of play. We rather enjoyed each other’s company, as well as Rare’s sense of humor when it came to pirates.
When we woke up the next morning, Sea of Thieves was all my daughter could speak of. She wanted my girlfriend and her kids to join us on the second day (because they couldn’t on the first). They did it that night, and again, we did not complete any missions. We just had fun exploring the world together. My daughter was a little scared when ghost ships arrived and didn’t like being eaten by sharks, but our second session with this game was even more enjoyable than the first. Having more people playing with us was an explosion.
I realized that I liked Sea of Thieves, and it’s not because Rare improved the game. In fact, I don’t know if it’s better or not. In the space of a week, we only carried out a few missions. Most of our time is spent messing around. I enjoy the game more now because I see it from a different perspective. The goal is my daughter and my extended family.
Sea of Thieves may not be a game I play with people from my Overwatch and Rocket League clan, but it hits all the right notes for my family. Games can be experienced in different ways, and sometimes finding the right group of people is enough to determine exactly what is right for you. For Sea of Thieves, what suits me is family time.