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A father has his son play through videogame history

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Andy Baio, the father in question, described it as “an experiment in forced nostalgia and questionable parenting”, but to me it seems like a terrific idea.

Start with the arcade classics and Atari 2600, from Asteroids to Zaxxon. After a year, move on to the 8-bit era with the NES and Sega classics. The next year, the SNES, Game Boy, and classic PC adventure games. Then the PlayStation and N64, Xbox and GBA, and so on until we’re caught up with the modern era of gaming.

This approach to widely surveying classic games clearly had an impact on him, and influenced the games that he likes now.

Like seemingly every kid his age, he loves Minecraft. No surprises there.

But he also loves brutally difficult games that challenge gamers 2–3 times his age, and he’s frighteningly good at them. His favorites usually borrow characteristics from roguelikes: procedurally-generated levels, permanent death, no save points.

It’s nearly impossible to follow the chronology of a medium from a young age because so much of it is incomprehensible to a child’s mind. Could a 7 year old note and appreciate the differences from Charlie Chaplin to Orson Welles to Paul Thomas Anderson? Probably not, but games are different. Kids can almost surely appreciate the differences between Pac Man, Metroid, and Shadow of the Colossus. In fact, they must in order to complete them.

Eliot’s early exposure to games with limited graphics inoculated him from the flashy, hyper-realistic graphics found in today’s AAA games. He can appreciate retro graphics on its own terms, and focus on the gameplay.

The lo-fi graphics in games like VVVVVV, FTL, or Cave Story might turn off other kids his age, but like me, he’s drawn to them.

My hope is that this experiment instilled a life-long appreciation for smaller, weirder, more intimate games in him.

I am not a father, but I do have a little sister turning 4. The evolution of play is a beautiful thing and I can’t wait to share it with her. Hopefully it will allow her to love games of all kinds, not just the newest.


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1 Comment

  1. Put “Pong” in the hands of a child today and be amazed at how engaged they become.

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