Should you introduce your kids to the world of gaming by starting them with retro or modern games?
Super Mario Bros. or Super Mario 3D World? A Link to the Past or Twilight Princess HD? F-Zero or…GTA ONLINE?!
Being a parent is, without a doubt, the most rewarding life choice I have made in my 30 years on this planet (I’m equally proud of the life choices I have made on other planets, but we’ll talk about those another time). It fills me with joy to know that my legacy will live on through that little mud covered monster, drawing abstract princesses on the wall with daddy’s permanent markers.
But, being a parent comes with responsibility. Our children need food, somewhere safe to live, love, encouragement, attention, and someone to check for monsters under the bed.
One such responsibility is how we introduce our children to the world. People, art, music, television and, my favorite, gaming. The introduction we choose will impact their opinions going forward and unfortunately, we can’t simply re-load an earlier save to undo a bad decision.
When I was growing up, my dad insisted that my introduction to music should be with the musicians that he grew up listening to – mainly Rod Stewart. Now, Rod Stewart has had a long career for a reason, but when my friends were listening to more modern music, I quickly came to resent the sound of that husky voice. This resentment carried over even into adulthood, until just a few years ago when I found myself humming along to a Rod Stewart song and thought “hey, the old man wasn’t totally wrong.”
Don’t tell him I said that.
The question is, do I want my daughter to grow up playing the same video games I played? Should she follow my journey through the ages to ultimately appreciate the modern day? Or, do I just let her dive into recent games with all of the modern comforts we have come to enjoy?
8 bit or 4K?
Atari or Sony?
There is no right or wrong answer, but it is an interesting conundrum to ponder.
I don’t want my daughter to look at gaming the same way that I looked at my dad’s music collection. I want her to look forward to picking up the game controller the same way that I always have, without her resenting every pixel on the screen.
If I turn my daughter against Sonic, I’ll never forgive myself.
Supposing I decide to go down the retro route, does it really have to start at the beginning? My first console was the Atari 2600 JR – should my little girl have to experience Jungle Hunt and Combat?
Or should she jump through each of my favorite games only? Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on the Master System, F-Zero on the Super Nintendo, Super Mario Bros. 3 on the NES, Pokemon Blue on the original Gameboy, and so on.
And, maybe she should experience the “classics” that I have never played but that seem to get mentioned in every retro gaming conversation; Zelda, Chronos Trigger, Ecco The Dolphin? Yes, I said Zelda, don’t judge.
If I decide to look at more modern games, for their beautiful 3D graphics, refined control schemes, and realistic sound effects, where does it start? Viva Pinata on the Xbox 360? Little Big Planet on the PS3? Any Lego game ever on the PC? Or, should I buy the latest child-friendly game on Steam and try to navigate my way through this new world as a shared experience?
Personally, I’m going to introduce my daughter to my favorite games moving through the ages. I would like her to appreciate where video games have come from and where they are going. I want her to understand why thumbsticks are such a great innovation, and to experience the sensation of blowing on a cartridge before slotting it into a blocky console (even if you’re not supposed to). I don’t want her to look down on 8-bit games as though they are inferior. I want her to understand that fun is fun regardless of the screen resolution.
Here’s to hoping, anyway. For all I know, my Player-2-in-waiting may tell me I’m a big geek and take up something less interesting, like aerospace engineering. Which would be fine but, I’m sure you’ll agree, a total waste of time.