Gaming in the Early Era
As a father of three budding gamers, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own childhood as this American Father’s Day drew near. The relationship with my dad, in terms of gaming, was quite different than what my kids have experienced. I cut my teeth on the Atari 2600 and Intellivision. We did have an early Commodore system that used a tape cassette player to run games but I hardly remember it. It was the Intellivision and Atari system that bred an early love of video games in my life. Pitfall was my personal favorite.
Around this time there was a recession in the video game industry. Known as the video game crash of 1983, console manufacturers vied for control over a limited market. During the first generation of video game systems there were a few hundred different companies who tried to achieve market dominance. By the second generation, the number drastically dropped below twenty. As my father was an electrical engineer and did home repairs out of our house, we saw several different consoles come and go. This also gave me a chance to test out several platforms and get a taste for the broad market of hardware.
By the third generation of consoles, Nintendo captured much of the world with its Nintendo Entertainment System. Not only did the NES help to rebuild the video game market following its crash in the early ‘80s, it entrenched Nintendo as a powerful console contender. The NES dominated. It dominated the shelves in brick-and-mortar stores. It dominated talk at school and for my family, it dominated our Christmas wish list. Nintendo established a recognizable brand which remains popular even today.
Tales of Tetriminos
It’s safe to say, I was enamored with Nintendo from a young age. It wasn’t long before my young mind was overwhelmed with the seemingly impossible. The Nintendo Game Boy was released, promising glorious portable gaming. Despite its low quality, 8-bit graphics and monochromatic green color, it quickly became my favorite way to play games. Throughout these early years, I mainly played games with my older brothers. I was the Luigi to their Mario. The Game Boy was different though. Without some complication, it was mainly a single player affair. At least in my household. That is, until I got Tetris.
I recall a camping trip with my father. Prior to this adventure, my dad mainly served as a provider of hardware and software. I don’t remember playing games with him. That changed when he watched me play Tetris on the Game Boy. He asked if he could try it out and quickly developed a fondness for the game. Even more so, he was a natural. At my young age, I could barely manage level 10 and I watched as my dad breezed past it like it was nothing. I was blown away. In amazement, I watched my dad continue to smash his high score and manipulate the Tetriminos as though they were an extension of himself.
From that point on, Tetris became our thing. Later, other puzzle games would be added to our playlist. As I grew and got better at video games, I was able to challenge his various high scores. It became a competition. I remember one time on a different game when I finally took the top spot, showing off the score. Beaming with pride I revealed I was the number one player. We joked about it and the next day when I went to show my friend, my dad had booted me to second place once again.
A New Age of Nintendad
To this day, I regale triumphant tales of my father conquering various puzzle games to my children. It’s likely not the legacy he wanted, but it’s one he earned. My father would hardly be considered a gamer. Even back then he rarely played games. But it was his soft impressions and subtle support that set the stage for me to incorporate gaming in my household with his grandchildren.
My children have a much different experience with games than I did growing up. Video games have been ever present in both of our lives, but I take a much more active role. With technological advancements, I’m able to play simultaneous with my kids across multiple platforms. Be it Fortnite using the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and Playstation 4 or using several Switch consoles for Tetris 99. Over this last year, as I’ve been heavily invested in reviewing Nintendo Switch games, that engagement with my children has taken on a new level. Now they take part in critiquing games. Even games that we aren’t reviewing. They are active participants in the Nintendad Kid’s Corner segments and give their impressions on solo reviews as well.
Father’s Day, a New Era
I have been a father for thirteen years now. I don’t have all the answers. It can be a struggle finding balance between giving my kids gaming freedom and reigning it in with more control. My kids were pretty distraught when I implemented Nintendo’s parental controls. To quote my son, “This is the worst day of my life ever!” Were I a child, I’d lament such a restriction as well.
That said, the gaming landscape has changed immeasurably. Sure, mature rated content has been available since the mid ‘90s but the ultra-realistic graphics and subjects of today are far more afflicting for the impressionable youth. Mortal Kombat on my Game Boy with two tones is a different experience when compared to the handheld equivalent on the Switch today. Fortunately between the ESRB rating guidelines and the ability to monitor how much video game consumption my kids intake, I can alter my parenting strategies accordingly.
Like I said, I don’t have all the answers. By this time next year as Father’s Day rolls along, I can be certain that I’ll face new challenges as a gamer and a father. I will say, I continue to cherish the few glimpses of game time I was able to share with my father. I look forward to the time I’ll be able to spend gaming with my kids. Gaming has helped strengthen our bonds over the years and given us an outlet to sit and chat and reminisce.
Video gaming is so much more than a childish pastime. It’s a tool or aide. One which has opened conversations about the world we live in. One that has stretched us artistically and creatively. One that has opened our minds to new ideas. And perhaps most importantly, taught us how to win with grace and lose with respect. Gaming has given us a way to decompress and vent our stressors and become closer as a family. Did I mention I met my wife in 2003 at a Halo LAN party? It can be easy to discount video gaming as this that or the other, but for our family it has molded us into the people we are today.