Old School

   Posted by: Michael Bernier   in Today's Reality, Yesterday's Memories

My two teenage sons are determined gamers, enjoying almost every kind of video game that can be found for a PC or Playstation. From sports like NFL football to WWII first-person shooters to Pokémon, these two dive right into it. Over the years, their gaming tastes have grown more and more sophisticated, pushing their PCs to the edge of their abilities and beyond, resulting in a string of upgrades that have kept me on my technological toes.

Tonight, though, they surprised me. Instead of clamoring for the latest and greatest whatever, they asked instead if they could play with an old game I had bought for my wife several years ago. Actually, it is a miniature game “console” that is programmed to play several popular arcade games from the early 1980s. This device connects to a television the same way as a camcorder, using jacks on the front of the set. Plug it in, turn it on, and you are instantly transported back into the gaming world we grew up with – Pac-Man, Galaxians, Ms. Pac-Man, and so on. The graphics are anything but modern; for example, Pac-Man has a simple grid, a bunch of dots, and ghostly-looking characters chasing the player around the screen.

What made the boys want to play such old games, most of which were taken off the market a decade before either of them were born? At their ages, they aren’t old enough to “wax nostalgic” about anything. I noticed how much they were laughing and carrying on about each old game, and then it dawned on me: they were having fun – simple, lighthearted fun! It is so rare these days to hear laughter when they play games; most of them require a lot of focus and attention in order to keep their character from getting killed. This evening, it didn’t matter when one of the ghosts caught Pac-Man; they’d just press a button and play it again.

I looked at other games they have, and some my wife has as well, and none of them seem to have any sort of carefree fun in them. They all involve some form of strategy, focus, attention, or intensity. I’m not a gamer; I rarely play any sort of video games because I’ve never been very good at them, and I haven’t had the propensity or desire to become better. But yet, I can see where gaming has evolved from lighthearted romps through cyberspace into complex applications which immerse the player into the action. I’m not sure that’s always a good thing, and from the experience I witnessed this evening, I am even more certain of it.

I can’t in good conscience stop them completely from playing games; they’re both straight-A students, so it’s a stretch at best to tie in reduced gaming time with making an improvement in their grades. I suppose the best thing to do is encourage them to step away from the intensity a little more often.

I also need to make sure the batteries in that old game console don’t run down.

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This entry was posted on Friday, April 23rd, 2010 at 11:46 pm and is filed under Today's Reality, Yesterday's Memories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 comments so far

Lelisia "Lee" Hall

Hi again, Mike, I’d never seen your blog before today, so I’ve a lot of catching up to do! I appreciate this essay too because I am also a gamer. I never played much Pacman, but I used to love playing the city-building games like “Sim City,” “Caesar,” “Pharaoh,” etc. They were fun too, you’ve made me remember! In the last few years I’ve been playing much more serious games such as “Oblivion” or “Fallout 3.” It’s true that sometimes I just cannot play them because they require too much concentration and energy. (By this point too, I’ve also played them to death!) Anyway, I just wanted to say that your essay was an important reminder of the seemingly easier, less strenuous times when my gaming was not “so heavy”.

April 27th, 2010 at 10:20 am

My enthusiasm for video games pretty much peaked out when Asteroids and Battle Zone came out in the early 80s. My boys have pulled me into some of their battle simulations, but I’m not very good at military strategy and usually die off fairly quickly. I’m glad I was able to “take you back” to that earlier time, when life was SO much easier than it is today!

April 27th, 2010 at 5:10 pm

MY life wasn’t easier when those games were out! I don’t play video games because I know that I have an addictive personality and they would simply eat away the time that I already don’t have enough of.

Oh, there is also the fact that my young children easily beat me at Super Mario Bros when I couldn’t even jump him from one item to the next! I can relate to not being that great at those sorts of games.

One positive aspect to bear in mind is that the sorts of games that are popular today DO keep our brains active, and some research shows that they can help stave off Alzheimer’s and such. So – don’t WORRY! Be happy! Now, THAT’S a phrase that also should takes folks back.

April 28th, 2010 at 3:12 am

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