My daughter recently turned 2-years old. She doesn’t have a lot of video game experience. Sure, she’s messed around with New Super Mario on the DS, but outside of running into the first enemy over and over again, her only link to one of my favorite hobbies is what she gets to take in when I’m playing. And perhaps that’s not the best thing in the world. After all, I enjoy games like Resident Evil 5, Dead Space, and Madworld, all of which are either creepy, violent, or both.
But I don’t want her to cut her teeth on today’s games. After all, today’s gamers are spoiled. We expect instant gratification, and often times, refuse to work for anything. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “but I’m playing video games to kick back and relax. Why should I have to earn my rewards?” The simple answer is that earning things makes them more rewarding. See my Demon’s Souls review as an example of a game where things must be earned.
When I was a youngster, all I did was play video games. I got so proficient at the games I owned that I could do things no one else in the neighborhood could even come close to accomplishing. I beat Contra and Super C without dying. I beat Mike Tyson in Punch-Out!! without getting knocked down. And I’ve owned every version on Ninja Gaiden and Mega Man ever created. So I feel like I’ve earned my gaming stripes.
We are living in a day and age where God of War is considered one of the most difficult games around. Sure I died a few times, but I don’t remember getting too hung up when playing it.
So I figure I can introduce my kid to video games with the classics. In fact, the first game I want her to try, where she is fully able to understand the controls and the point of the game, is Super Mario Brothers. The one with the warp pipes, under water areas, jumping fish, and beat stalks. Heck, I’ll even let her play whatever games she wants, as long as they are from the 16-bit era or before that. But I believe that a good grounding in video game history will make her appreciate what games are doing today.
The better graphics get, the less gameplay seems to actually matter. There are always exceptions to this, but it seems to be the general trend. I’ll take Street Fighter 2 over Dead or Alive any day of the week, after all. But the really quality games of today, the ones that bring the graphics as well as the gameplay – those games can be fully appreciated, but only from someone who knows where we came from.
Maybe making my daughter play the older games is going too far. Maybe I should just hold a class for her over a rainy weekend, showing her 5 or 6 classic titles. It will seem boring, sure. But so was my Classical Music class in college, until the professor really explained the work that went into each piece of music. And that is what I hope to do with the kid.
There is a reason people want Nintendo to make another Kid Icarus. There is a reason Mario is still the best game around. And there’s a reason that the recent Sonic the Hedgehog games suck. Mario kept close to the classic formula while Sonic strayed from it. There is a reason many people prefer Final Fantasy 6 over Final Fantasy 7. Final Fantasy 6 was the ultimate version of the turn-based role playing game before it became more about the graphics and the glitz.
I will teach my daughter to eat with her fork and spoon. I will teach her how to dribble a soccer ball with the insides of her feet, and to shoot with the laces of the boot. I help her as she learns to read and to write. And I will do my best to instil in her an appreciation for classic video games. After all, it’s important to remember where we came from, as it helps us appreciate where we are.