I know from spending time in the racketboy.com forums that a lot of people in the retro gaming community, including myself, are 20 years old or older and either have kids or may plan on having some soon.
Once I have kids of my own, I want them to be well-adjusted and smart, but still able to have fun. I’d like to keep passive TV watching to a minimum and help both my kids’ bodies and minds stay active. I don’t plan on keeping my kids deprived of digital entertainment, so I hope to have a healthy dose of quality video games to work their minds and keep them occupied.
As a classic video game enthusiast, I will naturally be inclined to share my favorite old-school games with my kids as they grow up, but I have a number of reasons why I think other gaming parents should look into building their game library around the classics as well.
Classic Games Are Less Complex
It is a simple fact that two-dimensional games are less complex than their modern 3D brethren. Just by comparing the controllers for the NES, Sega Genesis, or even the Super Nintendo to the likes of the XBox 360 or Playstation 2 you can see that the dramatic increase in the number of buttons and controls used for modern games.
The in-game perspective can also make a huge impact on the game’s complexity. I think most people would agree that three-dimensional games are more complex than their two-dimensional cousins. In 2D games, you only have two ways to move — left and right (not including jumping and such).
With these simplified controls, these old-school classics are ideal for youngsters who are just getting started out with games. Having a simpler game also makes it more inviting other family members (mom/dad/grandma/grandpa/uncle joe) to play with the kids.
Classic Games Are Good, Clean Fun
Depending on the age of your kids and how sensitive you are about the content of games, you may be concerned about keeping the “bad stuff” out of their entertainment. This is increasingly difficult as more of the modern media outlets are filled with content that would be deemed inappropriate for younger children.
While there were some mature games made in the 80’s and 90’s, it was much easier to find some good, clean fun. (Even those games rated “Teen” or “Mature” in the 1990’s are pretty tame by today’s standards. Perhaps this was because most games in the earlier years of the industry were marketed towards kids.
Classic Game Genres Are Perfect for Kids
Some of the earliest game genres such as platformers, adventure, and puzzle games are both engaging and beneficial for kids.
some puzzle-solving elements hidden within. There is also a healthy selection of high-quality platformers based on Disney cartoons such as Mickey Mouse, Aladdin, The Lion King, Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers, and many more if your kids are into those. These games typically have very simple controls and objectives, but offer some nice challenges in further stages (Dad may have to lend a helping hand sometimes).
Adventure games like The Legend of Zelda and the Monkey Island series are filled with charming stories, exploration, treasure-collecting and many puzzles to solve. A child’s imagination can go wild with these types of games and you might also want to encourage them to have similar adventures in your back yard when they need to run around a bit.
Puzzle games are logically the perfect choice for working your kids’ brains while offering a challenge in either single-player or two-player modes. Games like Tetris, Dr. Mario, and Puyo Pop Fever are all excellent choices to get you started and there are many other variations to keep you busy. What is also appealing about puzzle games is they are not dependant on graphics at all, so your kids are less likely to want more in terms of eye candy.
Classic Games Are In Abundant Supply
If you only have a Gamecube or an XBox 360, you might have a harder time finding a steady supply of kids’ games that will keep your youngster interested over the years. However, if you are willing to dig back into the massive libraries of popular classic platforms like the Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, or Sony’s original Playstation, you will have hundreds of games that are easily accessible on eBay.
Classic Games Are Cheap
Face it: Kids are expensive. And kids go through toys and other entertainment products like crazy. So if you want to avoid taking out a second mortgage to pay for a big game collection, I recommend finding some excellent classic game bargains that can be found online.
Other than the rare games that are popular with collectors, most any popular game more than a few years old can be found dirt cheap – many for less than $10. Luckily for you, I’ve already done some digging around and compiled a list of the best games for older consoles that can be picked up off of eBay or Amazon.com for less than $10 (and some essentials that are slightly more).
If you don’t yet have some of these classic gaming machines, there are some very affordable consoles such as the Sega Genesis and Sega Dreamcast that can be found for about 5-10% of what you would pay for a cutting edge gaming machine. Not only does this mean that you won’t have to spend much to get started, but you also won’t have to feel bad if your kids break it.
Classic Game Cartridges Are Durable
Speaking of breaking things — if you’ve even hung around with young children and watched them play with their toys (or your toys, for that matter), you know that they don’t always take care of things.
I remember when DVDs were first becoming popular, many parents still wanted to get VHS tapes for the children as they weren’t sensitive to scratches and such, leaving them less vulnerable to their kids’ destructive habits. Since video game cartridges are even less sensitive that VHS tapes (there is no tape inside), you could make an even stronger argument for game cartridge durability. (CDs and DVDs are liquid-proof, however)
What Are Your Thoughts?
As I mentioned, I’m not yet a parent myself, but I would love to hear your thoughts if you play games with your kids. I’ve started some topics in the forum, but feel free to use the comments section below as well…
Special Thanks: Title photograph by smcgee on Flickr