Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Next Starfighter

We took Lukas to a local ice cream parlor this past weekend.  It was a pretty cool establishment.  In addition to home made ice cream and piped in rock music, they also had local brews - on tap (Admittedly, although an odd combination I did find this sort of...compelling).  Plus, they also has a nice arcade section with a bunch of old school games, including pinball machines.

Now, as lame as this may confirm that I am, I will own up and admit it.  I do not own an electronic game system.

That's right.  I have no Xbox 360.  No Playstation 3.  Not even a Wii. 

For whatever reason, ever since I entered adulthood, I have not played video games.  Be it working on the house, or paying bills, reading, or getting out into the neighborhood with my family, I have prioritized gaming near the bottom of my 'free time' totem pole.

That wasn't always the case however.  When we were nearing our teens, I'm sure after much begging and pleading, my folks presented my brother and I with an Atari 2600 game system. Excited, we played Space Invaders until our fingers bled.  It was the Summer of 69' er....79'.

Whatever the year, that naturally led to my obsession, during high school, with a game that I found in a store nearby.  I would often play Galaga nearly my whole lunch hour during either my Sophomore or Junior year.  In fact, I played it so much that I became - what I am now sure was - the most revered player in all the land.

Okay, so my 'land' encompassed a town of only around 700 residents.  That in no way diminishes, in my mind, the skill that I would daily put on display.

Oviously that was a looooong time ago.  I've heard rumors that gaming has made a few advances since then.  I probably check that out sometime.  And since we haven't had even the most rudimentary game system, Lukas hasn't been exposed to electronic gaming. 

That all changed a couple of months ago.  That's when our son discovered that one of the settings on his toddler digital camera was loaded with a couple of games.  He quickly picked up a matching game and proceeded to play it non stop until he had it figured out.  A few weeks later we came across a Ms. Pacman game during a Ferry Ride.  Lukas 'played' it (without quarters) for several minutes and was very animated. 

On another more recent trip to the Seattle Waterfront, we found some age appropriate games for him to play which paid out tickets that could then be traded for prizes. 

That brings us to the trip to the ice cream store Saturday.  After finishing our cones, we ventured over to the games.  Lukas and I played a couple of games of pinball on the Count Down space themed machine before moving down the row to see before us, none other than a Galaga machine.

We plunked in a quarter and played together.  Lukas nearly screamed with excitement as we destroyed alien ships one after another during the first 2 levels.  (Mrs. LIAYF tried to tell him we were "squirting" the ships, but I'm not sure he bought it).  Our son was rapt.  After that he stood aside and watched as his old man use that very same quarter to complete the next 8 levels. 

It had come back to me like riding a bike.  In the end, with big smiles we excitedly high-fived each other.  It was a pretty fun father/son experience.  Maybe even one that will cause me to rethink the value I put onto electronic gaming. (Waving hand in front of Mrs. LIAYF's face: "You did NOT read that last line")

I'm not sure where we will go from here.  Christmas is coming after all. 

Tell me readers, how much gaming do you, or did you let your young children participate in?


Mrs. M said...

None at home. We have a Wii and a Playstation 2. Both are very dusty. Video games just suck time and attention and we occasionally play with our adult friends, but I've yet to let my 5 year old in on the action. But she loves arcade games!!

I like that your wife called them "squirters"!! Good effort, mom!! :)

SciFi Dad said...

I have a PSP. Occasionally, my daughter will play Checkers, and my son will sometimes spend a few minutes being distracted by moving the Lego characters around the screen.

My iPhone, on the other hand, is another story. Both kids BEG for it and probably see about 5-10 minutes of time with it every other day. My daughter gets it as a reward, my son as a means to free my wife to do something other than hold him when he's whiny and all "mumma mumma mumma".

Captain Dumbass said...

We have a Wii and my old OLD Xbox. Wii time is totally dependant on behavior and they don't get to play it all day. It's great in the winter when it's raining all the time. We've found it to be really beneficial for our 5 year old. Not only does he have the hand/eye cooridination of a fighter pilot, but games like Lego Star Wars/Indian Jones/Batman have helped him a lot with reasoning and problem solving.

Steve said...

No games consoles in our house either. I abandoned them in my early twenties when I realized how much they ate time that I could otherwise spend so much more creatively. No doubt the day will come when I can't tear one from my son's hands - he already plays the solitary game on y phone. So I'll delay that day in favour of other pursuits for as long as possible. Pinball is definitely allowed though!

ericdbolton said...

They play games on our phones quite often.. It tends to slow down at times because they get bored of them.

But grandpa has a Wii in his room and they've gotten quite good since the start of the summer.

Didactic Pirate said...

I was a latecomer to gaming. Never had an Atari, but wanted one desperately. Maybe this is why I had a lot of fun with our Wii when we got it a few years ago. We have that, and my daughter has a Nintendo DS. They're fun, but I'm extremely strict in how much time she gets to spend on it. According to her, I'm a Big Mean Daddy for having such rules.

On the plus side, she reads.

Lady Mama said...

We haven't exposed our son to video games yet, except for the odd time he's seen my husband play. But I'm pretty sure that, as he gets older, he's going to be interested. And I'm okay with that. I was completely addicted to video games as a kid (my first was an Atari too), and I'm fine! *nervous twitch* My husband has a few consoles but rarely plays them - as you say, other priorities take place. But I've nothing against them to be honest, so long as it's handled in moderation.

Irrational Dad said...

I used to be an AVID gamer, but not really anymore. We have a Wii and ax Xbox360. The Wii is used to play Netflix streaming, and the Xbox360 is collecting dust...

"Trauma Mama S" said...

My daughter has special needs and gets EXTREMELY upset trying to play games like Playstation or Xbox.

However, we do have an internet progrram called Zoodles that is chock full of kiddie, educational games.

She has unlimited access to that. Some days she won't play at all, some days she'll play for an hour or two.

Ed said...

My kids play games on the computer -- it's from some learning site and the games are math problems.

Man are they gonna be pissed when they discover wii.

Keith Wilcox said...

I must admit that I'm consider myself a gamer. I don't have a PS3, but I do own about two dozen xbox games and over 50 wii games. It's something my boys and I like to do together (kicking the crap out of each other on multi-player HALO matches). I fully encourage you getting a gaming system :-)

john cave osborne said...

i am not a gamer. at all. i suppose i was back in the day, but i'm just not into it.

lovie's mom gave pookie a wii when she was too young (in our opinion) to have one. the great thing was pookie was so not into it. the way we look at it -- the whole gaming thing with our kids? it's only a matter of time b4 it happens. we hope that time is later rather than sooner.

this was a great post, james.