As a dedicated gamer and former teacher I get asked a lot “is gaming healthy for my child?”
Yes, this question is as old as the pixilated hills but continues to bug parents around the globe. What is genuinely worrying is how easy it is to download games that may not be appropriate for a young audience. Sure, parental controls provide assistance to this moral dilemma but as online streaming sites have proven, some sketchy content can slip through the net.
I must admit, what I find most disheartening is seeing kids in communities not taking in what’s around them. Thankfully, there is a way to make gaming less 24/7 and more family orientated.
Enter gaming retro, the old faithful providing the solution to our modern woes.
Retro gaming is tangible
In the world of 8 to 16 bit, downloadable content was for PCs and usually involved inserting a disc that would allow you to write stuff without the use of a pen. In the land of cartridges, you get what you pay for so no hidden downloadable nasities. Yes, age ratings are there for a reason (enter the Mortal Kombat debate….) but keeping things simple with 8 – 16 bit gaming usually kept the bedroom environment happy and healthy. Plus, online trolling isn’t a thing so a non-issue.
What I love the most about this era of gaming is its tangibility. Everything you need can more-or-less fit into the palm of your hand; sure the NES was the weight of a small nuclear bomb but the cartridges and boxes could be held and appreciated by all. Plus, It wasn’t just a case of selecting a game on a big flat screen and clicking download, you had to earn the experience by swapping or buying the game and more times than most, getting the goods or renting (yes that was a thing too…) one at a time.
Nowadays, you can click multiple games at once and flit between them not appreciating all the hard work that has gone into making them. I know I’m starting to sound like a grumpy old man but hear me out – too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Think about it, in the realm of pre add-on and online gaming you could sit down with a couple of friends and enjoy an afternoon or evening playing and arguing with real-life, in the flesh people.
It was an event, something to look forward to and were sharing was encouraged (most of the time, you had no choice if there was more than two of you…).
Socially responsible gaming, retro style
So how to go about becoming a social, responsible gamer you ask? Simple, just follow these small steps and you’ll get gaming in no time.
1: Grab an old console
Even though retro gaming can carry a large price tag it really doesn’t have to. Have a rummage in the loft first to see what you can find; failing that, ask around. There are plenty of local and online retro gaming groups that would be happy to help you out. If you have to splash some cash I’d recommend a Mega Drive, the price of a decent one won’t force you into re-mortgaging your house…
2: Buy two-player games
There are lots of age appropriate ones out there so next time you and your little one are stuck at home, grab hold of an affordable classic such as Sonic 2 or ToeJam and Earl. The style of graphics are still popular today so shouldn’t be scoffed at by the miniature you.
3: Buy or read game guides online
Like I said before, gaming can be a tricky issue for us parents; they consume a lot of time and can isolate kids from the rest of the family but remember, they can be great as a group activity. Get hold of a how-to and take turns to guide each other through a role-playing game. It’s a great way to bond and encourage some good old-fashioned teamwork. RPGs can be expensive however, look out for affordable SNES ports such as Zelda: a Link to the Past for the Game Boy Advance which, can be played on most Nintendo DS models (also dirt-cheap to pick up…).
4: Revive Saturday night
Even though Saturday night family television is dying a slow death don’t panic, there is a way to bring back the magic to your precious free time. Crank-up the old console and buy some snacks, take turns and egg each other on. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with some friendly family competition. Just remember, if you’re a seasoned pro, just make sure you give the little ones a chance!
5: Go gem hunting
If you really want to instill the magic and excitement of gaming retro go out on the hunt. You don’t always get lucky but if you spend an afternoon out lurking in charity shops and second hand stockiest, you’ll be amazed at what you can find. More than anything, it allows you to remain grounded and appreciate what you have. So rather than pressing click get out and about and see what you can find; there’s nothing like holding a real game and reading the manual on the bus during the journey home.
So there you have it, responsible gaming that includes all the family without the hassle of expensive devices and Wi-Fi. Sure, board games can be great but as we all know, Monopoly feuds can end in divorce. As long as you give your kids a chance to shine on Mario Kart you’ll be on to a new old family tradition.