They say– well, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anyone say this specifically, but I assume someone has– that you never really understand your parents until you’re a parent yourself. And I feel like there’s a lot of truth to that, right? I feel like I understand my mom and dad a lot more now that I’ve got a son of my own, and there are things I have in common with my parents now that only became things in common once I became a dad. I got raised right, as near as I can tell, or at least as right as my parents were capable, and for the most part I’m trying to raise my son the same way my mom and dad raised me.
Anyone who is around my age will remember the vaguely patronizing way most if not all of our parents treated video games. When I was growing up I couldn’t name a single parent of one of my friends who was into games. I remember my mom playing Pitfall! and Pac-Man on our Atari and that’s it. My dad, to the absolute best of my recollection, never touched a game controller once. Nobody’s dad played video games. Absolutely nobody’s. And games were treated as something that was For Kids and always would be For Kids; it was assumed we were all going to grow out of gaming eventually and put down the controllers forever sooner or later. The idea that anyone could ever make a career out of video games was openly laughed at.
That idea may be the single most incorrect thing our parents thought about my generation, right? Some of us stopped playing eventually, but the idea that I’m 41 and still playing video games isn’t even a little bit odd, and there are tons of careers connected to games. You can even make good money literally just playing games with the right Twitch stream or YouTube channel.
So I used part of our tax refund to buy a Nintendo Switch. I came home with the new Zelda game (which turned out to be terrible) and the new Mario game, which … didn’t. And for the first time, my son is not only allowed to play a video game system that we have (I haven’t let him touch the PS4, for obvious reasons) but he also wants to. He’s literally playing right now, next to me, while I’m writing this.
And any minute now, he’s going to hit a patch that he has trouble with, and do you know what he’s going to do? He’s going to hand me the controller and ask me to beat it for him.
And I will ask him if he tried, and I won’t do it unless I feel like he tried hard enough before asking me to jump in for him.
I cannot even imagine what my dad might have done if I’d tried to have him help me beat a stage or a boss in a game. The entire idea is completely ludicrous. And for my son, the idea that Daddy is better at video games than he is is perfectly normal, and eventually he’s going to beat me at some fighting game and it’ll be like the first time I beat my dad at basketball.
(I’ve never beaten my dad at basketball. I don’t play basketball. Neither does my dad. We’ve never once played basketball together. This is not a criticism of my upbringing. Substitute “beat him at euchre” if you want something more directly salient to my family if you’d like.)
(My uncle David taught me to play chess. I don’t think I’ve ever beaten him.)
And sooner or later this kid is gonna get mad at me for not wanting to beat something for him, and he’s gonna hear about how when I was a kid, we had these things called lives in video games, and passwords, and nobody to help us because not only could nobody older than us play the games, but there wasn’t any Internet to look up clues, unless you had your parents’ permission to call the Nintendo hint line, which cost money, so sometimes you just had to stop playing something basically forever because you couldn’t figure out what to do next.)
Yeah. Uphill, in the snow, both ways, that’s how I played Nintendo as a kid.