How To Talk To Your Children About Classic Video Games

How To Talk To Your Children About Classic Video Games

It’s a delicate subject but one that will inevitably come up for any parent, and you’ve got to be prepared. In this age of bright and shiny high definition games, how can we force our children to play through the games we grew up on first? This is commenter Balmung‘s question in today’s Speak Up on Kotaku. Now eat your video games, kids.

So what is a good way to get children interested in video games to play classics? I am 20 years old, and while not looking for children in the near future, it will become inevitable eventually (girlfriend will make it happen). As I am a huge gamer I have played many games considered classics today yet don’t see many younger kids playing them. Gone are the days when I would see kids playing Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, or Chrono Trigger. Today the newer more flashy games seem to keep their attention more and, well, I just don’t like it!

Certainly these new games deserve attention as well, but it is good to understand where the games today started out. Therefore I want any children of mine to first be introduced to older games. I don’t really want to force it on them but I think it would teach them many things that are often taken for granted in modern gaming. The biggest thing being patience. Gamers today are so easily annoyed that gamers of old would scoff at them for their foolishness. If you aren’t patient in a game like Final Fantasy I then you will not finish it.

So what would be a good way to get this done? I was thinking of maybe moving the child through old consoles I have, as far back as the NES and up to the modern consoles we have at the time. Any suggestions on what classics would be good to include or different ways to do this?

About Speak Up on Kotaku: Our readers have a lot to say, and sometimes what they have to say has nothing to do with the stories we run. That’s why we have a forum on Kotaku called Speak Up. That’s the place to post anecdotes, photos, game tips and hints, and anything you want to share with Kotaku at large. Every weekday we’ll pull one of the best Speak Up posts we can find and highlight it here.


  • Hehe my best mate and I have discussed this a few times in the last 3 years and we both decided to do the same thing, only half jokingly.
    “You can play the PS5 when you finish Donkey Kong Country 2!”

  • Im 36. Have been a gamer for 30+ years.
    I have two kids, three and five.
    Right now I only let them play semi-educational games like Dora or Diego, etc. Or they play around with Tux Paint using my graphics tablet.
    I mistakingly let my son start playing Angry Birds and now, at age three, Hes always crying to play games. Last night it was three hours of tantrums because he wanted to play Angry Birds. This is not a good situation.
    Thats just a warning to future parents.

    Personally, from someone with over 30 years gaming experience, keep kids away from games as long as possible.
    If you must let them play then, like Sam said, games like DKC are great. Simple platformers.
    Games like FFVII take an older mind set and by that age they wont want to play FFVII because there are newer, graphically better games.

    Yes, graphics dont equal game play, but when it comes to kids graphics mean everything.

    • I’m 35. I have a 10 year old and a 2 year old. I don’t agree with you about keeping kids away from games as long as possible. They’re great for teaching hand-eye co-ordination, logic/puzzle-solving and patience.
      I think a balance of all types and generations of games is the key. My oldest has played games from most generations of consoles and definitely values gameplay as well as graphics.

      My 2-year old can’t really play games yet, but I did let him play with the drawing part of PictoChat on my old DS as well as Tiny Wings and Siege Hero on my iPod. I think he only wants to play with these things because he sees all of us doing it.
      So if I really wanted him to start with the classic games, I’m fairly sure playing them in front of him first would be the best way to go about it.
      Kids just want to be like us, so leading by example is always the most effective way to get them to do what we want them to.

      • I dont play games while my kids are up. Once they have gone to bed then I play.
        The whole hand/eye coordination argument people use is a load of crap. Throwing and catching a ball teaches hand/eye coordination. Playing games teaches eye/finger click coordination.
        Games make weak kids, no muscles, very poor lung capacity.
        The logic/problem solving I do agree with.

        • Like I said, it’s about balance. Obviously my kids don’t only play games and never play outisde, that would me an idiot and a bad parent which I really hope you weren’t implying.

          I disagree on the hand/eye co-ordination thing. I grew up never playing games(I didn’t play any until the original Playstation era, when I was about 20) and was terrible at sports the whole time. I was never able to catch a ball or throw it where I intended. Now, after 15 years of playing games my hand-eye co-ordination has increased to the point where I can now play ball games with my kids and throw and catch balls with relative ease. Playing more sports didn’t do that, gaming did.

          • Oh and by the way, my daughter is not weak with no lung capacity. She’s a strong girl and plays the bass clarinet. She also plays video games.

        • It seems you have no idea or can’t control your own kids. If you allowed 3 hours of tantrums to go on, then you need to learn how to control your kids. And I don’t mean smacking them.

          My 9yo has played games since he was about 3 or 4. He plays them with me/my wife or on his own. I collect old consoles and games so he has played everything from an Atari 2600 and mastersystem to X360/PS3 and my gaming PC.

          He also goes outside for most of the day and plays with his friends. He plays soccer, goes to tutoring and does archery. He also spends several hours a day reading books and listening to music.

          He also plays pokemon and warhammer competatively, and can kick most peoples butts at munchkins and killer bunnies.

          We play as a family and our 2yo joins in now. We also go out most weekends into the national parks around our house and both our kids have a love of nature and the world in general.

          As I have seen with my own friends and their kids, its not he kids…its the parents. Keep them balanced and they will be well rounded in life and skills. Like I siad, if your kids are allowed to throw tantrums for 3 hours than games are not the issue.

  • I think that the indie scene and the kind of neo-retro thing that’s happening these days (MegaMan 9, Scott Pilgrim, etc.) makes retro gaming a lot more palletable and accessible now than it has been in the past.

    I think we’re actually finally moving beyond flash. As long as a game is still compelling it’s not that hard to sell someone on playing it.

  • I’ve taught my son (9) to appreciate game design and fun factor, not just graphics.. Its not that hard. I am very proud to see that he appreciates old games just as much as newer ones as long as the’re good. If you give the right guidance, and show by example it can be done

  • So the kids in the pic are playing FFIV Advance…on a TV…with PS2 controllers… :/

    If and when I have kids, the first game I’ll get them to play is Super Meat Boy, and then Fire Emblem. The games are too hard? Well life is hard, get used to it, lol

    • I think that’s probably the Final Fantasy IV in Final Fantasy Anthology which was a PSX (or PSOne depending on how old you are) version of the game, hence its ability to be played on a PS2.

  • I’ve been the gaming influence of my 15 year old nephew since his birth. We started with racing games and anything educational. He now plays BF3 with the guys most nights. He balances this out with sports and playing the drums in a band.

    But in all this niceness I’ve tried more than once to get him playing the retro classics but he puts them down 10 minutes after picking them up. To be completely honest though – I do much the same thing.

  • They should bring back more coin-op Arcades like back in the day when I was the only teen without a console or pc, and everyone else was spoilt rotten by their parents with their fancy c64 or Nintendo entertainment systems.

    This way, they’re out of the house having fun, when their allowance runs out they find other stuff to do like hang out with their friends outside,
    while in the meantime teaching them the art of saving money for useful and other fun things.

  • There are many games methinks which are a great combination of style and substance and were designed in such a way as to weather well. SNES-era games emulated with some nice filters to smooth out jaggy edges are equivalent to fantastic portable titles nowadays (Chrono Trigger, Terranigma, Link to the Past), or make for some good co-op (Lost Vikings, Troddlers, Bubble Bobble, Tyrian 2000). Stylised 3D games that knew to work within their limits often still look good, unlike those pushing for realism each generation (ie. show them the Twinsen games, prerendered isometric RPG and RTS games, some of the classic PS2 platformers and cell-shaded shooters once they’re old enough for XIII’s subject matter, but skip a lot of the UE2-developed shooters that look washed out nowadays). Some old games have modern equivalents you can refer to instead (eg. Crazy Machines Elements – if they like the game style they can work back to Incredible Machine).

    I think the main thing would be to be picky. The best old games are still good, but games that were merely good then might not be good enough now. The original Mario may be nostalgic for many, but I don’t think it would necessarily hold the interest of a newcomer compared to the SNES remakes. Zelda and Metroid were great original concepts, but again I think don’t go further back than the SNES versions to start with. Heart of Darkness and Oddworld are still highly entertaining, but I think Blackthorne, Flashback and the original Prince of Persia would mostly be for puzzle/platformer subgenre or IP history enthusiasts. Civilization and Railroad Tycoon were genre-defining classics, but perhaps only bother with Civ 3 or 4 and Railroads (or Transport Tycoon). I’ll second the notion that indies are bringing classic game styles back though – games like Trine and Revenge of the Titans and Torchlight could be a great stepping stone into retro gaming!

  • I’m not sure what I’ll do when I have kids but I’ll want them to play Link to the Past and Chronotrigger. They’re some of the best old school games that aren’t frustrating to play by todays standards.

  • As early as the NES??? Come on, at least start with an Atari 2600 emulator. I’ll allow passing on the Intellivision. 😛

  • Wow! I never stopped to think about it….

    My 5yo and I play FPS split screen multiplayer. We aren’t allowed to shoot each other though. We just play hid and seek.

  • I will introduce my kids to a wide variety of games and let them decide for themselves what they play.

    Why would i ever try to influence their likes/dislikes of certain genres/games because of my own predilections and history?

    Every generation has it’s Shakespeares and Da Vinci’s; adherence to “timeless classics” as a base line for a medium can only lead to stunted growth.

    “To appreciate something in the present is to understand it’s past” is a common colloquialism, or something to that effect, so i can understand why we all want our children to appreciate the games of OUR past, to know who WE are and where WE have come from – but to say that you should attempt to indoctrinate them into a similar childhood to your own for the sake of “experiencing a classic” is foolish really, because they should seek the knowledge on their own terms.

    My advice? Play the games of yesteryear in their presence, and show them the love you have for them despite their aged graphics and backwards mechanics. They will WANT to experience them with you, if they can SEE the love you have for them even now… Not just sermonizing about a bi-gone era when “Games were actually good and not just all about graphics”

    – Aron

    • ^This +1

      My kids have DS’s and Micro GBA and a Wii. The Wii is for Mario Kart Donkey Kong and NewSMB (and Metroid for me). The DS’s/GBA I got a flash card from China and bunged all my favourites from when I was little (minus the MortalKombat/Killer Instinct/Doom etc). We play Super Mario 3 and Chrono Trigger and Ocarina (GameCube) together all the time. These ones don’t seem to give a crap about the graphics. I just hate the fact that their Granny bought them Sims 3 for the PC. What a piece of crap. Mostly they play educational games like Dora and Carmen Sandiego and stuff like that. I also second the point some said before about tux paint and a wacom. My 3 year old LOVES the Edubuntu Suite, I’d love to see that improve.

      I can wholly relate to sharing your memories of these games with your kids at the same age as you were. These days however things are a little different. Touch interface and edu-games on iPhone are so simplistic my daughter was tracing letters of her name at age 2. I put my 6mnth old on my lap at the computer last night and he grabbed the mouse with one hand and started bashing the keyboard with the other. He’s just copying what he sees. But the way these kids experience the advances in tech compared to our Generation is epically different when a 6month old is vey effectivly figuring out how to manipulate an iphone app. What will their kids be playing? Freaks me out.

  • My little 2 year cousin was playing some crappy game on his mums iphone while I (18 yr old) was sitting next to him playing Wario Land 2 on my Game Boy.

    He lost interest in the phone and wanted to play my game. I gave it to him and he didn’t have a clue on how to play it, but after a little assistance (me playing the game with his hands) he seemed to enjoy it, alot, thats until that Mickey Mouse Clubhouse show came on tv and diverted his attention to that.

    They may be hope left. I’ll definitely teach my kids if i ever get any the classic games aswell as the new ones.

  • my 4 year old cousin plays mostly ds Dora & Diego games and iphone games but when she is with me she plays on my psp sonic games from my Sega Genesis Collection and though not old locoroco & Little Big Planeton.On my ps3 she loves Skate2, Eyetoy pet & singstar games and watches me play other games.

  • I’ve only got the one so far, but I think I decided to ease him into it over time similiar to how it was for me. I got him one of those little “Retro Atari Console” things that comes with 60 preloaded classic Atari games and I’ll let him have a go at it every once in awhile. Then a couple years down the road when he’s older I’ll break out the NES and see if he’s interested… etc.

    No need to throw him in front of some huge console with a 3D Lego game flashing across a huge HD screen all at once.

    Let’s just say he’s getting the Atari thing for christmas along with a basketball net and a sled and several other “running around” type toys ;-P

  • If I am ever lucky enough to have children of my own, I already know that gaming will be a part of their lives. i certainly won;t force it upon them, each to their own afterall, but I played games when I was young, why shouldn’t they?

    of course moderation is key, playing a game for 6+ hours a day is certainly not ideal for a child. I have a 4 year old sister (I am 21) and I let her play games if she asks for them. It started with some easy puzzle games on my iPhone, then I purchased an iPad for my mother (a mothers day gift) and she uses that too (mainly to watch cartoons on YouTube, but that’s a whole other story).

    I also have my SNES plugged in, and she plays Super Mario World with me from time to time. I agree with some of the comments poste here, hand-to-eye co-ordination is improved with games (not all games, but alot tend to help). My little sister is a perfectly happy and helthy little girl, she plays outrside alot, and sometuimes she plays games on (hers now, I guess) the iPad. I can;t help but wonder what the future will hold in 20 years. If I hadan iPad when I was 4, i’d probably be playing with holograms now.

  • I have four kids, 6,7,8 & 8. They each have a laptop and play lots of games on kids sites. They each have a DSI XL with a library of games to choose from. They have unlimited use of Laptop, TV and Wii. They are all honor roll, do their studies and chores first and play on multiple sports teams. I strongly reject any notion that gaming effects anything. I allow my children to choose their free time as they see fit and they prosper because of it. Most days they are outside riding bikes and playing in their fort, just like I did when I was young.

    I find they all like different types of games and value those games for different reasons. I think exposing your kids to lots of different types of games is important. Let them decide what interests them. Don’t be pushy cause you like something, that drives them away from it. Expose your children to everything you can and let them decide who they are and what they like. You’d be quite amused seeing your kids playing the first Warcraft or giggling relentlessly to movies released 25 years before they were born.

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