For the last 10 years, Andy Baio has been performing an experiment on his son. It is equal parts cruel and fascinating. Rather than let him play whatever video game he wanted, Baio made his boy work his way to modernity by playing through the history of video games chronologically. Starting with 1979's Galaxian.
His son Eliot was born in 2004, so Baio has this week published the findings of his decade-long "experiment in forced nostalgia and questionable parenting." The point was to let his son explore the history of the medium and how it has transformed over the decades, maybe giving him an appreciation of older (or newer but cruder) games that he might otherwise have dismissed as relics.
Eliot was given his first video games on his fourth birthday. Those games were Galaxian (1979), Rally-X (1980), Bosconian (1981), Dig Dug (1982), Pac-Man (1980), Super Pac-Man (1982), Pac-Man Plus (1982) and Pac & Pal (1983).
Next was the Atari 2600. Then the NES. Then the SNES. And so on. And by God, whether it was working or not, it sounds like Eliot was kicking arse.
Eliot got to level 5 in Pac & Pal, an obscure Japanese-only Pac-Man sequel from 1983, all by himself. Pretty badass. http://bit.ly/pacnpal
— Andy Baio (@waxpancake) August 5, 2008
Eliot just beat the first Zelda, entirely by himself. I only helped by showing him a map of Dungeon 9. That's my boy!
— Andy Baio (@waxpancake) August 30, 2010
The experiment ended by the time they got to the games released around the time of Eliot's birth, with stuff like Katamari Damacy and Shadow of the Colossus.
And what did they find? Well, not only has Eliot developed a strong taste for roguelikes, but he's also become frighteningly good at video games, to the point where he can complete Spelunky via hell and reach the Nuclear Throne.
Most important, though, is the fact that he can appreciate a game for what it is, not how much money was spent on it or how flashy it looks.
"Eliot's early exposure to games with limited graphics inoculated him from the flashy, hyper-realistic graphics found in today's AAA games", Baio writes. "He can appreciate retro graphics on its own terms, and focus on the gameplay."
"My hope is that this experiment instilled a life-long appreciation for smaller, weirder, more intimate games in him."
Go make a cup of tea and read the whole study over on Medium.