Father Makes Son Play Through Video Game History, Chronologically

Father Makes Son Play Through Video Game History, Chronologically

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. https://twitter.com/waxpancake/status/878464887

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.


  • lol, I am in support of this :D. If and when I have kids of my own, I will do something similar with them (albeit probably not to the same degree)…

    • yeah me too. When I have kids I’ll probably just give them an emulation box as their first system to entertain themselves with.

  • lol I have often thought that if I have a boy, I will make him play through a lot of classics before letting him graduate on to more recent games! As indicated in the article, I reckon it will help him to appreciate gameplay for what it is.

    • Why only if it’s a boy?
      If you start around the same time as this guy (4 years old) boys and girls have pretty much the same interest in video games.

      • even more reason to do it if it’s a girl! Foster an interest in something other than the gendered stereotypes that permeate videogame culture 🙂

    • Why only if you have a boy?
      Edit: I should have refreshed before posting!

      My daughter has been playing games since she was five and is still into them now at 14 years old. It’s only through marketing and attitudes like yours that girls begin to think games are not for them. Games are for everyone! And the advertising for these earlier games and consoles often had whole families, including girls depicted.

      • Late reply, but I said boy because my partner has her own ideas for what any girl we have might be doing with most of their spare time (she’s not a fan of games herself, though she is tolerant of them), not because I’m against girls playing games or am stereotyping.

        If we have a daughter, she’d certainly be allowed to play games if she wants, but knowing my partner it’s highly unlikely any daughter of ours would develop an intense gaming habit like myself 🙂

  • My kids all get to play the Atari 800 before they get to use anything else. The games are fun, and easy to understand the mechanics, and the joystick is easy to use as well, only one button, and no button that instantly kicks you from the game like on current consoles. Taught them BASIC programming as well, simple stuff but all three of them loved it.
    The 20 month old had her first go at PAC-MAN just this week, she loves it.

  • Hahaha, too late for my little one. He loves watching my wife play Mario Kart. Every now and then he’ll bring her the case and say “ario kart?” Only 2.5 years old.

  • I’ve got my work cut out for me just getting my kids to play non freemium games (Pet Rescue, Candy Crush) because my wife seems to push them a bit like a crack dealer. I’m fighting on though. The kids love Tokyo Jungle, Vita Pets and Kirby Triple Deluxe at the moment. They do like Skylanders a bit, but my next big move is going to be LBP3 I think.

    • Let em at the credit card once, spend 50 bucks in half an hour and see how much your wife pushes them after that.

      • Heh heh, it’s my credit card though, so I think I’d be shooting myself in the foot a bit there 🙂

    • Ugh…Vita pets…I tried soooo hard to get into that, and I usually love kids games (being self-diagnosed developmentally challenged), but I think the internets brainwashed me into hating the voices, which i thought were cute at first… 🙁

      • I can see that. They are quite saccharine aren’t they? 🙂 Much to my shame, my 6 year old daughter has pretty much finished the game whereas my poor neglected puppy can’t even open the garden gate because I have been remiss in her tug toy training…

  • That’s awesome. I always had the thought of doing a similar kind of thing, starting them out with my NES and working our way through to the newer stuff.

    Mightn’t force them to play *every* game though, they’d probably never make it to the end 😛

  • I was thinking of doing something similar when/if I have children. The first game I’d want them to play will be Super Mario Bros. I’d then get them to play Fire Emblem (jk…or not??)

  • This is awesome. My wife and I have been talking about doing something similar with our son, as well as possibly artificially limiting the amount of media he has access to for a little while. Entertainment feels so disposable these days. I really loved the few games I had as a kid.

  • As a father who owns most of the popular consoles through the generations, this is something I had planned to do with my son as well. Soon as he’s able, I’m gonna hook up the Atari 2600 or Commodore 64 and let him have at it. Those were my first experiences with games and I still think it was a great place to start.

  • Not sure how I feel about this, it’s good to want your kids to understand the history of gaming, but I wouldn’t want to force them to play a game, like it is some home school assignment.

  • I more or less did this with my boys, but not as strictly. They played through the NES and SNES eras and then the 64 and so on. I’m not sure however if it was my guiding them through historical video games is what has given them an appreciation of older style games. I think it’s mainly to do with the rise of indie games and mobile games and the popularity of intentionally lo-fi looking games like Minecraft. From my perspective, I’ve watched games claw their way out of crude looking experiences to where they are now. But to my kids, those kinds of games all exist simultaneously, on their own merits.

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