Some Of The Ways I'm Sharing My Love Of Gaming With My Baby

When I was growing up in the 80s, many of the adults around me were disparaging towards video games, considering them a bad influence that detracted from school work. I don’t want to over-generalize, but many of my friends were, like myself, Asian-American, and their parents wanted them to pursue more “serious” careers like becoming a doctor or lawyer, and felt that games were roadblocks along that path.

I had zero interest in becoming either, and remember calling in sick at school just so I could play video games like Final Fantasy 6 and Chrono Trigger. Games not only made my childhood bearable, but helped me dream of better worlds. They’ve also had a huge influence in my career path, giving me opportunities to work in game development, make visual effects on movies, and become a science fiction author.

We recently had a baby, and I am of the opposite mind from the adults that I grew up with. I eagerly want to share my love of gaming with her and want to encourage her to play good games (as long as they don’t clash with her schoolwork). At the same time, I know I have to wait a few years before she can actually play them, so I’m trying to share my love of games with her in a number of different ways before then.

Gold Cartridge

Toys ‘R’ Us right before it closed (Photo: Angela Xu)

There was something magical back as a kid going to Toys ‘R’ Us, seeing the long aisle full of Nintendo Entertainment System game covers and their price slips. I had no idea what I was going to buy and carefully inspected all the cover art, knowing whichever game I bought would probably be the only one I got for the year.

It wasn’t just playing the game, though, that made it so special. It was the experience of going to the store, picking the game, opening up the box in the car ride back, reading the manual from end to end, holding the cartridge in my hands, smelling the factory-fresh scent of the box, and pulling out the styrofoam insert — and this was all before I even started the game!

Unfortunately, Toys ‘R’ Us has closed down, and many physical gaming stores are shutting down as well. I’m especially pained when favourite retro stores close down. I’ve wondered if any game stores will actually exist by the time my kid can visit them, as I’ve discovered some really cool games thanks to the recommendation of gaming store workers. Hopefully, online shopping won’t be the only option open to my kid.


I’ve actually started collecting complete editions of all the retro games I used to love so I can share them in their entirety when she’s older. Some are easier to find than others and I try to keep these great tips in mind. For example, I was able to get a complete Super Mario Bros. 3 for $40 on eBay (thanks to my wonderful wife), which is cheaper than a large pizza in the Bay area.

Others, like the original The Legend of Zelda complete in box, were a bit pricier because of higher demand, but the included map and the illustrated manual are so wonderful, as are the tiny tips at the bottom of the pages, that I had to get them. Plus, that golden cartridge is still a thing of beauty.

With patience, I’ve also been able snag expensive games on eBay auctions at a reasonable rate, like I did with Kid Icarus and Mega Man 6 (although most times in auctions, it’s 7 days of me feeling like I’m going to get a steal of a deal and then finding out at the last minute someone completely outbid me). This is especially important as I’ve noticed many new games don’t include manuals or any special extras.

The larger manuals like the ones I got for the original Final Fantasy, Ultima IV, and Crystalis, are still some of my favourites. Phantasy Star II is almost unplayable without the giant hint book that came with the cartridge. These are the kind of things that modern emulation collections don’t include and that I want to make sure to pick up. When the graphics were only 8-bit, the stories and character portraits in the manual filled in the extra details for the simplistic sprites; I remember the stories I’d make up in my head thanks to the illustrations within them.

I do realise by the time she starts playing games, we’ll be in an even more advanced generation of consoles with super realistic graphics. Maybe we’ll all be using VR and AR gear! I honestly don’t know if the original Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda will appeal to her. I would love for her to experience games the way I did, starting with the 8-bit retro classics and working her way through the 16-bit RPGs to the PlayStation and Sega Saturn era.

In pursuit of that goal, I’ve gotten the SNES and NES Classic Editions to make it easier for her to play the older games. I’m also keeping all my consoles in as shipshape form as I can. When she’s of the right ESRB age, it would be great to fire up a classic tactical strategy game like Herzog Zwei on the Sega Genesis and combat each other in a split-screen battle, or play through some of the more pivotal moments in Terranigma, Suikoden 2, and Dragon Quest Builders so we can discuss them as a family, since they’re all games I’ve played through with my wife.

Flower Garden

Hunting down video game accessories for the baby has been as cool as finding special gear in RPGs. I was appreciative that fellow writer Ben Bertol, got us a wonderful Zelda bib. Also, fellow writer Narelle Ho Sang sent us a Mario mushroom teether which was also a lot of fun, though I was disappointed to find that our baby did not grow super-sized when she bit it.

I’ve also bought several art books in the hope of sharing them with our baby as she gets older, including The Legend of Zelda Encyclopedia and the Dragon Quest Illustrations artbook. During a few reading sessions, I’ve snuck in The Official Nintendo Player’s Guide and guided her through images of my favourite retro games.

I’ve read a lot about how we should play classical music like Mozart to help develop our baby’s brain. We do play a lot of classical music. But there’s also a few retrogaming tunes I throw in between the orchestral tracks. My three favourites are:

1. Flower Garden from Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. This is one of my favourite games on the SNES, where Yoshi is the hero and a baby Mario is under his protection. Something about this song reminds me of the vibrant colours of Yoshi’s Island, and it’s a playful joy that I can swing my head to for hours.


2. The Prelude from the Final Fantasy series is not just one of my favourite songs to hum, but one of the most serene as well. It intimates familiarity and mystery, but also calm and a timeless feeling. It’s almost like the crystals from the series are singing in a unified chorus about a tranquility that can hopefully help baby sleep just a few minutes more.


3. The Dragon Quest Intermezzo is just so dang catchy that I can listen to this all day. Like in all the Dragon Quest menus, there are moments with baby and wife I wish I could pause, save, and replay forever.


There’s many more songs I play for her depending on the time of the day and my own mood. In general, I avoid the faster songs, so Mega Man 2 will have to wait. While there’s a lot of Mozart and Beethoven, I love squeezing in those retrogaming tunes that were such a big part of my life.

Hint Book

I read a lot of baby books, but even then, I find every day a new challenge. Obviously, there’s no one universal FAQ that provides all the solutions for raising a kid. It’s more about finding the best answers as I go along and working together with my wife to adapt to the situation. We take it day by day, excited to see her grow and develop.

But I cannot wait to play some of my favourite games with her. It’ll be a bridge, not just to the fantastic worlds created by game developers, but a part of my own childhood.


Comments

    My little fellow has just turned one and Im hanging to play and share games with him.

    This weekend gone he woke from a nap while I was playing KH3 and I left it on pause while I got him up.
    As we walked in to the lounge room he pointed at the TV and gave an excited Yelp and stood by my feet babbling away happily as I ran for a save point.
    I haven't been so proud since he made the connection that the controller moves the screen a few months back.

    We've noticed our nephew (just turned 4) is starting to show signs of being on a certain spectrum. Previously he was resistant to learning video games that weren't apps involving creating cupcakes and finishing them with sprinkles.

    I put Dragon Ball Fighter Z on for him the other day, and holy shit, something clicked. The button taps for stringing combos and general flow of combat just seemed to speak his language. There's now hope that I can actually game with one of the kids in the family instead of indulging in their rather retro enthusiasm for this "playing outside" shit they seem into.

      this "playing outside" shit they seem into.

      Kids these days! *shakes fist* The nerve, I tell you. Back in my day we only had entire virtual worlds to save with nothing but our own two thumbs and it was enough for us, challenging as it was. But nooo, kids nowadays need fancy "eye resolution" graphics and complex "reality" physics and "full body motion" controls and whatnot.

        Yeah, if kids spend so much time indoors playing the vidya games and listening to trap music, why are there so many scooters and random balls throughout the backyard?

    My daughter goes off to sleep every night with various Nintendo tunes from Pokemon, Breath of the Wild and other properties. I always hum Marle's Theme from Chrono Trigger when I'm rocking her so she's getting plenty of gaming influence from daddy. We'll see where she gets to as she gets older. I'm starting her on the SNES Classic and working up from there.

    Pokemon has been an awesome bonding session with my 6 year old daughter, we have been playing it for about 1 and a half years. and now just recently purchased a switch and playing through Pokemon lets Go and Mario Kart have been another awesome addition to our gaming sessions.

      I've been playing pokemon let's go as well, my 4 yo got it for me for Christmas.
      Although I have run into a very child like problem, she has decide that no matter what she is not going to battle Lt Surge. Not sure is it was the electric beans or what but she has dug her heels in on this one.

        I will confess that fight is a tough one too. Maybe just sneak on and beat him whilst your child is asleep?

          Considering she has just been running around catching Pokemon and switching them in and out of the daycare she is probably over leveled enough to do it on her own.
          It might come to that but I have been trying to get her to do it herself, push that independence a bit more and not stop the moment something scares you or you worry you might fail.
          So kinda in a let's see who breaks first time

            HAHAAH yeah nice. I must say though Pokemon lets Go is a great multiplayer game especially for kids. Keep up the top parenting :p

              She has taken down Lt. Surge and now won't stop laughing as his pic on the badges page
              So. Damn. Proud.

                Top effort! It really is a great bonding game, I cannot rate it enough. Looking forward to Shield & Sword!!!

                  Me too.
                  I have already been advised that we are playing Shield with Sobble

    You’ll be disappointed when all they will want to play is the latest run and gun online shooter.

    I've had friends try and get their kids excited about the retro games and things they loved only to have it crash horribly. So don't get your hopes up to far on that.

    We have included gaming into our general day to day and she is just growing up with it. I have found one of the best ways to do it is to include video games in your non screentime activities.
    We have been playing a lot of destiny as 'make believe'. She always wants to be Tess and sells things in her shop, and I am the guardian and come in and buy things. Sometimes we go flying in our ships to visit people like Sloane and Grumpy Asher.
    The other wodnerful activity we have been doing recently is art and craft stuff. She has been really focused on a great little Aussie game called freedom fall. She gives me a running commentary of my gameplay liek "Why did you die again", "You shouldn't hit the spikey wheel" and the classic "You're not very good at this game are you?".
    But we have been drawing all the different characters and parts from the game and using blocks and other toys to build levels in her room. Has been great gaming during non gaming time.

    Best of luck with the little one

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