Orphaned Computers & Game Systems

Vol. II, Issue 5    August 1998

Mystique and the Wise Toddler:

Gaming During Early Childhood

by Chris Federico

I'm just not sure about the N-64 and PlayStation, or even the Sega; I'd like to be optimistic and assume that very young kids who started their game-playing careers during the "glossy system" era will, as they get older, hold dear to their hearts a mystique about, and fascination with, the first adventures they embarked upon -- like people our age are sentimental about 2600 games and such. But we had to use our imaginations to create cerebrally tangible universes out of the abstract graphics, and since the games themselves had to be essentially excellent in order to render the simple pixelation incidental, it's the game-play we retain as we get older, a fascination with the circular stories themselves rather than any realistic worlds that serve as vicarious replacements for real-life activities.

But if little Jimmy walks into an arcade these days, he can see tons of machines with huge -- or, in some cases, practically panoramic -- screens, offering amazingly rendered auto races, flight simulations and skiing runs (complete with joyboards -- Amiga would be so proud). And glancing at the bedroom of the typical home gamer would reveal a PlayStation or a Nintendo-64, capable of presenting breathtaking 3-D landscapes. A PC in someone's cleared-away dining room/office would be showing one of the realistic Myst scenes.

Makes ya wonder, doesn't it? These people eventually have kids (if they're so inclined), and the kids grow up having no idea that there once existed video games that engaged the players' imaginations, contests that necessitated a lot more mental and psychological interaction and represented domains that were controlled by the kids who were playing, instead of the other way around.

Dominic is a rare case -- he's getting the best of both worlds. He's amazingly intelligent, and my eyeballs popped out the first time I saw him hit the correct combination of keys to play some Amiga game that Adam had set up. But I'll bet that in ten years, Dominic all but ignores the PC and Sega and plugs in Beamrider. -- CF