Sunday Thoughts: 21/06/09

Video gaming in the 80’s and early 90’s involved going to the arcades having begged your parents for their loose change and entering a verbal contract binding you to car washing duties for a month. Scrubbing dad’s old Rover was worth it though, as classics such as Rampage, Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Tron, and After Burner were some of the best offerings of electronic entertainment in their time. I remember how my parents, especially my father, never understood what I was doing. It seemed that even the simplest computer games (in comparison with today’s titles) baffled my mum and dad, and what I was doing was almost alien. This is something that has not changed much at all, and my parents never really play games or worse still – understand what it is my little brother is doing in his spare time. Though a crying shame as it may seem, it is hardly surprising as games and computers to them are like rocket science and understanding DNA to us.

So through the 80’s and the 90’s most parents back then paid little attention to the increase in what is today a forty-billion dollar industry, and “fell behind” the very youth they were spawning. Most parents seemed to simply dismiss gaming and advances in computer science, remaining adamant that books, paper and pencil and the News at Ten were never really going to be threatened. How wrong they were.

Today I witness many parents just letting their child “get on with it” in front of a TV and PlayStation, without knowing exactly what that child is doing. To the parent, it may as well be a different language. Hell, most kids will be gaming on a standard definition television set-up because the parents are not in tune with today’s technology. This is not a dig at those parents, as they were brought up in different times with different principles, and there is no right or wrong here, but it is a shame to see a “barrier” in place between a father and son just because the father knows very little about what his son is doing, and how he is doing it. The son may turn to the father and ask if they would like to play Resistance 2 together, but I can just see the father reaching for his old Nokia 3210 and pushing the buttons on the number pad slowly with a forceful index finger, whilst squinting to see what letter has been now popped up on the screen, in an attempt to text somebody that may be able to translate what his son just asked. Not true for all parents, but certainly a good few many, and most likely from the 80’s or before.

Nintendo I think are spot on with the Wii in this respect, as the little white brick certainly makes it easier for parents to get involved. My dad, even my granddad, can play on a Wii, as it simply replicates real life motions – such as Wii Sports. But lets be honest, most kids after the “best” entertainment (the sort that won’t see them receiving a wedgie at school for playing – looking at you Mario Galaxy) will be after a so-called hardcore console, such as the PS3. To most seniors of the last generation – a PS3 could be a NASA super computer for all they know, and they will put off trying to fathom it. With the PS3 wand and Microsoft’s Natal project coming next year, the barriers preventing a father and son playing shall hopefully be brought down.

Luckily, I as well as most you readers, will no doubt be clued up with today’s video gaming tech. With games now having dedicated sites for extra statistics and notices of events such as Bungie for Halo 3 and for, wel,l Killzone, gaming is getting more and more complicated. We cannot blame our seniors for not understanding half the stuff we do around and within video games, as even I get stumped on occasion. Yeah, I will admit that COD4 and its perk system had me confused for a little bit. In my first few games I had airstrikes available to call in but ran around the level looking for something to call them in with. Lost and confused, wanting to drop my airstrike, I discovered it was simply a button press away, and felt a little stupid. But then I was brought up with games that simply involved pressing a button, pointing in the direction of the enemy, and bam – dropping him like a sack of. Now we have perks, clans, leader boards, customise this and add this on to that, voice chat and even voice controlled games. Fortunately I have kept up with the times and hope that by continuing to play games as much as I do, I will be able to take my son on at any games he plays in the future.

So like our parents and grandparents before us, will we be as out of tune with the games and the gaming technology of our children’s future? Or are we better equipped to adapt and participate? Who thinks they will still be as eager to play games at the age of fifty? What technology do we think our children will be using to play video games? I for one feel that we are fortunate enough to be caught in this advancing age where computers and games are so popular, and that we are continuously subjected to its progression and alterations in the way we interact. I like to believe I will always enjoy video games, but there is a deep voice inside that tells me one day I may just have to force myself to keep up-to-date with technology, so that I may actually stand a chance of understanding and taking part in my sons electronic entertainment.

As it is Fathers Day today, I am to play LittleBigPlanet with my son before taking him to see a film. I hope that in each Fathers Day of the future, should my son ask me to play a game with him, I can at least take part and play with confidence, and my son doesn’t see me as an old timer with no clue as to what he is actually doing.

So to all you parents baffled with your child’s console; pick up a pad and get involved! Sure at first it may seem complicated, but are you going to let you child outsmart you at such an early age? You have a lot to teach your child, and as with all other things in parenthood – your child has a lot to teach you. What better way to spend a Fathers Day than to take the time and make the effort to better understand what could be your child’s favourite hobby. Likewise, after reading this, go and grab your father or mother, and get them gaming with you. Tell them not to be afraid, as it’s not real, and they can hold your hand if they want.

What technology do you want to see available for future gaming? Do you think you’ll even be playing games when you’re nearing middle-age? Do your parents take part in gaming with you today? Discuss people. Oh, and to all you other fathers – happy Fathers Day!