old-school games and modern kids

by debianjoe


Kids these days don’t know what they’re missing.

Being in the USA, and yesterday being December 25th, I’m reminded of all of the wonderful things that people are willing to spend money on for their kids.  I have kids, and while I’m all about them enjoying fun technology, I’m also not one to go out and buy them a new iPhone just so that they can play some cheesy java games on it.

My desire to revive some of what I personally enjoyed when I was younger started when my oldest daughter finally decided that she wanted a “laptop” because she, being 9 years-old, was obviously going to need to use one to file her taxes, create banking spreadsheets, and be able to research to help her with her own software development (read with heavy sarcasm.)  Anyhow, I did end up turning over some of that “re-purposed hardware” in the form of an eMachines laptop over to her.  I handed her a Crunchbang DVD and a LinuxBBQ Coal CD, pulled the “How to install BBQ” wiki page up on my laptop.  And then wished her the best of luck.  I figure if she’s old enough to have a laptop, she’s old enough to take responsibility for installing and administering her own system.  It took her most of the day, but she eventually installed both of them on different partitions, and then began to ask questions about how to turn off conky, change UI settings, etc.

As you’d expect, it wasn’t long before she was asking “So, how do I get some games on here?”  We’d covered how remote repositories worked, so I suggested she pull the Debian bsdgames package to check it out.  Rather than what I’d expected….”Urgh, Dad.  These games are all reading and suck and I hate them and there’s no graphics and I won’t ever be popular in school with you as my father”, she actually got into some of them.  She started off by hating them, and then realized that with a bit of imagination, they were still fun.

This was all about a year ago, and while she doesn’t really play games on her system anymore, opting to make stop-motion animation instead (which is something that she’s really interested in), I can say that it helped me to realize that we often underestimate what children are capable of doing and enjoying.  I ended up getting her the book “Snake Wrangling for Kids” which is a python programming book targeted for children, and she has managed to write a couple of useful scripts for herself.

I guess that the whole experience involved me learning as much as she did.  Whereas she learned what grub does, I learned that if she really wanted to succeed at something, she was capable.  I learned that just because the technology world of today spends so much time talking about how they’ve created hyper-realism in game graphics, that it doesn’t mean that older text-based games aren’t still fun.  It is easy to forget just how I felt the first time I got “Gro-bot” to run on my TandyTRS80 color computer, and that part of the enjoyment in those days was the amount of effort involved in even making the most basic of games.

I’m not sure that without some amount of challenge that we can appreciate the joy in overcoming it.