As my children grow I try to remember how I was at their age to compare how they might be seeing the world to how I did at the time. My son is a few weeks from turning six and that’s the age I was when we moved from Edmonton Alberta to Kelowna British Columbia.
It was also around the age when my video game diet consisted of about four games that my parents had bought one Christmas alongside a CollecoVision console.
The handful of games that we had for it consisted largely of lines and dots that never quite lived up to the stories and experiences promised by the boxes’ cover art. You were a dot that had to avoid some other dots, that was about it as far as any story or goal went.
While my parents, and the uncles and other younger extended family members that had gathered for the Christmas of the CollecoVision unwrapping, had enjoyed playing it as far as I remember it was not the draw that games are these days. It was a fun toy that they played with for awhile before leaving me to stumble around and die continually in Smurf: Rescue in Gargamel’s Castle a game that might have been designed by Soviet scientists to break the spirts of America’s youth.
I grew up on a diet of video games. From the Nintendo Entertainment System years later to today where pretty much everything I own seems capable of playing some kind of game, my relationship to video games is far different than my parents was. The fact that I now work in the industry further changes how I relate to them.
While I was stumbling around guiding coloured dots around mazes my son has grown up training Pokémon in Let’s Go Pikachu. When he’s at his grandma’s home he spends his time watching a guy named Zack Scott who play games on YouTube and then explaining to me all about who Mega Man is afterwards.
”Daddy Mega Man is a robot,” he says.
”His dog’s name is Ruff.”
”Rush, it’s Rush,” I say.
”How do you know?”
”I used to work for Mega Man, he told he his dog’s name is Rush.”
My son is not sure what to do with the information that I used to work for Mega Man, which is my way of explaining that I worked for Capcom which created and publishes Mega Man games. He decides to let the name issue drop and consult with his guru Zack Scott.
If Zack Scott asked my son to join a political movement I’m pretty sure my son would march in a protest.
It obviously goes without saying that games are different these days. Better in most ways that matter they’re deeper and offer more compelling experiences. They have stories beyond “Smurf needs to save Smurfette” or “light blue dot must avoid red dots”.
They’re also more violent, not a factor that I’m used to worrying about until recently. Even something featuring Mario like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, a game that my son has been convinced by Zack Scott that he needs, is largely about beloved Nintendo (and other) characters punching each other.
I never asked how the ghosts in Pac-Man died and why they’re haunting mazes full of pellets.
Still I played Glogo 13 at a sleepover birthday party, including the sex scene, and managed to turn out okay.
Yesterday my son told me that for his kindergarten class he had said that he wanted to make video games or TV shows as a career.
“That’s what I do, I make video games. And you know Ryan he makes TV shows, he’s working on Lego Ninjago,” I explained.
“Oh,” he said, clearly never having thought of me as someone who makes video games. He considered it for a moment then dismissed it and explained his three favourite types of ice cream which are in order of importance chocolate, Rocky Road and if there’s no chocolate or Rocky Road then maybe vanilla.
For his birthday my son is getting Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. He has a collection of Mega Man figures, all bought after Capcom Vancouver’s closure when I could have gotten an employee discount, and he is always explaining to which Pokémon evolves into what other Pokémon.
One day my son will be watching (or playing) a much more realistic 4K sex scene at a birthday sleepover. One day the idea that Mario hitting Mega Man with a fireball is too violent will be long gone as he mows down demons, zombies or Nazis in a Bethesda game.
I should learn to hold onto the moments now, appreciate that even if he doesn’t get that I make games he’s at least interested in playing them with me. I should rejoice that he’s excited about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (even if it is because his hero Zack Scott told him to be).
Life is good, even if it’s not yet in 4K, and there’s lots of great games left to play. We’ll enjoy this and one day because at least we’re not stuck trying to jump over a weed on our way to save Smurfette.