What Nintendo taught me about being a dad
About a week ago a co-worker sent me a .zip file of Nintendo ringtones that took me down memory lane. I giggled and reminisced as I heard the old but familiar sounds of Super Mario Bros., Mike Tyson's Punch-Out, Excitebike, and many more. In no time my entire phone was reconfigured to play these nuggets of nostalgia in its normal conversation with me through out the day. All this got me thinking...
I wonder if it's time to get my son a gaming system.
As I pondered this thought, I was taken back to afternoons of raw elbows and tired eyes after hours of playing Super Mario Bros. with my brothers on the floor of my room. These are awesome memories. I want my son to have them, too.
I'm just coming back around to the world of video games. It's been years since I've played anything seriously. I own a Playstation 3 but I purchased it as much for the Blu-ray as I did for the gaming. In fact the only game I own is Tiger Woods Golf. That said, I've been in tune enough to know there has been quite an evolution both in gaming technology and in opinions about gaming.
My son is a little over 4 years old and surrounded by technology. Apple TV, iPad, iPod Touch, iPhones. He knows how to use them all. I’ve been promoting and shaping his use of technology, knowing that its integration into our lives will only get deeper. As I consider introducing my son to gaming, my concerns are more about appropriateness of content and life balance — not about introducing him to gadgets too early.
All this to say I'm comfortable with the idea of introducing him to games at his age but I want to be careful about how I do it. So instead of buying a Wii, Playstation or XBox, I bought an original NES system with all three Super Mario Bros. games.
As I mentioned, my son has grown up with an app store mentality, an iTunes mindset. In his world, if you want something, you tap and enter your message (what he calls the password) and seconds later it's "loading down" (how he says downloading). The extent to which this mentality ruled his world didn't become clear to me until I sat down to try and explain to him that I'd bought an NES system and that in a few days it would be here.
I showed him the system on my computer screen and he seemed less than impressed. As I started to tell him it would hook up to the TV he gave me a blank stare. He didn't get it. So I took a different route. I tried to explain that like the iPhone, this system would let us play games. "Which ones?" he quickly said. I thought, “Okay now we're getting somewhere.” I navigated over to YouTube where I showed him a video of Super Mario Bros. He watched the 2-minute video and said...
Okay that one, I like that one, let's get that one.
I tried to step back at that point and explain that I had already purchased it and it was on the way in the mail. Eek. Mail. Another concept that was all but non existent in his world. Being that he is only 4 years old, most of the stuff that he needs can be bought at a store. He understands that concept. He knows Target well. I quickly found myself stuck. Stuck explaining a system that he didn't understand, and promising to let him play a game that he couldn't have for days. Whoops.
The whole experience gave me an unexpected opportunity to talk through some concepts that I probably hadn’t spent enough time on. The related phenomena of anticipation and patience are present in his life to some extent, but not like they were for me as a kid.
In all, I found it interesting that purchasing of technology gave me an opportunity to work through some concepts that it had covered up in the first place. Because of technology my son was more expectant of the patterns of a just-in-time world. Ironically, my pursuit of more technology (old as it may be) gave me an opportunity to reset his expectations a bit. Which I think was a good thing.
It’s interesting that we are now in a world in which technology is starting to remind us to be more human. I actually see this trend happening on both sides of the spectrum: older technologies are reminding us of a time when things weren't so easy and newer technologies are aiming to be more integrated with real life. In all, I'm in favor of these shifts.
In any case I'm enjoying the heck out of being a dad and I'm really excited that I'm at the stage where I can start to relive some of my own childhood joys with my son. I hope these simple games give him and me some neat memories together, and I hope that throughout the process I have more opportunities to teach him what has always been, and always will be, important.