My lady, sitting in front of the wall of games in our living room, asked me if I’d want to sell any of them. “No,” I said. “Not even…?” “No. I’m keeping them all.”
Sure, it’s kind of a pain when I have to move halfway across the country and literally half of my boxes are full of gaming gear. And there are plenty of games I’ve never even started, and plenty more that I’ll never play again. But why-oh-why do I insist on keeping hundreds of discs and cartridges from the last 30 years strewn around the house, in an ever-expanding tribute to my own obsessive geekdom? It’s not for me. It’s for my kids. I mean, eventually.
When my dad was growing up in the harsh climate of Minnesota as the forgotten middle child, his greatest possession – and the only thing he owned of any real value – was his quite impressive LEGO collection. Bricks of every shape and size, colors that aren’t even produced anymore, and a particularly cool set of gears that cost him about a month’s allowance. Did he get rid of his childhood when he grew up? Most of it, yes. But not these LEGOs. And not the gears. He even has the original box, still.
I know this because some of my earliest memories are of lying on my belly on the floor with my dad, trying to get the LEGO guy’s arms to move when I turned the gear on his back. And building castles for my Ninja Turtles to protect or conquer, depending on my mood. And making little cars that were deconstructed the next day for something bigger, better. It helped me learn creativity, and hand/eye coordination, but mostly it was just a great memory of bonding with my dad.
He was career Air Force until I was about 15, so he wasn’t home as often as he would have been if he had had a regular 9-to-5. There were even a few six-months periods where he went over to some undisclosed location in the Middle East and all that my mom, my brother, and I could do was wait and hope that he came home safely. So the rare times it was just me and him were really important. Hopefully, that’s what video games can do for me and my eventual kids.
I don’t have children yet. But I have a lovely lady, a steady job, a cat, and I’m 26 now, so within the next few years it’s a very real possibility. I know I didn’t really grow into the engine-fixing mechanical-savvy kid my dad was hoping for, but I always liked working on cars with him, even if I had to be coerced into it sometimes. Hopefully, even if my children aren’t as into games as I am, they’ll still like to learn about gaming history, and try some of my old games, and hang out with their old geeky dad with his piles upon piles of games and (fingers crossed) the arcade in the basement.
I don’t know a lot of important stuff, but I do know a lot about video games and how they’ve matured as an industry. Last I heard, games make more money than both movies and music, so they’re definitely going to be around for a while, even if the form is constantly changing. Hopefully, even the games stored on my computer and in my PS3’s hard drive will survive to the next generation of gamers. I don’t imagine the OnLive games will be around forever, but these hundreds of plastic cases, musty old instruction manuals, and peeling labels? I can hold them in my hand, and I can pass them on to a kid or two that will – hopefully – learn to appreciate both the entertainment value contained within, as well as the time spent learning from their old man before there’s no time left.
I think we all want our kids to be a bit like us – like the things we do, have the same taste in music, pick the right girl/guy to spend all their time and money on… Games have given me so much over the years. I hope I can impart even a small slice of that appreciation on my kids.
All I know is that however my eventual kids turn out, I’ll have at least one game they’ll like. And if not yet? Well, they release more games every day, and I’m not done collecting yet. I think I’d be a pretty hip dad. Even if my kids will almost definitely in no way agree with that statement.