Alan Smithee

Geek Dad Report – Passing the Torch

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Earlier this week I had the distinct pleasure of spending the waning daylight hours with my eldest daughter playing games on my NES and SNES, two consoles that I used to love more than life itself and something I so very desperately wish for my kids to fight over after my passing.

SONY DSC

As sad as it may be, death is inevitable unless we somehow unlock that cryostasis technology we see in Futurama and Demolition Man. When that last breath comes and subsequently goes, the only thing of me that will remain here rooted on the planet are the memories within my kids’, my grandchildren, and maybe just maybe the great grandchildren if I live that long.

There is also the series of embarrassingly candid episodes of The Red-Light Roundtable that I hope my kids watch when they’re about my age currently just so they see how human their old man really was. That’s not the focus of this editorial really…moreover that I want to talk about the fun the two of us had playing classics like Pilotwings, Super Mario 2, and surprisingly her favorite, Excitebike.

excitebikeDon’t ever approach me about emulation, I think it’s fine and dandy for most people but for me, I’m always going to be a very physically owned type of gamer when it comes to retro titles and gaming systems. Playing a ROM of Excitebike on a mobile phone may be neat, but it won’t compare to the tactile sensations of picking up that heavy plastic cartridge that could withstand the Tunguska Meteor and Chuck Norris’s combined attacks, yet must be blown on to work. Let’s not even mention the horrible, terrible, unforgiving ergonomics of the NES controller (a little better on the SNES, but still)…it’s a rectangle with buttons all in a row, just like my hands!

So as we’re sitting there enjoying our game time, and I’m trying to do everything I can to foster this relationship. From my own experience in my life, there was a point in my own childhood where the old man and I just stopped doing much of the stuff I enjoyed, as it became more about his own wants and needs. I don’t want the same thing to happen to my own kids I want to show my daughters that I care about making that special time together mean something, having it become a memory or even a fond one at that. As it stands, right now that means we’re either learning together on the PC or spending that time rotting our brains playing video games.

I’ve always been the type of gamer where I don’t care if I’m actually playing the game. I could honestly sit there for hours watching someone play a video game, especially kids. I couldn’t help but stare at her face as she looked at the glorious 8-bit graphics with awe.

At that moment, we were the exact same age. She was playing as a 5 year old at her first time romping through the land of Hyrule and 5 year old me watching her do her own thing, cheerleading her conquests and hissing her losses. We play easy games, which is a completely misleading label on most older games as they easily destroy most modern kids’ games ideas of difficulty. We play harder games but she finds the ways of making her own fun, much how my friends and I would do the same since there’s really no fun in games that hard. I wouldn’t be much of a good father if I didn’t try to foster a love for reading tied into games so I toss in a few RPGs that are a bit easier to approach, like Star Tropics or Secret of Mana…and we play for what seems like forever.

I am content. I know the roots of her becoming her very own independent and strong gamer have been placed…but it’s not just about her gaming, as everyone is a gamer in one sort or another these days. It’s really all about quality time that can’t be bought or sold.

Ever since the birth of her twin sisters, the her having mom & dad all to herself had to end and I can tell that she slightly resents having siblings but my wife and I, as a team, try to make sure she gets time with each of us by herself. She may not see it now, but those siblings are the best (and possibly worst) thing we could ever have given her. She will have the joy of sharing moments with each other, covering for each other, fighting amongst each other, and most importantly growing old with each other as company.

Part of me is really excited to have three little kids running around the house as it makes for a perfect 4 player team. I envision in the future all of us having mini LAN parties in various parts of the house, playing Dad’s ancient Xbox version of Halo with 4 people all screen peeking at each others camping spots. The glory that will be had as we’re playing team capture the flag on Blood Gulch and the laughter at each other as I blast across the map in the warthog creaming each of my little ladies with the front bumper.

I look forward to the future with these children, ever mindful that it is just as important to make sure I’m spending enough time in the present with each. My time alive is finite, and their time as children is exponentially more finite. They will be teenagers before I know it and by then too damn cool to be seen doing something as banal as gaming with their pop. After those awkward years pass, I can only hope that the special times we had with each other meant as much to them as it did to me.

Blood Gulch Image from ign.com

Blood Gulch Image from ign.com

Gaming or not, I love these kids and want to have a legacy of them saying “remember when we used to _____, that sure was fun”. I guess selfishly I’ll always have this need to be remembered fondly. I can only hope I’m making the right in-roads toward that goal. Though my collection will have to go to only one of them, and I hope they fight each other for it.

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