Following up an experiment in forced nostalgia and questionable parenting

Back in 2014 OSNews reported on Andy Baio’s experiment raising his son on classic video games and “compressing 25 years of gaming history into about four years”. Somehow the recent lack of activity on OSnews made me think of it. At the time Thom wrote:

I sometimes wonder if I ever have kids (god forbid), how would I introduce them to the world of computers? Just hand them a dumb, locked, experimentation-hostile box like a modern smartphone or tablet and be done with it, or hook him up with a textual, CLI-based computer that I grew up with? I’m convinced that the latter would instill a far greater appreciation and understanding of technology than the former.

As an avid gamer, I read the original article enthusiastically, but since then I’ve often wondered what the actual outcome of Andy Baio’s experiment was. So I thought it might be worth trying to find out.

Happily Andy later gave a presentation in which he summarised some of his own conclusions.

So if this was an experiment, what were the results?

So without question, I think it’s clear, this affected the kinds of games that Eliot gravitates to now, especially compared to his friends, to start he likes hard games. Really, really hard games. Games that cause me to curl up in a ball and cry, or want to like, pick up my laptop and throw it in the garbage.


The second result that I’ve noticed from our experiment: Eliot’s exposure to early games with limited graphics and sound seems to have kind-of inoculated him from the flashy hyper-realistic graphics found in today’s mainstream triple-A games. He can appreciate retro graphics on their own terms and just focus on the gameplay.

But the most important outcome as far as Andy was concerned was that it left a deeper appreciation for games in general.

My hope is that this experiment instilled a life-long appreciation for smaller, stranger, more intimate games, in my son. And hopefully he’ll continue to think more critically about them, enjoy them more, and maybe someday even make some of his own.

But this was only six month’s after the original article. Was it a bit too early to come to that conclusion? Did the long-term effects actually result in a negative reaction, against video games?

Well in 2019, five years later, Eliot released his own take on the History of Video Games. I think his words, a decade after Andy’s original experiment, speak for themselves.

I highly recommend going and downloading an emulator (from a legitimate site!) and playing some of these classic gems in gaming history. There are many games that I’m sure I even don’t know about that are incredible. You may find overlooked gems that never got attention. Sometimes, people have a hard time playing video games that have a more “primitive” old, or 8-bit style. Try looking past the graphics, after all, there was a time when games didn’t even have graphics.

So, for any new parents out there, it seems raising your kids on the classics is not such a crazy idea after all.


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