If you believe the social scientists, I’m a member of the Millennial Generation. But, like so many older Millennials, my experiences growing up were drastically different from those of younger Millennials. We older Millenials watched MTV on the daily, used a landline telephone, loved Jordan Catalano, listened to the chirps of dial-up internet, and knew the joy of playing Oregon Trail in the school computer lab. We’re also the last group of kids to have a childhood free of the internet, mobile phones, and social media. Because of those differences and others, people born between 1977 and 1985 are sometimes considered to be Xennials, a mix of GenX and Millennial traits and experiences.
But, I think a better name for the micro-generation I belong to might
be the Gamer Generation.
We were born at the same time as home gaming consoles, and we grew up
together. I played NES as a child, SNES and PlayStation in middle school. My
brother and I fought over whose turn it was to be Link or Sonic or Mario.
PlayStation 2 and Xbox were staples for me in college. My husband and I bonded
over a mutual love of gaming when we met, and we own all the major systems in
this generation (PlayStation 4 and Vita, Xbox One, Nintendo WiiU and Switch).
Even before having kids, my husband and I would joke about making our
future children play through the old gaming systems before getting to play new
games. It’s one of those jokes that we talked about so much, it sort of became
Atari 2600/5200 Mattel Intellivision ColecoVision
<― My husband’s birth
Third (1983-2003) The 8-bit Era
NES Sega Mark III Atari 7800 Nintendo Game Boy
<― My birth
Fourth (1987-2004) The 16-bit Era
Super NES SNK Neo Geo CD Sega Genesis Game Gear
Nintendo 64 Sony PlayStation Sega Saturn
Gamecube PlayStation 2 DreamCast Xbox Gameboy Advance
Wii PlayStation 3 Xbox 360 Nintendo DS PSP
WiiU PlayStation 4 Xbox One Nintendo 3DS PlayStation Vita Nintendo Switch
<― My daughter’s birth
Ninth (any day now)
As you can see, my daughter has a lot of catching up to do.
Okay, this is all in fun, obviously. We realize it’s probably not going
to happen the way we envision it. It would take a lifetime to play through all
of the old games from the last three decades, and we want to be reasonable with
her screen time and encourage interests outside of video games. Plus, eventually
she’ll want to play whatever Tenth Generation VR system all her friends are
playing, and it’ll be a fruitless effort trying to get her to play Donkey Kong
Country with her mom and dad first.
Knowing that doesn’t mean we give up. We’ll definitely encourage her
gaming education with a good foundation in the classics. With an education
theme in mind, I’ve set up an imaginary curriculum like a college degree
program. I plan to share one “year” at a time with you (I’m not sure what the
time frame would be in real-life, because it would definitely take longer than
12 months to finish up all this work).
Courses are classified, in general, by system, although occasionally
games from other consoles might be taught, as relevant to the courses overall
PSN=Sony PlayStation consoles
MOB=Mobile games and handheld consoles
Principles of Directional Movement
Introduction to Cooperative Gameplay
Nintendo: Early Years to 1995
Introduction to Puzzles
ATR 105 Principles of Directional Movement
Introduces students to the concepts of up, down, left, and right. Discusses mechanisms and provides a comparative study of directional pad versus joystick movement.
Games: Pac-Man, Snake
NES 120 Beginning Platformers Building off of Principles of Directional Movement, this course introduces jumping and climbing. Games: Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3 Prerequisite: ATR 105
ATR 122 Atari Classics Comprehensive introduction to the diversity and simplicity of Atari games. Games: Space Invaders, Super Breakout, DigDug Prerequisites: ATR 105
NES 131 Simulation I Designed to acquaint students with games that simulate activities you would typically hate doing in real-life but can’t get enough of in a virtual environment, such as farming the same plot of land over and over again. Games: Harvest Moon, Minecraft, Pokémon Snap
NES 132 Reflex Lab Reflex lab will develop and enhance reaction times. Emphasis is placed on the relationship between hand and eye. Games: Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, Mega Man 3, Pokémon Red and Blue
NES 141 Simulation II A continuation of activities you would never enjoy in real-life but happily do in a game, such as hoeing the same plot of land over and over and picking fruit from trees for hours. Focus on animal-related activities. Games: Animal Crossing, Zoo Tycoon Prerequisite: NES 131
NES 201 Introduction to Cooperative Gameplay Establishes the principles of couch co-op gameplay. Topics include “No! What are you doing?” and “Just do what your mom says.” Games: Bubble Bobble, Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers, Bomberman
NES 204 Nintendo: Early Years to 1995 Designed to provide students with an intense foundational instruction to Nintendo games not otherwise covered in intro courses. Games: Duck Tales, Pokemon Red/Blue, Kirby’s Dream Land
PSN 205 Beginning Characterization Students will assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting while acting through narrative and decision-making. Games: Kingdom Hearts, Little Big Planet, Secret of Mana
NES 210 Introduction to Puzzles Introduction to Puzzles lays the foundation for problem-solving skills including logic, pattern recognition, and sequence solving. Games: Pipe Mania, Tetris
Freshman year ended up pretty Nintendo-heavy. I think that’s because many of these basic games are part of the Second and Third generations, and there weren’t a lot of systems out there yet. Let me know if you think I’ve missed any great beginner games. And if you’ve introduced your kids to games, please share some of the first games you played together.
Beth lives in Georgia with her husband, toddler daughter, two cats, and basement full of video games. She has a full-time job and a crazy commute. Beth describes her parenting style as “instant oats mama.” She’s a crunchy mama who also appreciates modern conveniences. In her spare time, you’ll catch her playing exploration, simulation, survival, or puzzle games.