Video Game School: Freshman Year

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.

A young Switch gamer wearing an NES shirt to give appropriate reverence to the previous generations. Respect your elders!

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 true.

First (1972-1977) Magnavox Odyssey  
Second (1976-1983) Atari 2600/5200
Mattel Intellivision

<― My husband’s birth
Third (1983-2003)
The 8-bit Era
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
Fifth (1993-2005) Nintendo 64
Sony PlayStation
Sega Saturn
Sixth (1998-2013) Gamecube
PlayStation 2
Gameboy Advance
Seventh (2005-2017) Wii
PlayStation 3
Xbox 360
Nintendo DS
Eight (2012-now) 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 objective.

  • ATR=Atari
  • NES=Nintendo consoles
  • PSN=Sony PlayStation consoles
  • XBX=Microsoft consoles
  • MOB=Mobile games and handheld consoles


First Semester Second Semester
ATR 105Principles of Directional Movement   NES 141 Simulation II
NES 120 Beginning Platformers   NES 201 Introduction to Cooperative Gameplay
ATR 122 Atari Classics   NES 204 Nintendo: Early Years to 1995
NES 131 Simulation I   PSN 205 Beginning Characterization
NES 132 ­­­­­Reflex Lab   NES 210 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.


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