In the latest issue of Custom PC magazine, Tracy King enjoys the warm and fuzzy feelings of introducing a new generation of kids to gaming without judgement.
I’ve been a PC user since the early 1980s thanks to my dad’s career in computing, and a proud gamer since I was old enough to press the BREAK key.
I’ve seen controversies come and go, debates about the influence or importance of technology and gaming in particular debated in Parliament, newspapers and by concerned parents everywhere. I’ve always felt grateful for having parents who could see that a child who can code, type and knows how computers work will always find employment, and a child who has access to video games will never be bored. In this column I’ve debunked scaremongering articles about crime, highlighted the lack of evidence for ‘gaming disorder’, and pointed accusing fingers at those seeking to profit from the anxieties of parents.
But as I advance into middle age, spaffing my disposable income on tech and games, I don’t factor this into my own life, because I don’t have any children. I write about kids and gaming often, when headlines need debunking or politicians are talking nonsense, but it’s all academic.
When parents ask for game recommendations for their kids, I reply with only my own experiences in mind. Until now. My godson is about to turn four and something incredible has happened. I was staying at his parents’ house – a non-gaming household – and was relaxing while he watched some insufferable animated alien show.
Short of access to any other device, I started playing Peggle on my iPad. Suddenly I noticed him watching. He crept closer, utterly rapt and I found myself showing him how to play. Thereafter, he didn’t stop talking about ‘the funny game!’ He hadn’t played a video game before, and it was magic to see how quickly he grasped it. I suddenly knew how my parents felt in 1980 when I was four and they showed me Little Brickout on the Apple II.
The next time I visited, I took an old Xbox 360 and a copy of Peggle, and I’m delighted to report I have made not one but two new gamers (his dad is also now playing Peggle – a game so great I named my cat after it). I do have mild misgivings, not because four is too young to start gaming (it absolutely is not) but because his retro game and old console are the beginning of what will probably be his most expensive hobby for life (‘aunty’ Tracy probably gets to pay for it all, of course).
He’ll want to keep up with his friends, but hopefully I can convert him to PC in a few years and teach him to code just like my parents did with me, so at least he’ll have some control over his gaming hardware.
Shortly after this symbolic passing of the gaming torch, I read an article in the New York Times by a dad who had introduced his four-year-old daughter to gaming during lockdown. It’s a sweet piece, and for a non-expert writer, he’s surprisingly accurate about the (lack of) evidence for addiction or harm, which heartened me greatly.
If a major cultural influencer such as the New York Times can see that the future of childhood is gaming, the era of scaremongering about gaming looks like it might finally be coming to an end and kids of all ages can play games in peace.
Custom PC — Issue 222 out NOW!
And if you’d like a handy digital version of the magazine, you can also download issue 222 for free in PDF format.