I had a very short, but very interesting conversation with my father recently.
Me: “Me and Emily are finally getting a Switch, we’re really excited.”
Him: “What’s that?”
Me: “A Nintendo Switch?”
Him: “Never heard of it.”
My dad was the one who raised me playing video games. I’ve always considered him to be a part of that world, so it surprised me that he was more than a little behind on what consoles are available. It occurred to me that no matter how into video games he’s always been, he’s still of a very different generation and has a different breadth of knowledge than I do.
A few weeks ago I had a great time interviewing my sister and getting her thoughts on what it was like to play Dungeons and Dragons for the first time. So for this week, I decided to interview the man, the myth, the legend: my dad. When I was younger, we would play video games as a family hobby. We’d play whenever we could find time during the year, and then come Christmas break we would spend a whole week on the couch, surrounded by snacks, watching him play and calling out answers to puzzles or things we noticed on screen that he missed.
My father is a concise man, but it was still fun to get his answers on things I’d never thought to ask him before. I also got some bonus answers (and questions) from my mother, who would chime in occasionally from the other room.
You’ve played PlayStation for as long as I can remember, have you ever played any other system?
Yeah, Sega Genesis. Atari was first, and then Sega Genesis. It was out before the PlayStation. That was like, The System. And we had a Nintendo too.
Mom: What kind of games were on it?
I don’t remember. Probably Mario. I think it had Donkey Kong, it was a long time ago. And then the PlayStation 1, PlayStation 2, all those. And the PSP.
What was the first video game you ever played?
Either Pong or Night Driver on Atari.
What’s your favorite game you’ve ever played, and what did you like about it?
Oh, favorite game. Well you can’t hardly have one favorite because they’re different genres.
Mom: You can still have a favorite.
I really like Metal Gear Solid, me and your mom played that together.
Mom: You could say how you hated Warhawk.
Yeah, I really enjoyed Warhawk, and I guess I can throw in Madden too, because I played Madden up until… it’s been several years since I played Madden, probably 2011. I had all of them, since the first one that came out. I think I had that, or some football game, on the Sega Genesis too.
Now mom said you hated Warhawk, what’s up with that?
I didn’t hate Warhawk, I loved Warhawk.
Sister: He raged.
Mom: It’s his story, he can tell it however he wants.
What’s the first game you remember playing with us, and why did you pick that one?
Was it Fallout? No, it wasn’t that one. It must have been Prince of Persia, that was PS2, that was one of the earlier ones. It was the big game right then-
Mom: We were looking for a game that he could work the controls on but you could still solve puzzles, still be involved. And at that point the graphics looked impressive.
Why did you decide to involve us in video games in the first place?
We thought it would be family fun, and I enjoyed it and I wanted us all to spend time together. It looked like it would be fun.
What used to draw you to video games when you were younger?
Shooting and puzzles. A combination of a good story and fighting-
Mom: Death. Death and destruction.
-some good fighting mechanics, and graphics. A good story is key. You can have great mechanics and fighting and everything else but if you don’t have a good story you lose interest.
What game are you playing now, and what drew you to that one?
God of War, the new one. And the same things I said before: great storyline, great graphics, great fighting mechanics.
Some people see video games as childish or something you should let go of in adulthood, what would you say to those people?
I’m trying to say it without cussing.
Cussing is allowed.
I would say some people may use drugs or alcohol to escape, I would say using a video game to escape life’s mundane work is better than that and is more engaging than just sitting and watching TV.
Any last thoughts? Any hot takes you want to leave us with?
Yeah, I guess just that I think video games can be used as an escape, but they need to be kept in context. A lot of kids get entrenched in video games but they need to get out and do things for themselves, too. Go take a karate class, climb a cliff, live life.
My dad’s taste in video games has been hereditary. To this day I look for a good story over anything else. Impressive art or interesting mechanics are always a big draw, but the determining factor in whether I enjoy a game will always be story and world building. Video games were a large part of my childhood and gave my family a way to spend time together, and I had a blast interviewing my dad about his perspective on that early part of my life.
Have any questions for my dad? (Maybe for a follow up interview?) Have any thoughts on video-games-as-family-fun? Any thoughts on how games have changed from generation to generation? Let me know in the comments below!