A few years ago, I accompanied my oldest daughter on a field trip. I live in the Caribbean, and it’s almost always warm and sunny here, so I decided that day to wear a Minecraft t-shirt. During the bus ride, I chatted with some of her classmates, who asked me about the games I played. They were more curious about how to pass certain levels in Super Mario 3D World or which materials I liked best in Minecraft than they were about the fact that I actually played video games. I didn’t think much of it, as I was quite pleased to just talk about video games with kids who were genuinely enthusiastic about the subject. We were about halfway to our destination before it finally dawned on me: these kids weren’t fazed by the fact that someone’s dad played video games.

To be honest, the realization was something of a shock to me. As someone in his mid-‘40s, I don’t consider myself “old,” and gaming has always been a natural part of my life. I was surprised that these kids didn’t view me as a dinosaur, something to marvel at. “HE plays video games? NO WAY!” That was the kind of reaction most people my age would expect. As children, most of us didn’t have the experience of regularly enjoying video games with our parents. Sure, there was the occasional bout of Pac-Man or a bit of Tetris, but gamer parents were not a common thing. In fact, they were downright rare. The reality for today’s kids is nothing like that at all.

As the bus bumped and putted its way back to the school, my mind was a flurry of questions and hypoth- eses, causes and effects. I realized that there were two things happening here. First, my initial reaction to the kids was one of fellowship instead of authority – I was a gamer and so were they. The common interest in video games overcame everything else. That’s how it should be, I suppose, and my gamer instincts had completely ignored the age difference. The second event was the kids’ response to me being a gamer. They accepted it as normal, an everyday occurrence in modern society. It wasn’t that I was an old dude who played video games. Everyone plays video games today.

That got me thinking (it was a long ride, so I had plenty of time to mull things over). We’ve come a long way from the days when you didn’t go around telling people that you played video games…A LONG way! My thoughts shot back to how video games were something you really didn’t share with adults outside of showing a console or game to them on Christmas or a birthday…or that rare instance of Pac-Man I mentioned. Most adults just didn’t play console video games back then. Adults lumped them in the same category as Star Wars toys or stuffed animals. Games were just another thing that kids asked Santa for, and our parents liked them because they kept us quiet. The late ‘70s and early ‘80s were a great time to be a gamer, but I don’t ever recall sharing my love of them with my parents or any adults. Even with the boom arcades and consoles experienced at the time, it seemed that video games were never seen as a persistent part of pop culture. A lot of adults enjoyed arcades, but the console experience seemed much different. Moreover, many people considered games, overall, to be a fad that began to wane and almost fizzled out by the mid ‘80s.

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Ken Horowitz Ken Horowitz (9 Posts)

Dr. Kenneth Horowitz is an English professor who has taught research and writing for 20 years. He has been writing about video games for well over a decade and is the author of Playing at the Next Level: A History of American Sega Games by McFarland & Co, which chronicles Sega of America’s game development history. His work has also been featured in numerous video game publications like GamesTM and Hardcore Gamer Magazine and several enthusiast websites (GotNext, The Next Level). Ken has also published academic articles about using video games to teach English as a second language in professional publications that include Language Magazine and the Hispanic Educational Technology Services Journal. His next book, The Sega Arcade Revolution, will be published in 2018 by McFarland.