If you’re my age or older, you probably remember the vintage Nintendo Gameboys.   I never had one as a kid – my brother was the recipient of all video game related stuff, but I remember the lure of the shiny electronic toy with its pixelized games.

Which is probably why, against my better judgement, I caved in and bought the kids a retro version for Christmas.  I had no idea if it would be a decent product at the low price of $18, and I didn’t think the kids would be all that interested.  After all, it’s pixelized and flat compared to contemporary video games like the Mario Cart game they love to play.

The pros

Boy was I wrong!  I could have won Christmas for $18 a kid and skipped the rest.  The other gifts are played with (the ones that didn’t break, that is) but this one is the ONE gift they race to grab each morning and sit in intense concentration steering Mario or Spiderman around until breakfast.

In some ways I love it – the kids can take it in the car and stay easily amused without the risk of breaking or losing their tablets somewhere.  I can pop the things in my purse for doctor’s appointments just in case we’re stuck waiting for 40 minutes in the exam room.  The volume control turns OFF – which is highly important – and something we always fight over for their tablets.

 

The cons

In other ways, it’s the worst thing I could have bought.  It’s a tiny screen.  They hunch their necks and peer close to it despite the many discussions we’ve had about how to sit correctly.  They get frustrated because a plant ate Mario yet again, or they fell off a block at just the wrong moment.  They zone out and literally don’t hear me when I call them because they’re so intent on the game.

My oldest especially is having a difficult time self-regulating.  My husband and I decided to let the newness wear off before we start laying down strict rules, but it doesn’t seem to be happening yet.  On the bright side, I have a lovely new motivator for kiddo.  On the down side, he’s really having a hard time breaking free.

 

A good lesson

Being gamers ourselves, we know better than to order him to “put it down right now!”  Instead, we tell him “the next time you die, you need to turn it off and put it away. ”  We tell him it’s time for a brain and body break so that his eyes and head don’t get overwhelmed.  He understands.  He just can’t help it.

In some ways I’m glad it’s such an issue.  Because he’s part of the generation barreling headlong into virtual reality tech and beyond, with who-knows-what kind of immersive technology ahead of him?  If he doesn’t learn to take breaks and listen to his body NOW then later he’ll be an addict waiting to happen.  This is a good learning experience.  It’s just not a fun one for any of us.

 

The educational impact

From a gaming point of view, this is the ground zero of gaming.  The best way to learn strategies and understand the basics of gaming.  Pretty much everything else built on these gaming concepts, and it’s interesting to point out the similarities to the kids.  It’s prompting a few “back in the day” discussions from us gaming dinosaurs, but in terms of coding and learning it’s a positive thing.   It’s even a bonding experience, as the Princess and I commiserate on those horrible elevator things in Mario that I always fall off of.

 

Like everything else in life, this is a good learning experience.  I just wish it wasn’t such a difficult one for kiddo.

 

 

If you’re interested in which game we purchased, here’s the link.  We specifically picked this one because it limited the games to 152, included Super Mario, Pac-Man, and Tetris, but did not include the more gory games.

 

Retro Screen Time
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