Riding in Cars with Turtles
I originally posted this on my Destructoid blog, in response to a community call for posts on handhelds:
It’s the summer of 1990. I’ve just finished the sixth grade, just turned twelve, and there’s one thing that I want: a Gameboy. But my parents are not sold on the idea. Not at all.
“Please?” I begged. “Think how much more fun vacations will be. I won’t complain about having to spend all day in the car if I have a Gameboy.” (Note from the future: I am now 33, own every handheld game I want, and my husband and children can attest that I am not any more pleasant to spend all day with in a car. So I guess my parents were smart not to fall for that argument.)
A compromise was reached. Well, not really a compromise. I still wanted a Gameboy, but my parents got me a handheld LCD Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game before we went on vacation. Victory?
If you’ve never had the pleasure of playing a handheld LCD game, I will try to explain the experience. Maybe you’ve set the time on a digital watch? Yeah, it’s basically like that. But instead of cycling through the hours and minutes, the hours and minutes drag on while you try to make an inanimate, 2D, black and white Ninja Turtle hit Shredder’s little foot-shaped robots. Or jump over them or something. I don’t remember.
The Ninja Turtles game was fun for about ten minutes. After that, it was mostly just frustrating. It was hard to get the timing right, and took forever to play through to the end and save April. So I still complained about spending all day in the car, and I believed that if I could just be playing Super Mario Land, life would be perfect.
Now it’s twenty-one years later, and I find myself in a similar position to the one my parents were in. My older son, who is five, wants a handheld. And we’ve compromised. He is the proud owner of a Leapfrog Leapster 2, on which he can play games like Batman: Strength in Numbers (SPOILER: The numbers from which Batman gains strength are ones like four plus two.) and Star Wars: Jedi Reading. My gamer soul dies a little bit when he plays these games. They’re not games, really. As a parent though, I feel like at least he’s learning something.
There aren’t many good video games that are appropriate for a five-year-old, though. We’ve played through LEGO Batman and LEGO Star Wars on the 360. I tried Viva Pinata, but it’s still too slowly paced for him.
When the time is right, I will let him play lots of video games. Good ones. Someday, I will try to convince him to play Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy IV. And he will probably roll his eyes at the ancient games his dad loved. I really look forward to a time when he’s old enough to play an MMO with me. (Or whatever we’re playing instead of MMOs in another decade.)
But I won’t make him ride in cars with turtles.