Thursday, April 24, 2014

Golden Era of Gaming

Many of the games of our youth were...abysmal. Seriously, going back in history, some kids at some point in time thought that the catch a ball in a cup game was fun (note: follow that link; some poor sod had to try to make it sound fun and appealing to office workers, whose lives must be so steeped in misery that the game is indeed a wild reprieve from soul-crushing duties, which really says something about this "game"). Some kids thought that hoop rolling was wild amounts of party-time fun. In our youth, we had to suffer Monopoly, Connect Four and those insufferable wooden triangle peg games that you can still find a Cracker Barrel (the place where taste goes to die - and I mean every variation of the word 'taste').

[note: holy moley...follow that last link. Someone actually devoted a web site to solving the peg game and 'amazing your friends,' which leaves me...there are no words]

Seriously, no wonder gaming took me a minute to get into when I was growing up. The root of this was the soft bigotry of lowered expectations. Adults didn't care to understand what really drives kids, and never treated them like they had brains that can comprehend and thrive in competitive environments which require creative thought. So ultimately a kid would play for hours with catch-a-ball-in-a-cup...because that's all they were given. there really any comparison??
But then along came Axis and Allies, Conquest of Empire, Fortress America, Shogun (now renamed Ikusa), Dungeons and Dragons, and Car Wars, just to name a few...and gaming was suddenly never going to be the same.

All of that to say: read this article from Though I do have a quibble with one of their "ruined it for everyone" board games, I largely agree with their assessment of older soul-crushing games, and games you should be playing instead. Some Gamer Dad favorites are on the "play this instead" list.

I am thrilled that my kids are coming-of-gaming-age in an era with so many really challenging but totally fun games on the market. Game makers have realized for some time now that kids aren't stupid, that kids thrive on imagination and challenge, and that people want to be entertained when they play games. I don't have to goad and cajole my kids to play Candy Land or Hungry Hippos; they want to crush giant robots with giant aliens over Tokyo, slowly drive each other mad by calling on Old Ones, and eat braaaaaaaaiiiiins. This may be the golden era of gaming. And now I get to play games like a kid...because I have kids who want to play games.


  1. The current gaming culture is AWESOME, and I'm happy to say that my generation has had a HUGE impact on the increasing popularity of all kinds of intelligent games from Risk and A&A, to MagicTCG, Catan, etc etc. Even the number of my peers that know how to play Chess is a testament to the ever increasing popularity of real gaming. (lets not even get started on PC and Console based video games!)

    Have you played Stratego Smitty? One of my childhood favorites for sure.

  2. Not only have I played Stratego, but we have an old set from the fifties, and 2 Stratego variants.

  3. The choices we have now are excellent, but I disagree that there wasn't anything when we were kids. The problem for most was that gaming was a lot less mainstream. I was lucky in that I had a friend whose mom was a university professor and had some students that were majorly into wargaming. We hung out with them and played Star Trek, Napoleonic miniatures, and a bunch of other stuff from Avalon Hill, like Squad Leader, Diplomacy, and Kingmaker.

  4. That being said, many of those games were either too complicated or probably wouldn't interest kids. It is good that companies have put a lot of effort into making kids games more interesting for kids and adults.

  5. Avalon Hill

    Good point. That company put out some really great stuff. Their "Bookshelf Game" series was chock-full of games I thought were really slick, Dune being one of them. I still own Dune.

  6. You still own Dune? I loved that game. It is out of print, now.

  7. I indeed still own Dune, and occasionally look longingly at it when I open the game closet.