History Lessons

Photo: I recently lead a write-in at a local library and encountered the beautiful work of Nora Valdez on display. She is Argentine-born, but now creates here in Massachusetts. Her work is absolutely exquisite. I took a bunch of photos for my own inspiration, but I enjoyed this one the most. I like the visualization of the protection of the home you build, the holding of the home you always take with you, and the familiar roundness of the body within. Art is such a gift. Artists make living worthwhile.

I don’t mind that the boys play video games. There are moms who rage against it in a daily battle, but I have always loved video games and I don’t have any intention of keeping my boys from them. Of course, suburban and spoiled as they are, the boys have taken my gracious attitude toward the subject as a sign of weakness. They forever push the boundaries of how much and when to stop and “I know you heard me” and “child, the next time I ask you to turn that thing off it had better turn off immediately!”

But for all the battles, I would prefer that the boys play video games and work together than stare a just another show. Especially because games are so imaginative and interesting and stimulating. And because they’re fun to play together.

After triumphing over Zelda Breath of the Wild, the boys have gotten back into puzzle-games. They’ve picked up Toad’s Treasure Tracker, which we’ve had on our WiiU and The Husband blew through pretty quickly. The boys are enjoying the challenge and have found a lot of pleasure in noodling over the each level. What I love about Nintendo is they have figured out a way to keep the legacy of all the old games and continually integrate them into the new. Everything is familiar and safe, even if remixed in new ways. I like watching the boys encounter beloved things and find the same joy in them, finding new meaning in them. For example, the all-familiar Invincible Hammer from the old Donkey Kong arcade game (or the more recent Smash games) is referred to as the “Oooo-ooo Hammer” by the boys because of the song that plays when a character has it in their hands. Similarly, the Super Star, or invincibility star, in Mario is referred to as the “Dii-dii Star” because of the song that plays. It’s adorable and amazing and we’re never going to correct them.

This morning, the boys were talking strategy about the level they were playing, when mighty questions arose. Like why the Princess is named Peach (“Well, she was Princess Toadstool when I was your age…) and why Toad is the Captain of the explorers and why is his name Toad (“well, it’s short for Toadstool”) (“Oh, so are they, like, related?”)(“No, not exactly…”). This brought about more questions, and they made their way back to the Hammer, and I had to explain that before Bowser, Donkey Kong was actually the big boss in the Mario world. The boys were flabbergasted. However could that be? Donkey Kong is a bad guy? Yes. And the hammer was the invincible weapon back in the day when video games were played in Arcades.

“What’s an Arcade?”

I love it when the boys ask just the right question. I, gamer girl and history teacher that I am, got to go back. Way back. Back into time.

And the whole reason why I have to write this post is because I have to share this exchange:

“So the thing is, you get maybe 3 lives, and if you die all three times, the game would end. There wasn’t any saving. You started back at the beginning once you paid another quarter or whatever for a new game.”

Both boys, incredulous: “You had to pay to play video games?”

Me, laughing. “Oh yes. Usually a quarter. Sometimes 50 cents if it was a good game.”

Minor: “What? I just can’t even believe that. And people -did- that?”

Major: “What happened if you got far and then you died or something?”

Me: “You hit the machine, probably said a curse word, then put in another quarter and tried again. Or moved out the way so some other kid can play. There was always a line for the good games.”

Boys: “Whaaaaat?”

Children come into this world en media res. It’s fun to experience the world to them as it is with no context sometimes. But I do love the moments when they come to realize a little bit of “what was,” especially in the context of what they know, which is only right now. The Husband and I are forever in awe about how far we’ve come (we played the first little bit of Sekiro and are utterly amazed) and all the potential of the future (my soon-to-be brother-in-law is working on super-cool VR games). In some ways, I’m sad that the boys won’t fully appreciate the journey. Then again, I’m excited that they get to benefit from it all. I suppose that’s parenting, ey? Knowing what we know, seeing what we see, dreaming of what’s to come…

Anyway, I had to share. I didn’t even play a lot of arcade games. I got my first NES in 1st grade and never looked back. But I’ve been known to slip a quarter into an arcade game from time to time. If you were one of those kids, I salute you. The kids may think you’re crazy, but I see you and share your joy (and know your frustrations!).

May we all have the pleasure of telling a story that utterly floors a kid. You never know what it will be next. “Did you know that phones used to have cords attached to the wall?” Hahaha… Lordy.

See you Friday for Quiet Thoughts.

One Comment Add yours

  1. E’ry Saturday at the arcade up by the Sun Mart store. Cool thing was, my sister’s grandparents used to run a vendor route for bars that included arcade games (they started when jukeboxes were the thing). They had a whole industrial sized garage out back with all the new games. You could open the front panel and rack up hundreds of free credits by pushing a little silver wire on the change slot.

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