Friday, July 07, 2006

"Ancient" Nintendo

All In The Family...

Isaac is feeling pleased tonight. He has acquired a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and 27 games for it. This is an old, old game system in Isaac's eyes, since it was introduced in October, 1985 to the U.S., four years before he was born. In fact, it was introduced just a month and a half after Keely was born!

No power cord came with the game console, so today we went to three pawn shops looking for one with no luck. Finally, I inquired exactly what the power cord was like, and when I heard that it involved a transformer, I suggested that we go to Radio Shack. We bought a transformer there that is almost right (800 mA, and it's supposed to be 850mA).

When we got home, Isaac (and his friend Jay who is visiting) cleaned up the console with alcohol and Q-tips. Then they plugged everything in and tried it out. The console didn't seem to know it had a game cartridge in it. The red light on the power button was blinking and the boys didn't know what that meant.

Isaac searched a little on the internet for the keywords that described his problem. In a Wikipedia article, he learned that the blinking red light is an infamous problem of the NES. The article suggested cleaning the game cartridges with -- guess what -- isopropyl alcohol and Q-tips. The guys did that, and now they have "Super Mario Brothers" and "Duck Hunt" working. This seems to please them greatly. These are classic games though even I can see that the graphics and animation are -- well, primitive.

I have never allowed myself to get interested in video games because I have enough electronic interests with the computer. Isaac likes games, though, and his interest didn't start with the NES he's tinkering with tonight. Actually, Jay gave Isaac the first game system he ever had, an old Sega Genesis, when Isaac was about 8 years old.

Since then, most of Isaac's systems have been pre-owned, often bought cheap from a friend who got a better system. He's always been a generation or two behind the cutting edge. He saved his money and bought himself the only new game system he has owned (a Nintendo Game Cube). He has bought games and game system parts at garage sales and pawn shops, swapped with friends, and bid on eBay. In some ways, it's been a lesson in making do.

(Full disclosure: he has had several new Game Boys over the years, as Christmas gifts.)

It's hard to know how much I should have fought his passion for gaming. I've always monitored the types of games that he played. I've always insisted that he do his schoolwork. Gaming is not the only form of relaxation he enjoys. Recent research suggests that video games may help kids be smarter. Isaac is definitely a bright boy.

On the other hand, he'll soon be in college, and if he can't put down that game controller long enough to study there, he'll be in trouble. His success will ultimately be up to him -- but is that really anything new?

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Related factoid:

It's interesting that the average age of the gamer is now somewhere between 30 and 35, depending on what source you want to consult.

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KennethF said...

Hey Gene: This post hit home again, with me. My son is also a gamester.
This has troubled me from time to time. My wife always turns the tide in his favor when she reminds me of what I used to do, when I was the same age! My advice for college is "Do nothing... at the last minuite!" It worked for me and I know it will work for your son. Thanks, KennethF

Genevieve said...

My wife always turns the tide in his favor when she reminds me of what I used to do, when I was the same age!

I know what you mean, Kenneth. When I think of how wild some kids were back in my day, I don't have many complaints about my son. He has to take the big step from being a kid to being an adult one of these days, but I think he'll be ok. Actually, I think he's going to be a good man, and I'm sure your son will be, also.

Wrkinprogress said...

Two comments today:

My 10 year old nephew is the video game king. I truly wonder if he will expire if something happens to prevent him from playing his beloved video games. His goal seems to be to master them, and move on to another new game. On the flip side, when they did the FCAT testing this year, he missed 2 questions on the verbal part and none on the math. When they tested again on the Stanford something test (not Binet), he scored basically the same, in the 99th percentile. So I guess video games aren't all bad.

Second comment: I remember our family getting the Atari system in the 70s, when it was the first thing on the market. We played "Pong" until the cows came home. The best part was trying to teach our aunts how to play. I'm pretty sure we were all involved in some pants-wetting laughter that night. :)

Genevieve said...

WIP, I doubt if your nephew is any more obsessed than my son was at about that age. He'll probably emerge a little over the next few years. Isaac has.

heelers said...

Ah memories.
How about the Atari with the little blip for a tennis ball.
Back and forth, back and forth.
I remembering thinking it was the most ingenious thing on earth.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

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