Dad Makes Son Play Video Games in Historical Order, Son Loves It

Andy Baio made his son play video games in historical, chronological order.

Andy Baio had a son back in 2004. Before that even happened, he and his friends and coworkers brainstormed various experiments he could run using his son as the primary test subject.

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Influenced by a Steve Martin standup routine, Baio decided it was perfectly reasonable to deliberately experiment on his offspring, saying, “If you have a kid, why not run experiments on them? It’s like running experiments on a little clone of yourself! And almost always probably legal.” Whether Baio was serious or just joking, he still managed to come up with a non-harmful way to experiment on his son.

Baio cites the reasoning for his eventual experiment as the era in which he grew up. Born in 1977, he experienced the arcade boom firsthand, playing the earliest games as they were released, rather than as a retro game through an emulator or some other console. Baio had a plan: he would have his son play video games in historical chronological order, staring with the Atari 2600, released in the same year Baio was born, dedicating a year to each curriculum, so to speak.

The experiment truly began in 2008, when Eliot turned four, with games from the late 1970s and early 1980s, mostly from the Pac-Man series. Using the plug-and-play joystick games loaded with several retro games, he played his way through, often beating his father’s high scores. Father and son accelerated quickly through these games, moving to Atari 2600 games like Asteroids and then to 8-bit gaming. By six years of age, Eliot was beating games without his father’s help.

“He can appreciate retro graphics on its own terms, and focus on the gameplay.”

NES, Super NES, Nintendo 64, PlayStation 2: Eliot played through them all, up to modern consoles. Of course, some consoles were skipped and not all games were played (a feat that is probably literally impossible). As a result of this experiment, Baio believes Eliot to be more appreciative of modern games, as well as more skilled at video games than many people his age and older.

His son enjoys playing video games, particularly difficult or weird ones, and has an appreciation for low-fi games: “He can appreciate retro graphics on its own terms, and focus on the gameplay.”

Baio used what must be loosely termed as an experiment as a bonding activity and never forced his son to play games he didn’t want to play. Through an encouraging and low stress environment, he engendered within his son a love of video games and now his son is taking things into his own hands. Recent conquests include Spelunky and Nuclear Throne, both of which are indie games in a retro style.

To read more about Eliot’s adventures in gaming and Baio’s responses to his recent post revealing the details of his experiment, visit Baio’s Twitter.


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