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Atari with a 2-year-old


CaptainBreakout
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I thought I'd share my experiences here with sharing the joys of Atari with my 2-year-old son. I've been looking forward to sharing what has become retro gaming since starting my collection oh-so-long ago.

 

First off, as parents me and my wife are big on outdoor activities and being hands-on with nature. So that always takes priority. But when the weather is cold and lousy, and the art and toys don't seem to be cutting it... it's game time!

 

Here's the games that have been the most successful...

 

Indy 500

Ladybug

Polaris

Fathom

Kangaroo

My Way (aka Challenge)

 

Of these, Indy 500 is the only one he can actually play along with me. Crash and Score variation is a blast with him, although his attention span isn't all that long. It's fun watching him try to get a dot.

 

He can manage the driving controller, but he hasn't figured out the joystick/gamepad quite yet, but he LOVES watching daddy play. Ladybug was a surprise hit, and even my 1 year old daughter likes that one (and so far the only one she seems interested in). My son requests it by name. There is so much going on in that game both of us can just talk about what's happening. If I try to stop playing he will protest and hand me the controller again. He also knows how to turn the console on, push reset, and even change the game. All stuff he picked up watching me.

 

He also like to point out things going on in the games over and over...

 

"Boat right there!"

"Eat Strawberries!"

"Bug bopped Daddy!"

...ultra cute.

 

As my list might show, I tried to keep the game selection non-violent (both for my own sense of well-being and my wife's). Polaris was a weird and unexpected part of the lineup. After getting bored with Tooth Protectors (which did NOT hold his interest), I asked him if he wanted a different game...

 

"Yes!"

"What kind of game?"

"Boat!"

"Boat?"

"Yes. Play BOAT game!"

 

That was a head-scratcher. I'm not one of the lucky few who own River Patrol, so I couldn't do that. What then? I looked through my stack of carts and handed him Polaris. He looked at the label, grinned and approved with a hearty "BOAT!"

 

So Polaris it was. He LOVED it. He cracks up with the dive bomber comes on the screen (he refers to it as "little guy"). He also points at the screen and alerts me loudly when the fast boat appears on the water surface.

 

And yeah, I know the player is a submarine technically, not a boat. But in the game for whatever reason, they rendered the player in yellow. So... Yellow Submarine. That happens to be one of the other pop culture icons that we have around the house. Anyway, it's amusing that Polaris ties into that with a touch of synchronicity. We've returned to that game at least five times and he still loves watching me play it just as much. I've gotten pretty dang good at it, heh.

 

Thanks for reading. If you'd had some Atari experiences with young kids I'd love to read about it. Especially pointers or unexpected insight.

 

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That's so cute! It reminds me of introducing my niece to video games when she was about a year old. She couldn't play them in any meaningful way at the time, but she loved to watch me play. She was especially enthralled with Frogger: I'd boot up the arcade version in MAME, and she'd always do a little dance when the music started.

 

I came up with a little trick to let her "play" without really playing. I mapped the controls to the gamepad and hid it behind my back as I played, and to the computer keyboard, which I'd hold with her in my lap. She could tap the buttons however she wanted, and the game would respond, but I could always change her course with the gamepad to steer her away from trouble.

 

In retrospect, I wish I'd also tried the "child-friendly" variations of 2600 Pac-Man and Asteroids and other games, and some of the simpler 2600 games like Shootin' Gallery; I'd love to know how well they work in practice.

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Love that story about your niece! Good idea about the hidden controller. I might have to use some version of that idea when and if my daughter takes interest.

 

The child-friendly variation is also a good pointer. I'll have to check that out on some of the classics.

 

I am not sure if there is a child variation or not, but this brought to mind that I tried Missile Command with him at one point. I brought out the WICO Trakball controller and thought maybe that would spark something. It just confused him and we didn't really get anywhere.

 

Missile Command was one of my favorite earliest games when I was a kid. Will have to try that again later.

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According to the manual, Missile Command does have two kid-friendly variations, 17 and 34:

 

Games 17 and 34 play at a slower and easier speed for young children. They have dumb enemy cruise missiles, slow target control, and the enemy attacks at a slower rate with less missiles. As children become skilled at this level, they should try the more difficult game variations, starting at Game 1.

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that's super cool! my kiddos were raised from an early age to be gamers. both of em started out with their own 'keyboards' and 'controllers', then moved to where they were sitting on our laps while we played, to where they played games of their own. :)

 

my two are 11 and 13 now- my daughter (11) isn't so much into the gaming thing, and my son (13) mostly plays Minecraft. They do both like playing the SNES or 994A with their dad, but they don't seem terribly impressed with the 2600, lol.

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I started my son playing games when he was less than 2. He's 22 now. He watched me play my old systems (2600, Intellivision, NES, etc) but started playing games like Reader Rabbit on the PC. Once he became comfortable with gaming, about age 3, he would often ask to play "Daddy's Games". He's now comfortable playing anything from Pong to PS4. He's extremely knowledgeable about classic game systems and computers. Something about a Commodore 1541 came up in conversation recently. I turned to remind him what it was and got, "Dad. I know exactly what a 1541 is. He then went on to remind me that he even knows the different variations."

 

So start 'em young. The next generation needs to carry on the AtariAge.

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I recall teaching some much younger cousins of mine how to play ColecoVision games. One of them could barely use the controller. He got the hang of it after a bit. I think that was their first attempt at video games.

 

And an old friend of mine got his kid started on video games when he could barely use a mouse. Now his son is in his early 20s and god-like at video games.

 

Whereas some of us 'oldies' had to adjust to the concept of video games, some of the kids out there today have known them as long as they can recall. I think they've got the advantage in the reflexes department.

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Thanks for sharing your stories!

 

I'm currently exploring the world of gaming with my 5 year old and he loves games from every era. Anything he sees me play, he wants to try. It's been a real joy sharing this with him.

 

Here's to many more years of gaming!

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I remember about 15 years ago my cousin's then 10 year old son asked me what my favorite video game was. I told him Pac-Man. He'd never heard of it and asked me what it was about. I told him you control a guy in a maze eating things and being chased by monsters. In his mind, of course, it was some 3-D, first-person game. He had no concept of any video game pre-PS1.

 

More recently some friends and their 4 and 7 year old sons visited us. Mom and dad were super excited to go through my game collection. The younger son had no interest in anything other than the iPad, but the 7 year old had fun playing Pitfall and Mario Bros. with us.

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My daughter turned two early last December. I don't have any running Ataris at the moment, but she gets a kick out of sitting on my lap and watching me play NSMB 2 on the 2DS. She laughs hysterically whenever Mario does the butt stomp!

 

One of my early childhood memories was of watching my father play with his IBM PC, that great lawnmower of a machine, when I was four. He had a program going where the keyboard functioned as a music keyboard, with keys represented on the screen. It was like blasting into the future.

 

My parents were always video game friendly and there was really not much censorship in the house. I learned to respect video games as a valid and indispensable part of the humanities as a result.

 

To the OP: have you showed your kid Enduro?

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my 2 year old daughter wants to bang on my computer while I am playing games

 

no no no its not when I am restocking or reading quest text's, its not even when I am fighting something

 

always right when I am about to die a horrible death, at first it was a little annoying, but now its like ah screw it im going to die anyway, now quit hitting my keyboard

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My son is 7 but he's in a special school for kids with ADHD. He has very specific electronic time allocated for the day. He likes to watch battle simulations and Godzilla from Youtube but we thought it would be good to have him play simple (easy) Atari games. He also has limited time on cell phone with Pokeman Go and Jurassic Park Builder.

 

He really enjoys Snoopy and the Red Baron, Coconuts, Atlantis, Grand Prix, and Space Invaders (multi-color vcs) and the arcade adaptation. He likes Demon Attack but it gets too hard for him too quickly.

 

He found Pacman, Ladybug and Pitfall, Dig Dug, Donkey Kong too difficult though he likes to watch me play them.

 

Does anyone have other suggestions for easy Atari 2600 games that don't become hard too fast? We will have to try Missile Command (games 17 and 34).

 

On the C64 he likes Movie Monsters, Impossible Mission and Ghostbusters (he likes the digitized speech), but these are all too difficult and frustrating for him to play.

Edited by thetick1
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Surprisingly Cookie Monster has some good variations that are fun even for me to play as a grown up. My son loves Cookie Monster so it's an easy sell, but it's also challenging without being manic.

 

The Teddy Bear variations on games like Ms. Pac-man seem about right to me as well. My guy also loves Sneak n' Peek and Maze Craze. Both are good, take your time, games.

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If "Father of the Year" actually meant what it should mean, I'd say it.

Start 'em off young. I'm cheering you on, hoping that kid joins me in the next generation of AtariAge...those of us who grow up with the Atari 2600 and the Xbox One. (Okay, we don't have an Xbox One, but we do have a 360, so...)

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Hahaha... That makes me feel good. Thanks.

 

@StanJr: good to hear about Cookie Monster Munch being fun. I've got all the Sesame Street games and am saving them up for his third year.

 

I'm missing a Cookie Monster Munch controller overlay. If anyone has an extra, please pm me.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I thought I would give a little update.

 

First of all, hooray for my wife! I had the kids in the gameroom from predawn to about 8:00am and then there was a HORRIBLE day in terms of their behavior for the rest of the day while I was at work... Not once did she blame me for letting them play/watch video games when I got home. The opportunity for blame was there, but she refrained. Yay. I honestly believe that sometimes the kids are going to be developmental terrors no matter what they are exposed to. But anyway at least the Atari was spared some scapegoating this AM and thank goodness for that.

 

Whew.

 

Anyways.. so, this morning we returned to Ladybug. There was high attention on it for an entire play up to level six or so. Then a request for an encore. Again, high attention. Almost got 'Special' the second time. Got 'extra' both times, which features an intermission he especially appreciates. Very satisfying. My son enjoyed it too.

 

After that he said 'different game'! I said what game? He said 'daddy pick'. Ok.

 

I picked Saboteur. I hadn't had much experience with this game but thought it might give us a chance to look at the manual together to figure out what is going on. That kind of worked, but mixed results. We made a lit of comments on what was happening, and the visuals on this game are more interesting than most, but ultimately we were really confused. By the time I figured out more or less what I was supposed to do, he was done with it and started saying "play different game!"

 

So alone came Polaris again. Fun for two complete games. I'm now really good at this game and make level five easy each time. At this point his little sister woke up... I have a baby monitor in the gameroom.

 

Mom quickly presented me with little sister. My brain kicked into gear and formed a plan. They both knew what frogs were. So... I will deploy, you guessed it. Frogger!

 

That kept both their attentions for over half an hour. I explained everything going on on the screen to them, and the 'happy frogs' at the top. Boy howdy were they into it, especially little sister. Also I think I had my longest game of frogger ever.

 

So that was this morning. By 8 the sun was up and I had to prepare for work. I'd like to think my kids difficult day was unrelated to the gameroom, but hard to say. They have very tough days regularly if games are involved or not.

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These are great times, my friend. Savor them.

 

And yes, children are sometimes just going to have tough days, like we all do. The difference is that you and I don't get to tromp about and cry and fuss. Especially at two it is rarely due to a specific stimulus, so good on your wife for recognizing that kids just do this as part of their development and it was certainly not a product of the video games.

 

Thanks for the update!

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Sometimes when my daughter is fussy going to the game room and playing classic stuff with her calms her down, she likes anything where she can tell that pushing the buttons causes something to happen. She seems to like the castle and bomb jack the most (probably the sound tracks, baby loves music) during christmas time she loved stay frosty 2

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