There aren’t many thing that I can say are benefits of being an (almost) 40-year-old, but there are a few. Having a greater appreciation for fine foods and culture, remembering how cool it was to grow up in the 80’s, waking up in the middle of the night to a symphony of pain in joints that you didn’t even know existed… okay maybe not that last one. Also, being born in the seventies means that I experienced most of video game history unfolding right before my eyes. I got to play most of the classic games that shaped the industry into what it is today, games that kids growing up today might not even have heard of.
My daughters were introduced to the world of video games through titles like Minecraft, Skylanders and Disney Infinity, but there are decades worth of amazing games that they know nothing about. Games that by today’s standards may seem archaic and rudimentary, but still hold a lot of value both as historical artifacts of the industry as well as still being a heck of a lot of fun. The difficulty though has always been trying to find the right way to introduce them to these older experiences.
‘101 Video Games To Play Before You Grow Up’ is an upcoming book from author Ben Bertoli and publisher Walter Foster Jr. that aims not only to introduce younger players to some of the best video games available (both classic and modern), but also to make the experience of discovering these classic games as entertaining as actually playing them. Ben is a full-time teacher and a freelance games journalist who has written for Polygon, Kotaku, and Nintendo Life. He was nice enough to share his book with us and talk about the inspiration behind it.
“As a full-time teacher I interact with kids on a daily basis. My students know I like to play video games and often they come to me asking what I’m playing, or have played in the past that I would recommend. Many kids make rash decisions when it comes to buying games or diving into series and often times they’re only purchasing or trying games that others have suggested. Children like to replicate adults and this leads to many of them playing games that are not appropriate or are far too hard. Knowing this I wanted to create a book that could give young readers dozens of gaming recommendations with plenty of insight into what makes the game or series as a whole worth playing. Knowing the history behind a game or what kind of gameplay it entails is essential to picking out a title that can really enthrall and enlighten a young mind.”
The book features over 140 pages loaded with games, and includes everything from well-known classics such as Super Mario Bros. and Mega Man to some lesser known gems that kids might not be aware of like Tearaway and Costume Quest. There are so many great games packed into the book that my daughter and I both found plenty of titles to seek out. Even with over 3 decades of gaming experience under my belt there are so many games that I know nothing about,and having this resource of family friendly titles at my disposal is incredibly helpful when it comes to choosing which games to play with my family.
They’ve done a really good job of making finding new games as easy as possible, with each title being divided by genre so kids can find games that they are familiar with first and then use the directory to discover new games that might be similar to what they enjoy. They’ve even included a handy guide to explain what each genre is for those who might not know the difference between a strategy game and a platformer. It’s a small detail, but one that’s appreciated. Each page also features an illustration from artist Spencer Wilson. His art combined with the bright color palette used on the pages make the book visually eye catching and fun to read.
For each of the games in the book you’ll find a wealth of information. Not only is there a detailed description of the characters and story, which is important for the kids when it comes to deciding if the game appeals to them, but they’ve also included the crucial information that parents might need to know about. What year did it come out? Which consoles is it available for? What is the ESRB rating? All of the things that a parent would need to know to determine where to find the game or in deciding if the game is appropriate for their children (the book covers games from ratings E through T).
The book is also chalk full of fun tidbits of information for you and your kids to discover about each of the games, from what the best games in the series are to what other similar games you’d like if you enjoyed that one. There’s also a fun “Did You Know” section on each page which gives you fun facts about the game such as “Mega Man is known as Rock Man in Japan. He also has a robotic sister whose name is Roll. Get it? Rock and Roll!” It’s a fun bit of trivia not only for the kids, but there were plenty of facts that I didn’t know about either! Yoshi was originally going to be a Koopa?!
One of my favorite features though is something that your kids can do as they play each game. There’s a section on the bottom of each page for kids to check a box once they’ve played the game, color in a star rating to show how much they liked the game, and a few lines for them to write in what their favorite part of the game was and any other notes they may want to take. It’s a fun way to make it an interactive experience for them and makes it a fun book for them to hold onto for years to come and look back on their experiences. Bertoli really understands the importance of introducing these games to today’s kids.
“The next generation of video game players is also the next generation of video game developers. As a child, sampling a wide range of genres and the games can influence a whole new level of understanding and appreciation when it comes to gameplay. These series and standalone games are classics for a reason. They may not appeal to everyone, but whatever it is they have to offer is worth mentioning on the off-hand it sparks interest in a young player. Games have gotten sleeker, shinier, and more complex, but the roots of gaming trace back to core concepts and feelings of success any gamer can relate to. The greatest way to teach children about the past is to let them experience it, and there is no medium better suited to tackle this hands-on approach more than video games.”
101 Video Games to Play Before You Grow Up is an essential book for families with new or younger gamers. It was a joy not only for my daughter to read, but for the two of us to read together and talk about the games that we discovered inside. And if you’re in the same boat as I am (as many of our readers are) I suggest you find room on your bookshelf as well.
You can pre-order ‘101 Video Games to Play Before You Grow Up’ right now on Amazon and it will be available on October 1st.