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Dad raises gaming prodigy by training him on 8 console generations
Teaching kids to play Pac-Man is not a waste of time.
Eight-year-old Eliot Baio has humbled the developers of some of the most difficult video games on the market.
Spelunky and Nuclear Throne are games designed for masochists. The levels are always random. Players can only die once. Beating either game requires running through a hefty gauntlet of this sort of abuse. Eliot obliterated both of these games because his father, Andy, made sure he had a proper gamer’s education.
“Eliot’s early exposure to games with limited graphics inoculated him from the flashy, hyper-realistic graphics found in today’s AAA games,” Baio wrote in a Medium essay titled “Playing With My Son: An experiment in forced nostalgia and questionable parenting.”
Eliot’s obsessed with playing Pac-Man on our TV. It’s like watching myself in 1982.
— Andy Baio (@waxpancake) June 12, 2008
“He can appreciate retro graphics on its own terms,” Baio wrote, “and focus on the gameplay.”
When we talk about generations in the video game world, we generally mean “console generations,” or concrete steps in the development of console hardware. The PlayStation 4 is eighth generation, the PlayStation 3 is the seventh, the PlayStation 2 is the sixth, and so on. Each generation usually represents a substantial leap forward in graphics technology. Parents who wait too long to introduce their children to classic second-generation consoles like the Atari 2600 may risk their kids turning their noses up at “old stuff,” especially once they start following the latest developments in gaming hardware.
Eliot just beat the first Zelda, entirely by himself. I only helped by showing him a map of Dungeon 9. That’s my boy!
— Andy Baio (@waxpancake) August 30, 2010
Andy Baio was concerned about “generations” in the more classic sense of the word. He decided to head off the problem of his son not appreciating classic games off by making those classics the first video games Eliot ever played.
When Eliot was four years old, father and son began with reproductions of games from the Golden Age of Arcades. They worked their way up the console generations from there. By the time Eliot was eight years old, he’d mastered games on the NES, SNES, N64, and PlayStation 2 consoles. He then absolutely crushed Spelunky and Nuclear Throne, performing well enough to make hardcore gamers jealous.
“The lo-fi graphics in games like VVVVVV, FTL, or Cave Story might turn off other kids his age, but like me, he’s drawn to them,” wrote Baio. “My hope is that this experiment instilled a life-long appreciation for smaller, weirder, more intimate games in him.”
Photo by Doug Kline (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Dennis Scimeca
Dennis Scimeca was the Daily Dot's gaming reporter until 2016. He loves first-person shooters, role-playing games, and massively multiplayer online games. His work has appeared in Salon, NPR, Ars Technica, Kotaku, Polygon, Gamasutra, GamesBeat, Paste, and Mic.