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How your taste in games will affect the games your kids play

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It's weird to think that in a hundred years time there will be people who feel a strong emotional connection with Minecraft.

I'm not talking about the ten-year-olds playing the game now, living to a ripe old age and looking fondly back at lost youth. I'm talking about their kids and even their grandchildren.

The love that today's kids are feeling for today's games will be passed onto their descendants, so that, even if Minecraft were to suddenly lose its popularity, the game can still look forward to a warm and fuzzy afterlife through inherited nostalgia, for decades to come.

There's a story out today about inherited nostalgia and how studies have found that musical tastes are passed on generationally.

The study looked at the tastes of people in their early 20s. Like all of us, the subjects felt a particular resonance with the songs that were popular around their tweens and early teens. But they also found a significant bump for a particular period of songs that had been popular during their parents' youth, and even a small bump for the songs that their grandparents had enjoyed.

London calling

Obviously, it's not as cut-and-dried as I am making it sound: "Blue Train" (1957), "I Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You" (1967) and "London Calling" (1979) are examples of albums to love, from three big musical decades, regardless of your parents' or grandparents' view of them back in the day.

But we all have relationships with the things our parents adored as youngsters. Some of it is of the eye-rolling variety of offspring embarrassment. Things go out of fashion and no amount of parental mooning for the good old days can bring them back. But other entertainments really are good or quirky enough to survive the whirlwind of culture, and remain beloved through the generations.

With music, it's fairly obvious that the 20-year-olds had learned to feel an affinity with the music of their parents, because that was what they had likely been listening to when they were very young.

My dad is an Elvis nut. I can try to distinguish Elvis' genuinely great work ("Elvis Presley," for example, is about the best rock-'n'-roll album ever recorded), from the also-ran stuff I enjoy out of a sense of nostalgia or familiarity, but I know that my peers, who grew up in houses where Elvis was not a big deal, just don't get any of it. I doubt there are that many people of my age still listening, on a regular basis, to "Blue Hawaii."

Music is not the same as movies and TV and games, of course. It's something that can be played in the background, and does not require any special attention. But I think the notion of inherited nostalgia holds true for many kinds of media.

Frogger

My dad has favorite movies which, while bona fide greats, are particularly special to him. Displaying a fervent zeal, he shared stuff like The Searchers with when when I was a boy, and I share them with my kids, as they reach the appropriate age. My wife was an avid reader of children's fiction, and my kids love many of the same books that she loved.

I don't want to try and force my tastes on my kids, but there are times when I'd like them to at least sample the things that have special meaning to me.

Games are an interesting case. Because they are closely tied with the emerging technology of their day, they can seem dated in a way that does not apply so much to music or fiction (although TV and movies can suffer from this: I have to sell black-and-white films to my kids a little harder than color.)


But I am seeing now, with my children, how they are being exposed to the games that I really cared about when I was in my early teens.

I regularly take my kids to the local arcade. When we are done with air hockey and big gun alien shooting games, we always spend 30 minutes or so in Classic Corner, and I give kids tokens to help themselves while I catch up on my favorites like Frogger, Defender and Galaxian.

Inevitably, those are the games that my kids also want to try and play. And so, my tastes, established in the early 1980s, are being handed down to my kids in 2015.

I wonder if it is too much to hope that they will pass on these passions (as well as those they establish for themselves) to their own children. If I am still around, I hope to be playing these games when my grand-kids arrive.

It is comforting to think that the games that really changed your life can also have an effect on your kids, that the kids playing Minecraft today will want to find a way to express their delight in this game to generations to come. Some of the joy that game is generating now may be felt in the year 2115.