The player – Console news

In the first of a new weekly column, Naomi Alderman suggests parents should stop worrying about their kids playing games too much – and join them instead

Computer games began, for me, in 1982. Which was precisely the right moment. I was seven, we’d had a Sinclair Spectrum for a month or two and into my life came The Hobbit text adventure game. My dad brought it home. “Look!” he said, “it comes with a copy of the book!”

The game was hard: sometimes fun, sometimes frustrating. Commands had to be typed in using painfully simple English. Go west. Look. Examine Gandalf. We were simultaneously amazed by what the programme understood – and astounded by what it didn’t. Question Gandalf. No. Threaten Gandalf. No. Angrily demand answers from Gandalf. No. In desperation, my dad typed: “Cut off Gandalf’s ear.” The game understood that. We were very impressed. We had discovered computer-game violence. Gandalf killed us.

We never got to the end of The Hobbit. Frankly, the book was a lot easier; and unlike a game you could skip over the hard bits. But sitting in the living room with my dad, trying to solve a problem together, coming up with ideas and making each other laugh makes it a time that I will never forget.

Sometimes, hearing that I’ve written for computer games, parents ask me despairingly whether they ought to worry that their child spends so much time playing. I always wonder why these parents don’t just sit down and play alongside their offspring; or even ask their child to teach them how to play. Maybe they don’t like admitting there are things they don’t know. But if there’s one thing that is guaranteed to make lasting memories, it is letting children be better than you at something. That and cutting off the ear of an imaginary wizard.


Naomi Alderman © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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