16 Jul

Games & Books & Q&A: Andy Robertson

Andy RobertsonNext up in my Games & Books & Q&A series of chats with gaming folks about books and with children’s/YA lit folks about video games is Andy Robertson. Andy is a freelance family technology expert for the BBC and The Guardian, and he runs the Family Gamer TV YouTube channel.

CB: What do you remember about the first video game you ever played?

AR: I remember playing a game on the C64 called Star Quake and Monty on the Run. They were difficult but fun and offered a labyrinthine world to explore.

CB: What did you like to read when you were a kid? What did you love about it?

Asterix 33 - Asterix and the Secret Weapon.cbr-000AR: I enjoyed reading Asterix and Fighting Fantasy adventures. I think mainly because they felt like they were my own thing that I’d found myself rather than being told to read them.

CB: What book that you read while growing up had the most influence on who you became as an adult? How did it shape you?

AR: Reading the Bible, I think, as part of Sunday school and then later in church as an adult. It offered a fascinating fabric of life captured through the years that needed substantial interpretation before you could really know what to do with it -– endless possibilities.

I expect to continue this series through the October publication of my book Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet. If there’s anyone in the gamer or kidlit camp that you’d love to see me feature in upcoming posts in this series, please drop me a line or tweet at me or just leave a message in the comments.

05 Jun

Games Week at The Guardian

I like Andy Robertson‘s evenhanded, commonsense approach to the joys and concerns that parents have when it comes to their kids and video games — it fits right in with the tone I strove for in my upcoming book Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet.

I bring up Andy because he’s on prominent display in the Games Week feature published this week in The Guardian.

In Video games and violence: a parents’ guide, he counsels:

Unlike film and books, video-games are a new technology that we don’t yet fully understand, particularly in their potential for health or harm. That means that it is even more important for parents to accurately understand video game violence and the context in which it exists.

Playing games together as a family, stopping technology migrating to bedrooms, making use of PEGI ratings and having open conversations about these topics creates a healthy environment to maximise the enjoyment of this aspect of family life whilst avoiding potential pitfalls.

In another article this week, he sympathizes with parents who ask, “Is my child spending too much time playing video games?

Video games are entertaining, enjoyable and beneficial to children in many ways. They educate, provide space for creativity and offer healthy social interaction. But at the same time, the best examples are highly moreish and children will push boundaries to play for increasing lengths of time.

Excessive behaviour in any area of life rightly signals alarm bells for parents. However, for emerging an technology like games, it can be hard to identify excess over enthusiasm. Is an hour a day okay? Two? It’s even harder to judge if you don’t play games yourself.

The package of articles also includes a fascinating one by Leigh AlexanderGirly video games: rewriting a history of pink — about an art exhibit I was entirely unaware of, even though it was here in my home city:

The Visual Arts Center in Austin, Texas, currently has a very unusual exhibit: a vintage girl’s bedroom, perfectly preserved. There’s a chunky monitor pegged to a Nintendo Entertainment System, all dove’s breast gray and violet.

Pom poms decorate the television as a pink pinata slumps alongside; a pearly Polly Pocket toy, Judy Blume novels and posters depicting the romantic heroines from popular anime series Sailor Moon complete the picture. It’s presented in the museum as a “typical girl’s room” from the early 1990s. Also in the museum is another exhibit: a set of plastic digital Barbie game capsules under glass, hushed and precious. It looks like a priceless slice of history.

Except none of it’s real, exactly. The little girl’s room never happened. And the Barbie games are virtually worthless.

This is the art of Rachel Simone Weil, who has reimagined the nostalgic digital past as it might look if girly things had mattered then. A digital artist, programmer and rom-hacker, Weil found herself increasingly drawn to obsolete technology and collector culture – where she was surprised to learn that the traditionally feminine had no real value, financially or otherwise.

It sounds like the exhibit has since closed. I hope not. Jenny and I would love to go, and take our daughter — and sons.