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How your gaming past can help your family harness the best of the gaming present

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Last month at AskAboutGames we looked at the benefits of visiting gaming shows like EGX with your family.

This week, we have taken a trip to the other side of the Atlantic to visit a quite distinct event; the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, in the North West of the United States. Don’t worry; we’re not here to encourage you into take costly transcontinental trips with your family. Instead, we wanted to explore what the games from your past can do in terms of engaging your youngsters with the benefits of appropriate gaming.

Portland Retro Gaming Expo offers visitors a vast arcade of console games, pinball and, of course, arcade cabinets. There’s also dozens of booths selling old games and new merchandise, cosplay contests, the Classic Tetris World Championship finals, talks by speakers like Atari’s early game design pioneers, and much else besides. And, most encouragingly, the place was packed with families.

As mums and sons went head-to-head in a two-player game of pinball, dads and daughters stood should-to-shoulder at classic arcade games like Bubble Bobble, and whole families took to the show floor in matching cosplay outfits; a special shout out to the three generations of Batman seen together, including a newborn Caped Crusader.

What was evident at the conference is that showing your kids you know a thing or two about games is a great way to get them to admire and respect your connection with games - as well as a wonderful way to have fun as a family.

And that, in turn, can help when it’s time to step in and police the type of games they play, or the hours they play them. After all, when you know what you’re talking about – or even just seem to – it makes it a little easier to speak with authority.

Most of us will remember a time as youngsters when we couldn’t imagine our parents doing anything youthful. And there’s every chance your tech savvy offspring have little sense that you might know a thing or two about games. But the chances are that you played your first video game before they were a glint in your eye.

That’s not to say you need to have been a competitive arcade player or console aficionado in your youth to earn video gaming brownie points with your youngsters. But whether you remember when every chip shop and bowling alley had a couple of arcade machines, or you were around when the PlayStation introduced the idea that video games just weren’t for kids, you’ll have enough to call on to prove to your children you were once at the forefront of games too.

Of course, the youth of today can turn their nose up at what now seem like primitive graphics and dated gaming hardware. But as could be seen at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, good gameplay is timeless, and once you get a kid actually playing a retro game with you, they’ll find them perhaps as engaging as anything new. Indeed, the likes of Minecraft deliberately ape the aesthetics of the classics of yesteryear, so they might be more openminded than you imagine.

Where to play vintage games with your kids? The first place to look is the attic. If you can blow the dust of a console and your TV has the right ports in its back to connect an old console, then your own living room might make the ideal spot for some Sunday afternoon retro gaming.

Failing that, all new consoles have online stores accessible through their home pages, and those stores will be packed with classic you’ll remember fondly. And, if you’re lucky, you may manage to track down modern homages to retro computer hardware, like the NES Classic Mini or new SNES Classic mini.

And there might be a local retro gaming event near you. Stay tuned as we at AskAboutGames try to bring you a calendar of UK gaming events of every kind.

And who knows. One day your child might be pestering you to pull out the N64 to play alongside you, instead of badgering you about the latest high profile PEGI 18-rated release.

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Will Freeman