The first TV I remember us having had a knob to turn the channel, to a maximum of thirteen channels of which we only had reception for one and a half. The TV was heavy and if we moved furniture around, only my dad could pick it up and carry it. Every once in a while, when we were younger, we would be able to rent a VCR player and my dad would turn the air blue while attempting to set it up so we could watch a movie at home.
We got our first home computer when I was twelve years old. It was a creamy grey colour and likely a hand-me-down from someone in the family. It took approximately three hours to load. When we got dial up internet a few years later, we had to share the phone line with the house line so we could only be on the internet if we were sure we didn't need the phone.
I remember "being on the internet" and sitting in front of the monitor wondering what a person "does" on the internet. I think I turned it off and went and read a book which was much more straightforward.
Later in my teen years, I did play some computer games, most;u some version of Tetris, Myst, King's Quest or Wolfenstein. The graphics were terrible in retrospect and although I no long game except for the occasional Candy Crush, I know that the world of gaming has exploded and that CGI has come a long way since Wolfenstein.
This is why it absolutely blows my mind that the most popular game in our house is a pixelated, retro-looking, block-smashing game with a hero named Steve. He has a parrot.
People justify kids playing Minecraft because "it's creative" and "you build worlds." etc. Have you ever watched a kid play Minecraft on an iPad? It's a lot of hunched-over the screen, finger-tapping, block breaking ridiculousness with the least interesting-looking characters in all of the gaming world.
Except for the parrots and the chickens - at least, they are pretty cute. How creative is a child being sitting there tapping their finger?
My son loves Minecraft. He takes books out of the library and learns how to make portals and craft things together and defeat the bad guys. I hear a lot about the worlds he is going to build and about the elements you need to build certain things and about enderman, zombies, monsters, witches, skeletons, wither skeletons ("they're different than regular skeletons because they have swords rather than bow and arrows"), blazes ("they shoot gases and are killed by water"), and ender dragons, creepers, pigmen, spiders, villagers and assorted farm creatures (there are llamas?).
I asked my son why he likes it so much and he said that you can create stuff and make creatures and survive and make cool things. He prefers creative verses survival mode because you can't get killed by the creatures.
He also saved up his allowance money to download Minecraft Storymode, which is a digital throwback to Choose Your Own Adventure books. The graphics are deliberately terrible and to watch it, the game is a pixelated blur.
Perhaps the poorly done graphics allow kids to use their imagination more effectively or maybe the game designers are lazy and you have more options in the game if you keep the graphics simple. I do not have the answers.
What I do know is that my son is really excited about it and I will continue to ask questions about the games he is playing and try to monitor the screen time as much as possible because it is also important to go outside and play.
I think Steve and his parrot would agree.