Monday, December 15, 2008

Darwin's Dilemma

I purchased my first computer, a Mac, in 1991.  I used it for writing, primarily, but also began to explore the web in my free time with the help of a computer scientist friend.  I swore I would never play games on the computer; even then video and computer games had a bad reputation. My son was seven at the time, and although he had a Nintendo at his dad's house I would not allow him to play video games at mine.   I didn't like the idea of violent games that seemed to only involve killing other creatures. 

I came across a game one day, though, called Darwin's Dilemma that seemed different.  It seemed to have some educational component.  How could something called "Darwin's Dilemma" be just about mindless killing?  Made for Mac, the idea was  to "push" matching creatures together in order to allow the creatures evolve into new ones and so on up the evolutionary chain.  I played the game, and showed my son how to play it, though he was less interested than I.  I don't remember much else about it, except that I enjoyed watching the little critters bump up against each other, and I got  a thrill when they transformed into the next higher stage.  There's a new game (just out this year) called Spore that's based on a similar strategy, although it's much more sophisticated.

I played Darwin's Dilemma the way my writer friends play card games, but it was such fun that I began to search for other "educational" games my son and I might play together.  In 1992 he had foot surgery and had to stay off his feet for two weeks.  I asked his pediatrican how I was supposed to keep an eight-year-old off his feet for two weeks.  

"Video games," he said.

So I caved big time and let the Nintendo into the house.  

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