Not every TV or games experience needs to be brand-spanking new. If you go back into the archives of television shows and gaming, there are some rich experiences just waiting for your younglings to enjoy.
I’m also a parent, and that means I have some say in the entertainment choices that my children make. As they get older, I’m giving them more scope in what I present to them to both watch and play, and that means moving beyond the current hits of the day and having experiences that are chronologically dated but still well worth watching.
This isn’t solely a nostalgia trip for me so that I can watch things I used to watch back when I was a nipper, mind you. I’ve sprung all sorts of useful discussions around a variety of topics simply by putting on a relevant episode or game with my kids, as well as had them clamouring for more when we’ve finished watching or playing. Quality content is still quality content, even if it didn’t come out in 2015. Here’s my picks for five TV shows and five classic games you should share with your kids.
The overlooked classic British comedy, far more famous (thanks to ABC repeats, sadly no longer a thing) in Australia than in the UK, where the BBC shunned it rather rapidly once it had finished its run there. Three guys who will do anything, anytime, as long as it’s for the sake of comedy.
Why you should watch it with your kids: While it’s often seen as “soft” comedy, The Goodies were entirely willing to tackle hard concepts, such as racism, class divides or the adherence to fads. Some of it is rather dated — and there can be useful conversations there around the changes in societal attitudes there as well — and depending on the age of your kids, it’s worth remembering that there is some nudity present. Yes, nudity in The Goodies. It was a thing.
Classic Doctor Who
Yeah, this was always going to pop up in an article I was writing about classic TV. Admittedly, yes, there is the new series of Who, and I’m just as fanatical about that, but the classic series has charms that go beyond simple nostalgia. Not every story is a classic — nobody should be forced to watch Delta And The Bannermen — but the slower pace of episodic stories gives classic Who time to breathe in a way that the frenetic pace of the newer series rarely matches.
Why you should watch it with your kids: Again, it’s quite a good study into attitudes and even some topical areas that are still relevant, from racism (“The Mutants”) to fascism (“Genesis Of The Daleks”) even into taxation (“The Sunmakers”).
The Muppet Show
There’s a new series on the way which promises once again to revisit the formula that Jim Henson and co more or less perfected in the late ’70s. My hopes are high, but even if it’s more Muppets Tonight! than The Muppet Show, nothing can remove the pure comic wonder of the original.
Why you should watch it with your kids: Because it’s still rib achingly funny. Yes, again, some of the references and guest stars will be puzzlingly curious to the younger generation, but watching Gonzo being fired out of a cannon or Fozzie failing to tell a simple joke never loses its charm. It’s also a good object lesson in making a lot of of not much; to flip back to The Goodies for a second, as Graeme Garden once put it, “Kermit the frog is a man on his knees with a green sock on his hand!”
Best thing Steven Speilberg’s ever been involved in, by far. I was going to say “Classic Looney Tunes” cartoons here — especially the more contentious and frankly racist ones from the 1940s — but they’re not entirely uncommon, even now. The mid 1990s Animaniacs, however, are something of a forgotten gem, with plenty gentle jibes at the kind of moralising that still infests a lot of current kid’s cartoons along the way.
Why you should watch it with your kids: Because while there are some decent kid’s animations around, the advent of cheap flash-style animation has meant that there’s an awful lot more absolute trash. Why feed your kids trash?
The Adventures Of Rocky & Bullwinkle
Jay Ward’s classic TV series had a generally forgettable movie a few years ago, but again, the presence of new material doesn’t take away from the quality of the original. Although no matter what anyone says, there was never any sequel to Highlander. Ahem. Anyway, The Adventures Of Rocky & Bullwinkle combines some quality terrible punning (yes, it’s a thing) along with the cheapest animation that money could buy, and yet somehow, it all still works.
Why you should watch it with your kids: Because it’s short and simple if you’re limited in watching time, it’ll teach you and your children awful jokes, and it’ll make them think about everything from time travelling dogs to classic fairytales.
Sure, you could go all the way back to Pong, but that’s a game that hasn’t entirely aged well. Space Invaders, on the other hand, presents a very simple, but very enticing high score challenge, all set to that nearly hypnotic heartbeat effect. It’s like Halo, but without all that rubbish storyline getting in the way. Where it’s excellent with kids is in very simple high score family challenges; the lowest scorer fills the dishwasher, or similar. Plus, you can play this in the background for the full effect.
Why you should play it with your kids: Because otherwise, the aliens will win. You wouldn’t want that, would you? More seriously, it’s both a great object lesson in gaming history, as well as a great example of distilled fun.
Ghosts N Goblins
There’s a trend right now for “hard” games that challenge gamer reflexes and memorisation of patterns to succeed with little or no chance of simply “lucking” through. But this is nothing new. If your slightly older kids want a real challenge, sit them down in front of Ghosts N Goblins and tell them they have to clear it all in one credit. Conveniently “forget” to mention how it loops at the end for an even harder second run.
Why you should play it with your kids: Because sometimes as a parent, it’s good to really challenge your kids, and teach them about rage quitting.
The Bitmap Brother’s ode to super-futuristic sports is the ideal antidote to the multi-button approach of a FIFA or Pro Evo. One button, one joystick and a nearly endless array of strategies awaits you in a game that’s been replicated a few times since it came out, but never really bettered. Sensible Soccer would also be an acceptable alternative if you’re not comfortable with the level of violence in Speedball 2. You big wuss.
Why you should play it with your kids: Because even decades later, there’s nothing quite like it in sports gaming.
Square doesn’t just make Final Fantasy games, you know. They also made Bushido Blade, a one-on-one fighting game with a mechanic used rarely elsewhere. A single proper hit in Bushido Blade is game over, which means that it’s entirely different to your run of the mill Street Fighter sequels. This one is a little bloody for younger players, although it’s square pixellated blood that they’ll probably just find weird. Also, seriously, Square, remake this game already. It’s WAY overdue.
Why you should play it with your kids: Because while it’s a one-on-one fighter, it’s as much about patience as it is learning combos or overwhelming your foes.
Look, if I have to tell you why you should play Bubble Bobble with your kids, then there’s only one conclusion I can draw: That you simply haven’t played enough Bubble Bobble. Go. Play some Bubble Bobble. You can thank me later.
Why you should play it with your kids: Because I told you to. No, don’t question me on this. I’m very much in the right here.