Warm Fuzzy Logic

Neither of my parents are gamers, but since my dad’s a total tecchie, there has been a computer in the house for as long as I can remember. I think Dad saw the value of video games early on – as educational tools, as entertainment, whatever. While I don’t clearly remember playing these games, I do have memory snapshots: the pilot asking “Where to, gumshoe?” in Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, blocker Lemmings self-destructing at the end of a successful level, and some sort of jeweled cave in Treasure MathStorm.I definitely had to ask Dad’s help with Freddi Fish and the Case of the Missing Kelp Seeds – it was an adventure game, and I couldn’t figure out where I could find the crank to the pirate  fish’s concertina. In one of the Magic School Bus games, we’re trying to find Ms. Frizzle, and the clue to which planet she’s on says “there are footprints here that aren’t mine!” I remember thinking that maybe she meant craters, which kinda look like footprints – and Dad walked by, looked at the clue, and said that he knew exactly where she was, and that she wasn’t talking about craters.

I have clearer memories of my childhood after the second grade, when my family moved up to Washington State. I remember sitting down with Dad with The Incredible Machine and struggling through some of those puzzles, but even more fun was when we realized that you could LAN Age of Empires with only one game disk. It’s an RTS, so of course you could play against each other or together against computers, and I remember trying to beat him in a direct duel now and again, but usually wanting to play co-op.

In this photo, I’m three and a half.
I’m the one sitting at the computer.

It was great fun – games were things that Dad and maybe my sister and I did together. They were family puzzles, they were educational, and I could sit down and play and Dad would help walk me through my logic. You know the Socratic method? That’s the one where you help someone learn something by asking them questions that will guide them to arrive at logical conclusions. Dad is a master of this annoying yet effective technique. Through this and the games he brought home, I really grew to love problem-solving.

Now I’m older, the publishers are more strict about needing multiple CDs for multiplayer, and games are the faux-3D stuff that makes Dad motion sick. We stopped playing video games with each other, but we stayed close, and the problem-solving skills he taught have brought me to where I am. Thanks (in part) to Dad and the video games we’d play, my formative years were spent solving problems and puzzles. The next logical step was a career in problem solving – so here I am, with a degree in Computer Science.

 

My warm fuzzy isn’t really one of building, changing, or repairing a relationship. Games have definitely helped me meet people, and helped to bring me and my husband together (spy+pyro 4eva!) – but I’m more thankful for how games have shaped me. My dad used games to inspire curiosity, to help me think analytically, and to enjoy teamwork and puzzle solving. In doing so, Dad set me up for the rest of my life.