Video Games: Kids Take Control

August 17, 2015

Tech Support raises his eyebrows over some of the book projects I agree to write. Before I wrote Hybrid and Electric Vehicles, the only things I knew about cars were things I’d learned from Top Gear. And when I agreed to write How Do Video Games Work? the last time I’d played a video game was when my hair looked like this:

Crimped hair salon

Don’t judge, it was the 80s. Thanks to 1000heads via Wikimedia Commons for the image!

But hey, that’s one of the things I love about writing science books – it gives me an excuse to learn new things. 🙂

The first (and last) video games I played ran on one of these:

Wikipedia NES PAL

Thanks to JCD1981NL via Wikimedia Commons for the image.

We had the first one on the block, and I vividly remember sitting in our basement on a hot summer day, sweating because every kid in the neighbourhood was crammed in there waiting for a turn at the buttons. We should have been outside, but we couldn’t tear ourselves away. For the first time, we controlled what happened on the screen, and that power was utterly intoxicating.

Even when all we could do was kill Mario six times inside six minutes. 😀

It wasn’t until I wrote How Do Video Games Work? (many, many years later) that I found out how game controllers work. The simple ones, like the one for the NES shown above, are basic electrical switches – pressing the button completes the circuit, and the console interprets that electrical signal as an action within the framework of the game. Complex modern versions, like the Xbox 360 Kinect, use infrared light beams and a camera to measure the player’s body position in real time. It’s a bit like bat sonar, and very popular for fitness and dancing games.

video gamesRegardless of how the science works, the controller is the thing that sets video games apart from other forms of entertainment. Without it, a game is just a movie.

Did you play video games as a kid? Still play them today? Much prefer to go outside? 

How Do Video Games Work? is on sale now! You can find it at Amazon or order direct from the publisher. For kids in grades K-2.

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