Toys, Games, and American Childhood

Essay by geo5University, Bachelor's April 2008

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As an Indian-American, I had the benefit of enjoying at best, two worlds, and two childhoods- but in the end I realized that as I child despite the disparate cultures, youth and innocence regardless of race were one and the same. Children everywhere were motivated by the singular need for diversion, to have a constant stream of amusement- they may actually be amenable to learning or education, but they don't want it to be so upfront about its intentions. More like swallowing the bitter tasting acetaminophen pill that my mother used to coat in honey so that we wouldn't spit it out, kids wanted education to be buried beneath layers of more appealing "external stuff".

"What is that? I thought you were supposed to do your math assignment in advance" my mother asked after she came upon me playing the current rage at the time- an Atari game connected by cables to the television set.

It was a far cry from the hyper-realistic, digitally superior incarnations of today, but back then, the monotone sound, the alternating flashes of light and the crude shapes formed an experience that was exciting and mysterious. It was the 80s and Steven Spielberg'sE.T. The Extra Terrestrial had cast a long and influential shadow over children everywhere. Children didn't know it yet, but those born during the decade were to be branded as Millennials- a generation on the cusp of a technological leap that was making its early presence felt with the first-generation toys of the decade.

Even then, the parameters had been set- long playing hours, immense concentration, compulsion to stay it out without eating, sleeping or taking bathroom breaks. My mother was suspicious as probably were every American mother who had more traditional ideas of what was considered ideal pastimes. But...