If you’ve got kids that are old enough to go to school, chances are that you’ve been given a crash course in the costs of video games and all the accessories that go with them. Video games bring fun and excitement to those young and old, offering the chance to live vicariously through professional athletes, powerful warriors, martial arts masters, and magical wizards.
Thanks to the wonders of the World Wide Web, a lot of media materials that used to involved a trip to a store are now available instant to you in virtual form, and all it takes is a quick entry in a search engine, and the best of the electronic world’s resources are at your fingertips. Video games are one those activities that have been synthesized by computers and made available on the Internet. Flash and Java technology have made simple, free games for kids online better-looking more sophisticated than the simple computer games of the past, but if you’re looking for something more involved, you’ll have to pay a pretty penny for the privilege.
From the start, it’s taken quite a few gold pieces to afford the luxury of interactive fantasy. The very first home video game console was the Magnavox Odyssey, which used stick-on overlays for its pong-like gaming surfaces, and the figures looked like bouncing square lights. Its $75 price tag in 1972 works out to $391 today. Atari’s home version of Pong, released in time for Christmas, 1975, retailed for $99, approximately $401 in today’s economy.
The first console to use the modern system of a processing unit with a removable media slot for different games was the Fairchild Video Entertainment System, also known the Channel F, which hit the market in 1976. The first system to offer players the ability to pause the action, the Fairchild Channel F console cost families $170, which is equivalent to $651 today. Its games came on yellow cartridges similar to an 8-track cassette, and retailed for $20 apiece, which adjusts to nearly $77 with inflation. Competitors soon emerged, with Magnavox fighting back with a new version of Odyssey and Coleco introducing its first system, a pong-clone called the Telstar whose $50 price tag translates to $190 today. With the market flooded in 1977, most game systems went broke and folded, with only Atari remaining strong.
The market crashed in large part because many of the potential buyers of gaming systems were still enjoying their pricey Pong units, and making another large financial commitment to a similar unit. It doesn’t help when you’ve seen so many of the kids’ toys end up tossed in a corner with all the other fleeting fancies of days past.
If you can’t bring yourself to plunk down a few hundred dollars on a game system that you can’t see your kids committing to, or if you’d rather not see them drain their lives away on games that last for hours, days, weeks even, there are countless free kids games online, available to play at no cost. Flash games for kids don’t require any cartridges, extra controllers or any other peripherals beyond a mouse and keyboard.
Whatever ends up being the right choice for your family, know that video game systems take a lot of initial investment for the hours of fun they provide.