My first console gaming experience was an Intellivision. My brother won in a draw at our elementary school. We gamed the heck out of that thing in the early 80s.

When it eventually died, our family moved on to a Commodore 64, and I spent more time on bulletin boards than I did on games.

Eventually, though, I got sucked in by the marketing and picked up a Sony Playstation 2 in late 1999. I had it for 2 weeks before I went to work and sold it to a colleague. After spending entire weekends in my apartment trying to crack Metal Gear Solid, I had to get rid of it.

I got sucked in to gaming too easily and found myself sitting in the dark for hours on end trying to crack a level.

That was the last taste I had for gaming: an all-consuming addiction to level up.

But, remembering how cool it was with that first Intellivision, and how I went over to my friend Sanjay’s house to play Atari after school, I’ve been tossing around the idea of getting a console for my sons for Christmas.

And since I’ve been out of the loop for so long, I’m completely lost on where to start or what to get. From Nintendo Wii to XBox One to PS4 – I don’t know what to get.

I’m not a fan of the proliferation of violent games on the platforms. I don’t want them wearing headsets chatting up random people in their basement. I don’t want them spending entire weekends wasting away on games.

Wooed by the release of Pokemon Sun and Moon, the boys have been asking a lot for a Nintendo 3DS system. To me, though, that’s just a one-trick iPad – and they already have iPads, so why duplicate the solo game play experience on a gaming toy?

For the most part, I’ve been content with the variety of games my sons have on their iPads. They like Clash Royale, Plants vs Zombies, and Pokemon Shuffle. I’ve been happy to have this be their access to gaming. I control the iPads, I control what gets on them, they’re fun and portable and ..

I still wondered if this was the year we’d get a console for Christmas. And then I discovered gaming on our Apple TV. On the 4th Gen Apple TV, you can download games to play that offer the similar gaming experience they had on their iPads, but it turns into a social situation as we all watch the big screen, pass the controller around, and participate as a family.

Minion Rush, Jetpack Joyride, and Angry Birds Go! are all fun, but two other games stand out as winners on the Apple TV platform:

Alto’s Adventure

This fun game has become an obsession for my son. Alto, a llama farmer in the alps, chases his lost flock on a snowboard, doing flips and grinds and wingsuit maneuevers along the way.

We passed the controller around for hours, and even my wife got in the action. After many dismissive “I don’t want to play” motions, she was quickly asking when it would be her turn again. Alto’s Adventure has dominated our screen time for the past few weeks.

Crossy Road

The graphics are 8 bit old school, making the “this is just Frogger!” cries from my wife’s side of the couch even more appropriate. Crossy Road “is just Frogger” except with chickens and koalas and pigs and other random animals crossing an eternal run of cars, logs, and train tracks. And it’s the trains that are hilarious. When the bell rings, be careful crossing, because your chicken / koala / pig will get smoked something vicious leading to almost an hour of non-stop laughter from our entire family.

Yes, I’m back to gaming, and I love it – on our Apple TV. Yes, I’m “wasting” a lot of time playing the games, but they’re fun, simple, affordable, and easy to pick up and learn. They only cost a few bucks instead of a few dozen and the Apple TV is way cheaper than any console too.

So now, on Friday nights, with nothing to watch on our PVR or nothing particular to do, we have a Family Game Night with our Apple TV, easily putting away 2 hours laughing and playing.

I still have a needling in the back of my head that a console could be coming soon for my kids, but in the meantime we’re just happy gaming away on our Apple TV. Instead of a big box for Christmas, the boys are going to get some iTunes Gift Cards to spend on new games for our console.

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