Are video games dangerous, or are the detractors nothing but fear mongering luddites? I don’t know, but I will give you some personal observations.
Last week my 4-year-old son became completely obsessed with Sypro 2: Ripto’s Revenge. Is this a good thing or bad thing?
When he obsessed about his ABCs until he knew each letter sound and could repeat them backward and forward, it didn’t frighten me.
When he pulled out the Dr. Seuss dictionary and spent 6 hours a day for 20 straight days writing every word in the dictionary on his white board repeatedly until he could spell them perfectly, I wasn’t worried. It freaked me out, but I didn’t worry.
When he spent two weeks obsessively learning every nation in Africa, every state in the United States, and every ocean on Earth, I thought it was pretty cool.
When he wanted to read “Where the Wild Things Are” twenty five times a day, it was irritating, but I never felt I was a bad parent for indulging his desire.
When he wouldn’t do anything but mazes for a month, did I worry? Nope.
When he repeatedly begged me to look at the Road Atlas and explain what every symbol in the key represented and where he could find it on the map, I was happy to oblige him.
But yesterday after the fourth straight day of constant obsession about Spyro the Dragon, I pulled the plug on the PS1. Now I am wondering whether I’ve done the right thing. I’m thinking of giving the game back tonight, because I’m afraid I acted on some unconscious fear that seeped into my mind from media fear mongers. What’s worse is that I told myself I would always let my boys finish what they start, even if it is a video game. But yesterday it seemed to go too far and I felt I had to end it.
This led me to ask some serious questions about why I yanked the game console:
Did I do it because I was afraid? Afraid that allowing him to obsess about a video game meant I was bad father.
Why is it okay for him to obsess about numbers, letters, reading, books, music, sports, but not video games?
Am I afraid he’ll become obese? When I was young, most kids I knew watched 4-5 hours of TV everyday, few were in school activities, and nobody was obese. Studies have proven video game playing burns more calories than passively watching TV. I know why kids are obese – they eat too much sh!tty food and drink too much pop.
Is this some old puritan pleasure/punishment syndrome surfacing from deep in my subconscious? We should only obsess about things that are painful but never things that are fun and pleasurable. Why pleasurable obsessions could lead to a boy becoming a fat, lazy, sex crazed, chronic self-pleaser, and I don’t want that, he could become so blind he wouldn’t notice the hair growing on his palms. 🙂
This last question bothers me the most…
Is there a part of me that is afraid he is having too much fun, and I should end the fun, because the boy needs to understand that life isn’t just fun and games? But what else does a 4-year-old have to do? I mean, how difficult should his life be?
It also seems that the game is quite educational – at least for a 4-year-old. He needs 10,000 gems to get through a certain door. He has 8,765 gems so he asks me how many he needs to get 10,000 and this led to an understanding of multi-digit subtraction.
My boss – Jim Fischer – our Senior Vice President of Information Services, said that his father believes the reason Jim is so successful in IT is due to his obsession with coin-op video games like Asteroids back in the 70s and 80s. He used to ride his banana seat Schwinn Sting-Ray eight miles to the mall and play Asteroids for hours. It doesn’t appear Jim’s video game obsession led to his ruin. But Jim does believe – that if he had the games kids have today – he may not have graduated from college.
I’ve told myself that I haven’t bought into the media hysteria about video games. I read It’s not the Media and I agree with the author’s thesis. But I believe I still overreacted to my son’s obsession with Spyro the Dragon. Why? What fear created my overreaction?
Some obsessions are culturally acceptable and some are not… why? Where do these rules originate?