Video Games? – Just another tool.
I was shopping this week for a new DVD player/Netflix streamer and was asked by the clerk helping me if I had a video game system I could use instead to do the streaming. A wave of joy and contentment and relief flooded my entire body quickly as I happily said ‘no – those days are behind me… or at least they are for the next handful of years until my first grandchild is old enough to want to play with one.’ I will enjoy those interim years, alot.
I have three grown children, 2 boys and a girl. My boys loved video games, my daughter could have cared less. In the early years of their interest, I resisted the whole phenomena, believing them overly focused on violence and mindless entertainment, preferring to create fun opportunities for outdoor adventures, wild and crazy fun with forts, treasure hunts and friends galore. When my oldest let me know that all he cared about in life was acquiring a Nintendo and the hot game at the time, Street Fighter, I knew it was time. He played that game and many others for hours a day, for years. His younger brother by 6 years followed suit years later with other game systems and games, all increasingly violent and really, really confusing to me. I tried to play with them because I saw how much enjoyment they got but I could never get my interest level piqued enough to put my heart into it, so observer remained my role.
The games and playing ebbed and flowed over the years. My oldest, having gone a handful of years with no game playing at all, lapsed into a 16 hour a day immersion with World of Warcraft when he was in his early twenties that lasted for about a year. Wow, that was tough. When he ended it, he claimed to have learned everything he needed to know about how the world works, starting and growing a business, and more. He wrote a great article about it in our first issue of Rethinking Everything Magazine (you can read it online now at the magazine sites) and hosted whole sessions about it at my Rethinking Everything Conference.
I have been fascinated to watch my uber violent video game playing boys grow into adulthood … and discover nary an interest in violence, weapons, war or the military. More critically, I am profoundly struck with their immensely meaningful relationships with sexual partners and friends … without a trace of machismo in conflict resolution or worldview. Do violent video games cause violent behavior in their users? The research wants us to believe this is so. I disagree wholeheartedly. Turns out kids know the difference between fantasy and reality, duh. Turns out behavior and worldviews develop from real interactions, not the pretend ones in video games. Duh. Learning all the time, yup, that’s what I do, and it feels good.
I have a ‘gamer.’ He’s almost 9 years old and has been fascinated with video games – from Wii to World of Warcraft – since he was about 5. And, although I have known girls (and women!) who are into gaming of various sorts, my daughter is more of an active observer as am I – unless the microphone comes out for Rock Band! I have experienced personal resistance to gaming – especially the more violent video games – but, with the encouragement of my husband (a lover of video games), decided to take my cues from my ever-present son. After all, he learned to read (swiftly and far beyond his ‘level’) and started doing some very complex mathematics for his age playing Need for Speed! That was certainly not something I expected.
When I resisted, he pushed back so hard, wanting and needing to make these decisions for himself. I took the role of actively engaging him and listening to him tell me his stories and experiences with and about gaming. I have sat with him while he explained various aspects of the games he is playing. We have talked about time management, the needs of our family community, and his own bodily needs – all of which have become issues due to extended periods spent gaming. What is fascinating is that he is highly capable of, when supported, making decisions about his time management that are healthy and respectful as long as that is how the situations are approached.
A couple of RE Conferences ago, there were parents who were unsettled by violent and non-violent video games being played in the same room. They didn’t feel their children should be exposed to the violent games whether because of age or personal preference. I had a great conversation about this with my kids. We were trying to troubleshoot for solutions to this issue and talked about parents worrying that violent games would affect the behavior of their children. Pause. “But, Mom, we know it’s not real!” Lightbulb. There were other epiphanies like this- too many to mention. It seems simple to say but they’re right. If anything, video games have given my son jet propulsion. He gains a sense of mastery that created an extrovert from an introvert. His self-confidence and self-esteem are through the roof. But I have noticed no difference in his sweetness, his repulsion to actual violence, and his intense connection with nature.
And so, I allow myself to get completely wrapped up in his excitement over the games he is loving at any given time. We role play, talk about gaming all times of the day and night, strategize, and figure out ways he can connect with his friends online. He creates pretend/role play scenarios in real life in which we play characters and duel and has initiated a Live Action Role Play (LARP) group with friends to continue his love for physical play, strategy, story lines,and role play. We have family game nights on the Wii which is really fun – playing sports and board games on the big screen. It cracks me up when I think of the me that would have considered this less family interaction, less wholesome, less anything. We connect and laugh and strategize and compete and work together. It’s really quite wonderful.
I consider violent video games, TV programming, and movies to be a scapegoat for those worried about the violent behaviors and tendencies of their children. They are certainly not the cause.
Check out our websites and sign up for your FREE subscription to one or ALL of our THREE magazines!
Have you shown us some LIKE? Each magazine has its own Facebook page: