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DS, Xbox 360, Wii, PS3, PC and Online games; Great stuff right?

First, let me assure you that I’m a gamer, or at least I have been a gamer in the past.  Second, I’m writing this article to make people consider just what they could be doing to their kids, from a voice of experience.  Believe me – what you could be doing is NOT a favor.

To start, we must look beyond the idea of “beneficial hand-eye coordination”.  Video games are not the only means by which to develop this simple yet necessary skill.  More on other options later, let’s dive in and look at what I know about gaming.

My first memories of “computer games” come from a game called Pyramid that was played on a Texas Instruments “personal computer”.  Yes, it was a new thing and the game was completely text based.  You know, “You see an opening in the Pyramid ahead.  What do you do? (Press up to go north, down to go backward)”…no graphics at all.

Also, when I was still young in the early to mid 80’s Atari was big and simple games like Pong or Donkey Kong and Pac-man or Asteroids were the awesome games we had to play.  I spent hours playing these games, but I spent WAY more time playing outside, with friends and on my own.  What I mean is that I was playing these games maybe 2 or 3 times a week for 1-2 hours at a time.  There was too much other fun stuff to do.

Next up, we moved into games like Castle Wolfenstein, DOOM and Civilization in the early 90’s.  These games took us to the next level in both game graphics and descriptive game play.  It took a lot more time to defeat the game.  It was no longer just about playing a game for a little break.  We had to understand the story and “get into it”.  Tell me, how do you “get into” Pac-man.  You get sick of the stupid ghosts and you go outside and shoot some hoops.  In DOOM you get a new gun, find a new secret and you never know what is around the corner.  You get SUCKED in.  And now we have come to the problem.  We start to live these games and we don’t realize it.  It’s like a drug.

Drugs, yes, they come in all forms and if you can become addicted to it, it’s a drug.  I’ve been addicted to DOOM, Ultima VI, Baldur’s Gate and Wii.  I understand myself now, and the Wii issue was nipped in the bud quickly.  I also know that I can NEVER play something like Everquest, Half-Life, Halo or any other interactive online game.  Think of the name people….EVER-QUEST.  This implies that it never ends…and it doesn’t.  Half-Life, think of it stealing away half of your life, it will.

As soon as the gaming industry created the realistic, remove yourself from the world games, we lost a lot.  We really lost a lot.  We have millions of people who sit in front of games all day, or every possible moment.  We have obesity and mental issues, yes, mental issues because people DO forget how to interact with REAL people in REAL life.  Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you plan your day around playing a game?
  2. Do you constantly think about the game you are involved in?
  3. Do you dream about the game?

If you answer yes to any of these you are probably deeply “sucked in” and you may even be in denial that you have a gaming addiction.  Think about it.  The real funny and sad consideration is that if you are addicted to a game, you most likely aren’t reading this post!

My major issue is when kids are bombarded with “game time”.  Game time is NOT real time.  Things happen quickly AND if it isn’t going their way, they just start over.  Tell me, can you start over if you get into an accident on the highway?  How about if you strike out in a REAL game of baseball or if you can’t make a shot in REAL basketball, can you just click a button and start over?  NO!  You know you’ve seen it in your kids or in another child…how about an adult?  Can you recognize the lost ability to cope with real life and real time?  I see it.  I’ve been there.  I’ve seen friend’s apartments that are a pig sty and they don’t even notice it – rotting food, unusable bathrooms (and I’m a guy so you know it had to be bad).  As parents and adults we MUST recognize limits on gaming because without limits life will just end up a game, and games end badly.  Ever had a stiff neck from looking at a computer monitor too long?  Headaches, sore wrists?  Just yesterday my son imploded during a piano lesson and it reminded me of how he restarts his Wii games over and over when he plays.  He won’t play a harder level and he wants to be perfect.  The problems are real and I am sure gaming is a part of the problem.

So, instead of all the gaming, play cards, shuffle lots or play jacks and set up dominos.  Draw.   Learn origami or string manipulation (you know Jacob’s ladder).  Pick up a Yo-yo.  These are all GREAT ways to develop hand eye coordination and fine motor skills.  You don’t need a game remote.  Play basketball or throw a ball against a wall.  The options are endless and they are far better for your physical and mental health.  As for living a “real life”, unplug every so often.  Turn off the cell, leave the email alone, just sit outside and listen to the day.  Have you forgotten how to do that?  Do your kids even know what it is to “listen to nature”?  We can do so much better.


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