Featured in

Featured in: Tiny Buddha, Halifax Media Coop, Fine Fit Day, Simplify the Season, La Presse, Filles, Le Canada-Français

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Video games: for or against?

RebeccaPollard, Flickr

I've been wanting to write about video games for the longest time. I have a love-hate relationship with them. The love stems from the fact that some video games have enlivened my days ever since I got my first one, a small portable screen on which bananas fell from the sky, waiting to be caught by monkeys. I must have been around 10 when I got it as a birthday present. It proved to be a wonderful pastime on the long flights that took us back from Sénégal to Canada.

Things quickly escalated back in North America, when we acquired the first version of Nintendo, and with it the ever entertaining game, Super Mario Bros. Not that I want to brag, but I was unbeatable at that game. Once when I was home from school because of an umpteenth tonsillitis, I played each and every level in a row until I saved the last princess, which was really cool because one of the "upgrades" that came with achieving that was that you could then pick any "world" and play it out of the blue, without having to go through the prerequisite levels anymore.

walknboston, Flickr

Another Nintendo game that I highly appreciated (for its repetitive and addictive properties it seems) was Tetris. Anytime I could steal my brother's Gameboy, I would play for hours on end.

I aslo played the Legend of Zelda and I don't know what else.

But nothing had prepared me for the next generation of addictive games, beginning with the legendary Sim City. Sim City was the first game I actively questioned when I finally acknowledged that I was preferring it to my homework. Not only did I forget to eat and sleep when I was playing that game, I also used it as an excuse not to study. Eventually, I realized I was truly addicted. It had to stop. It took me a while but I managed to detangle myself from this unhealthy relationship with Sim City.

It's a wonder I did not become a urbanist, 
given the time I spent designing cities!!!
haljackey, Flickr

That was until I discovered its even more addictive sequel, The Sims! That game might not be to everybody's taste, but with my legendary obsession with house plans (that I will explain in another post), it came as a gift from above! I could now design the houses of my dreams in a user-friendly system and even put people into them! It was great. Until it got bad. Once again I was "forgetting" to study, eat, sleep (and use the washroom - I probably got a bladder infection from that). It got so out of control, I had to ask D to hide the CD-roms in a place where I would not find them. That worked. But clearly, my habit was out of control.

lucykemnitzer, Flickr

Ever since then I have been very cautious with video games. In fact, I haven't really played any for years now. To be honest, I just don't have time for that anymore (let's just say that I've put my priorities in order). What I have learned from my personal experiences, and from looking at other people's kids, is that video games, as appealing as they might be, are truly dangerous for the young brain. I was not their only victim. I keep hearing about kids who spend most of their free time in front of a screen, big or small, and who obsess over it even when they are not playing. It worries me. First, because some games truly are inappropriate for the kids who play them. Second, because while kids play video games, they are not doing other things that could prove so much healthier (mentally AND physically) for them: playing outside, playing board games, playing imaginative games, building things, having real interactions with real people, reading, and last but not least, listening to their own thoughts. For all those reasons, my own kids' access to video games is VERY limited. What am I saying. EXTREMELY limited. It does them good to NOT play those games. I know that for a fact.

We do have a Wii, but we mostly use it for "physical" games, and we are aware that it does not replace actual physical activity. We turn it on maybe... once a month?

Video games did teach me a thing or two, apart from shooting ducks with precision (Duck Hunt), and apart from flying and landing a variety of airplanes (any flight simulator). They taught me that there CAN be too much of a good thing.

The Sims in particular taught me that it's important to attend all your needs, namely: Hunger, Bladder, Hygiene, Energy, Social, Comfort, Environment, and Fun. Forget to balance those and you will certainly end up feeling crappy. I apply that to my real life now.

What is your attitude toward video games?


  1. Nice topic! As you suggest, it's a mixed blessing. I've heard of kids flunking out of school for playing games rather than studying!

    I was never one to be drawn to video games. At my med school, there was a recreational game room and I would look in and wonder whatz up with that?

    However, as I got interested in computers, I found flight simulators! With my love of flying, I have to credit "playing" flight sims with going a long way towards teaching me to use the computer!

    1. Flight simulators are a lot of fun! However, I have never found them addictive. :-)

  2. Well video games and me? When I was in my 30's and early 40's I did my best when my children invited me to play ...or give it a try...and although they were polite I have to admit I was hopeless. In my later years 50's and now 60's the grandchildren play them on consoles. phones .....and who knows in a few years time on watches!

    Love them, hate them or even somewhere in the middle they are here to stay. I think there is a lot of money tied up in game research etc. Nowadays there does seem to be far more choice from age 3yrs up to 103yrs ...that is of course if you are into games.

    For you 'youngsters' they are part of life ....as are computers.

    Me, I like computers but I also enjoy books, music and art.

    Great read again Julie, thanks.

    All the best Jan

    1. I hear a lot of people say "video games are inevitable for the young generation", and I tend to disagree. Video games are here to stay, but it doesn't mean we have to play them. :-)

      As anything else... all in moderation!

  3. I've never been a big video game player but I love some of the apps/games on my phones and can waste hours!!!

    1. This is exactly why I do not want one of those phones Kim! :-)

  4. OMG I miss THE SIMS and SIMS CITY & SIM TOWER & SIM FARM - omg such good games!!!!! They're not the same on an iPhone- Do you remember the game Rollercoaster Tycoon?! Hot damn, the best! And then of course Nintendo - the OLD SCHOOL version - THE BEST! Bring on DUCK HUNT!!

    1. Haha, I see you are a connoiseur, GiGi! :-)