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.
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!!!
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.
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?