Boy oh boy do I get in a lot of trouble around video games. Older Son’s two best friends are big gamers, and they’re basically the friends who got him into them. So I’m not in trouble with my friends. But when I talk to other parents, that’s another story.
Nobody flat out tells me, “You shouldn’t be letting your kids play that.” But you can see it in their eyes. It’s like the little red flags pop up in their pupils.
I grew up with Pong. Then we had the Commodore 64 and Atari. Nintendo came around and I played Super Mario until 2AM. Then I graduated from college, got a life, and stopped playing.
Though I do remember one boring winter weekend in the decade before we were married, Dave and I went to Best Buy and somehow a Nintendo 64 fell off the sale rack into our cart. So we had to take it home and play a lot of Donkey Kong.
Then I got a real life – again – and stopped playing video games. Then I had kids and all I heard was how bad video games are for children!!! I didn’t have such strong feelings, having grown up on them and thinking I turned out to be a pretty normal person. But still, I held out as long as I could because I had to be a good little ’00s mommy.
And then one friend had a DS, and another had a PlayStation, and my sons had to have it, so birthdays and Christmas brought them wonderful surprises.
At first I was terrified of the PS2 controller. WAY too many buttons levers menus and even vibrating things happening there! So I stayed away. But when 4-year-old Younger Son started kicking butt on Lego Star Wars, I decided it was time to step in. Besides they were both laughing at the hilarious cartoons at the end of the levels so I had to see what all the fun was about.
And it was fun. First it was fun because they got to laugh at how bad I was at everything. I didn’t know who my character was (there is so damn much going on in there!), I didn’t know what direction I was going. Older Son was upstage left while I was wandering downstage right, and I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t steer (he was pulling me in, for those of you non-gamers). I pushed the wrong button all the time and they had to scold and yell at me until I got it right. It was so fun for them to know it all and for me to be the big dope.
But then I got good. I started my own version of the games and we would challenge each other. I got 46 percent done, you’re only on 43! Sweet Younger Son only wants to work on helping both Older Son and I improve our scores, he never wants to start his own game. Whose game he plays depends who he loves more that week (or who, in his opinion, needs his help the most).
When the Wii came along I wasn’t all that interested, it didn’t look as fun as the PS2 games and I couldn’t get my hands on it anyway (the boys were always fighting over it). But eventually they sucked me into that one too – we can all play at the same time! And they still love it when I lose my mind because I stink.
Dave doesn’t play video games, so this is the one arena where I’m the cool parent. Come on, I might be mom but he’s got ALL sports and wrestling. If I even TRY to play ball I hear nothing but, “You’re just not as good as Daddy!” So when the boys want to play Wii with a grownup, it’s me they come to.
So the moral of my story? Video games are good (if you can’t go that far, just try for “not evil”). My boys are not glazed-over couch potatoes; in fact, for a while Younger Son created a video game workout. While he was playing he would be standing on the edge of the couch, bouncing up and down in time with his character, as if he was actually inside the game. I have priceless video of that somewhere.
We don’t spend hours and hours and hours and wasted hours in front of the screen (unless it’s rainy/snowy or we just got a new game). They spend most of their time doing other things, and this is just one thing for them to choose.
And you know what? We have a lot of fun together when we’re playing them. That’s all that matters to me.