Video Games

I love video games. When I was young, I was the first kid in my class to get a Nintendo. Coincidentally, this was the first, last, and only time that I was actually considered cool. My younger brother and I would take turns playing classics like Super Mario Brothers, Duck Hunt, and Ghosts & Goblins.

In the 25ish years since, I’ve owned a lot of different consoles. I’ve owned all three generations of the PlayStation, a Super Nintendo, and a Wii. I will even admit that I bought a Sony Dreamcast about 2 weeks before they announced they were going to stop making games for it.

By far, my favorite games are sports related, especially football. NCAA Football has always been one of my favorites. At one point, I owned every Madden game from the first edition to 2002. I lost faith with the franchise for a few years, but I’m back on board for the latest version. I also enjoy soccer and college basketball games. I’ve even played baseball games a time or two.

I’m horrible at first-person shooters. I spend most of my time jumping around and trying to figure out why my gun is pointed straight up in the air. I like strategy games and I was a huge fan of the Warcraft/Starcraft series (although, I’ve never played World of Warcraft).

I don’t play as often as I used to anymore. I try to only play when the kids are asleep, and there’s no guarantee that I’ll have the energy when that time comes around. I will normally play a game of Madden before bed, but that’s about it. I’ve really started to question whether video games are worth it anymore. I enjoy them, and they’re a lot of fun, but they don’t really matter. When I beat someone (probably a 12 year old girl) online in a game of Madden, it doesn’t really affect anything. An hour of my life has gone by with really nothing to show for it. I’m not saying that the consoles are worthless. We use the PS3 to watch BluRays and the Wii to stream movies on NetFlix, but I’m not sure that playing video games makes much sense anymore.

I think this is a problem specifically for my generation. For our parents, the answer would probably be that they are a total waste of time. They didn’t grow up with video games, and they probably didn’t play them very often (although, we had a pinball game for the NES that my father would actually play which amazed us all). For me, I grew up with video games. They were always there. They are kind of like a security blanket against boredom.

There are a lot of arguments against video games. You could say that it’s better for kids to get outside and play with other kids. Video games don’t necessarily build social skills. Even the online games where you “meet” other people don’t necessarily encourage the correct type of interactions. There’s also the violence aspect which stirs up a heated debate.

Here’s a couple arguments for them, however. I was at a military training conference a few months ago. A lot of different people were presenting work they were doing and advances that they had made. I listened to 2 different presentations where gamers performed significantly better than non-gamers when it came to operating certain equipment. They had better eye-hand coordination and they were able to more intuitively pick up the new system. I’ve also helped to test a system for driving unmanned vehicles that has gotten rid of the keyboard/mouse controls and implemented an Xbox controller. It is amazing how much easier the system is to use than the older model. Now, these are isolated incidents, and they were military-centric topics, but I think there are definite benefits.

I also think it’s important to think outside of our comfort areas and look towards how the world is shifting. I never had any real experience with the internet until I had graduated high school, and as a result, I struggle just to keep this blog from disintegrating into ones and zeros before your very eyes. I always feel like I’m about 30 seconds away from shutting down the entire internet. 15 years from now, is that going to be good enough to compete with my peers? Is it going to more important to have a bachelor’s degree or to be able to write code?

While I don’t think it should be the biggest part of their life, I do strongly believe that it’s important to get my kids at least some exposure to electronics now. Part of that exposure includes video games. The more comfortable that they are with these technologies, the more competitive they will be in the future. They each got Leap Pads for Christmas, and you can see that they are learning things with them.

I guess I’ve come to the conclusion that video games aren’t a complete waste of time. I believe that the benefits outweigh the risks. Now, the kids aren’t going to come home from school and play until their eyes bleed. They do have other responsibilities and things that they will do, but playing video games every once in a while is fine by me. Of course, that’s just my opinion. What’s yours?

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