We were out the other night, with our daughter’s class for their ‘class dinner’. It had been a long time coming, and I – typical introvert that I am – had been dreading it.
Jammed together with a roomful of strangers with whom you have nothing in common except children at the same institution…?
Sure. That sounds like a lovely night out.
Thwarted from piking on the event by our daughter’s zeal and a hefty measure of working-parent guilt, we fronted up at the pub.
The evening was fine.
Children ran around screaming in the playground, parmas were eaten, and kids’ meals weren’t.
One moment that stayed with me, though, was when one of the fathers at the end of the evening noted that our four-year-old son was playing a game on S.’s phone.
The father said that they’d kept their daughters away from ‘those things’ so far.
He didn’t say it in an obnoxious way, and went out of his way to defuse any judgement we could have read into it.
But it did make me roll my eyes a bit (internally).
What is the virtue that’s to be had from preventing your child from playing computer games? It’s just one of a raft of things that our kids do. They don’t always only play screen games, just like they don’t always only jump on the trampoline or chase each other around the backyard.
Yes, it does involve setting limits, and prying them off the screens sometimes, but this kind of thing happens with playgrounds, bringing them home from their friends’ places or restaurants, and stopping excessive applications of tomato sauce.
If this sounds like self-serving justification, of course it is!
Did I play computer games? Did I ever.
Granted, not as young as my kids are now, but given that our first computer games involved an Atari console, things weren’t quite as evolved as they are these days.
There’s a cliche of computer games being solo pursuits, where a single sun-starved individual hangs over the keyboard for hours on end. Eating instant noodles and Cheezels. While I’ve had times where this was the case (without Cheezels, but with cheese toasties…), I’ve also racked up many hours of play with my sibs and cousins on Entombed or Space Invaders. I grew into sword and sorcery quest epics like Wizardry and Might & Magic, then Oblivion and – most recently – Torchlight. I don’t get to play in any concentrated way now. At most, it’s short stints of kiddie-devolved Angry Birds (or Bad Piggies, as is the case at the moment).
While I was growing up, I also had Chinese New Year get-togethers with the large clan where we had all-nighters and played apparently illegal dice and bowl games, or mahjong. This was when I was quite young – pre-teen, I think, and also into my early teens.
My point after all that rambling is that obsessive game-playing – with or without screens – can be unhealthy, but occasional stints and a long-standing love of them, can be a helluva lot of fun.