Thursday, January 19, 2012

Are Video Games Bad For Our Kids? And Does it Matter, Because I Really Like Them.

Pat and I both have kids. There’s no getting around it. Believe me we’ve tried. And all parents eventually have to deal with their kids wanting to play video games. There is a lot of discussion out there about the potential side effects, some good, some bad, of playing video games. Mostly  bad. So should parents forbid their kids from playing video games? Or just give in and let them play while we take that time to nap or drink or watch TV or get caught up on our internet surfing or drink or play some video games? And drink.

Here at PCPPP we have decided to truly get to the bottom of this issue while involving little to no scientific research. It just gets in the way.

First off, I understand that many games today have mature themes and are surprisingly violent. I mean have you seen that Mario Kart? They have you throwing banana peels and turtle shells at other players while you are operating a motorized vehicle. Putting aside the horrifically violent image that projects, it’s also teaching improper driving etiquette.  

The violence depicted in this image makes me cringe.

But on the other hand I played a ton of video games growing up and I seemed to have turned out fine. It didn’t effect my attention span or ability to do well in school. Sure I may not remember the details of Abraham Lincoln signing the Declaration of Independence or how Hawkeye and Trapper John ended the Korean War but at the same time my math skills are spot on. For example I have an uncanny ability to remember my hotel room number most of the time. That’s what you call applied math.

Anyways, what are your thoughts Pat?

Pat:   I really may not be the right one for this query, Christian. I did, in fact, grow up playing lots and lots of video games (mostly platform games, turns out...learned that one from one of my übergeeky students recently), and did identify proudly for a time as an “arcade rat”, but I stopped a long time ago and really have not kept up with the modern trends.

For instance, Angry Birds is still pretty damn exciting for me, as is Bejeweled. I think I’ve learned enough to know that those two aren’t considered the pinnacle of current video game technology.

Further, while we have joined the 21st century and exposed our kids to Wii technology (mostly because of their grandmother who was willing to buy it for them and I was too selfishly excited to even consider whether it was a bad idea), our concern over the violence issue has led us to focus on their playing two primary games: Littlest Pet Shop, wherein you, as an annoyingly cute pretend animal avatar, run around and do annoyingly cute animaly things, and A Boy and His Blob, in which you and your pet blob walk along in a forest and go places and find things and avoid black blobs and occasionally hug.

So...not too much trauma happening in our household, and the great thing is the kids are naive and content enough to not want anything different!

By the way, did you know that there’s an entire genre of music dedicated to making complex sounds and songs out of platform game music? It’s called “Chip Music” and, while intrigued, I can think of nothing I want to avoid more. You can read about it here.

By another way...I am really impressed with your ability to apply math.

Christian: Thanks. So what I have gathered from your ramblings is that violence doesn’t have to be an issue. It looks like you have been able to find some sissy games that your kids enjoy but are low on the violent imagery. That’s good to hear.

But what about the social aspect? Some claim that playing video games can effect a kid’s social development.

I’m sure this guy turned out fine socially.

I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, playing video games was a social event. My best friend and I would play video games together for hours and hours at a time, laughing and cheering each other on. His name was Atari and we had a blast together and had a special bond that only video games could have created.

Although, to be honest I don’t remember what Atari actually looked like and my parents have some cockamamie story about how he wasn’t a real person but rather the game itself, which doesn’t make any sense, because I remember doing other things with Atari beside playing video games. Like gathering up pine cones while pretending to be chased by ghosts or pretending that we were being invaded from space by invaders or doing drugs.

I also remember that Atari had two younger twin brothers named Colecovision and Intellivision that would also play video games with us sometimes. So Atari was definitely a real person. Yes definitely real. My parents must be senile.  

Pat:  I’m right there with you buddy, as I was friends with that fellow you mentioned, Intellivision! He sounded so smart, and seemed so cosmopolitan what with that disc wheel controlly thing he had. He and I loved to spend hours playing Pitfall and other cheap knockoff Atari games.

And don’t worry about the social stunting of your children. Know why? Well, since we last talked, my daughter and I have discovered a new game, Just Dance. And you know what? I totally kick my daughter’s ass when it comes to dancing like Michael Jackson or Ke$ha or Vampire Weekend or Snap!! (<--that’s an intentional double exclamation, because the first one is part of the band’s name, and the second one is because I’m excited because I am SO good at dancing!)

Anyway, so now that I’ve been kicking her ass, her friends have been coming over to watch me dance and get sweaty and rock my butt off! She’s doing just fine. In fact, I often hear her and her friends whispering to each other as they watch me and giggling or making weird faces together. It’s like they’re bonding or something.  

Maybe you should think about FORCING your kids to play video games. With you. It teaches them to be cool and know how to lose at things.

Christian: I see. So to solve the social problem I just need to make sure I play video games with them. And make sure they never win. Got it. This is good because the one thing I like as much as winning, is not losing.

Sounds like we have determined that video games are A-OK! Sweet! I’m going to go out and buy some right now! I hope my 18 month old daughter likes Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.


  1. Hey, Paper Boy on the NES made me aware of my surroundings. Every time a toddler rolls into the street on a big wheel I know to avoid it because I'll lose points in life.

  2. I think that "A Boy and His Blob" was an original NES game too. As I remember(I'm actually not remembering per se, but have a NES simulator) it was an incredibly hard game.

    Christian- you have to make your kids play the 3 Mario (or 4 if you're a nerd) games from the original NES. Them not learning that game would be a true failure in parenting.

    1. Megiweg- sorry, this is an English language blog. I don;t understand what you're speaking.

  3. I can't speak to the issue of kids and/or video games because I'm good with neither. The first 5 minutes of Pac Man were really exciting to me, but I got bored when I didn't win immediately. I don't have kids for that same reason.

    And I'm bad at applied math, so basically, I got nothing.

  4. Oh, how I love this blog. You two are hilarious. I am so with you on that Mario Kart being waaaay too violent! I loved that you brought up Intelllivision. My friend & I used to always play Burger Time!!

  5. Okay, so I'm here to bring some dissension to the ranks. I think video games are stupid because I A) have a uterus and apparently will never possess the uncanny ability to beat every game EVER super fast and awesomely and B) I recently was essentially dumped for the newest Star Wars game. Yes you read correctly, a boy, or man rather, decided that he would rather play A VIDEO GAME than see me naked. And I'm not even hideous. There you have it. Concrete proof that people should not play video games.

  6. @Carrie - Is there nothing video games don't teach us?

    @Megiweg - I'm sorry but the only Marios that exist in my book are the original arcade version, Mario Kart, and Mario 64. Oh, and I am not a nerd.

    @Tumbleweed - You are right. There is no winning with kids.

    @Kelly - Ah Burger Time! Another lost gem. My fav Intellivision game was Snafu. Some may have said it was a rather pedestrian game but I appreciated its subtly and refinement.

    @Anna - I'm sorry but all I could gleam from your comment was Star Wars, Video Games, and naked. I don't know what you were trying to say but its the best comment ever.