Two items in the news recently have caught my eye, both about the addictive qualities of video games. There was the one young fellow who collapsed and went into convulsions after playing a 24-hour World of Warcraft marathon, and more recently, an unresponsive boy of 13 was rushed to the hospital by his worried father. After some examination of the boy, doctors told the father that his son had “Playstation Addiction”.
Yet just a few moments ago, I was informed by The Boy that the Playstation was boring, because there were no video games to play. Of course, this statement can be likened to the oft-heard cry of children, who standing in front of a refrigerator packed to overflowing, moan that “there's no food in this house”. What it really means is “there's nothing here that I want”. Nothing new, nothing exciting, nothing expensive, nothing to play, nothing to eat...
I suppose I should be pleased that The Boy is not suffering Playstation Addiction. However, it is clear that he would like to, if only we would supply him a new game that is sufficiently entrancing. The good news of course, is that there isn't one. He's a boy of 8, and his attention span is about as long as his pinky finger. New is good, new is exciting. He's anxious to conquer a game, and enjoys the rush and fame of having scored well, but he's also easily discouraged by a game that is too complicated or difficult.
I should be pleased when he does get hooked on a game that costs good money, and when he plays it long enough to justify its purchase price. But the lack of days spent running pell mell outdoors and practicing trick riding on his scooter is starting to show in a certain hint of pudginess.
I should be pleased that he's not hooked on video games to the point of seizures and collapse, but there might be a certain peacefulness about a boy playing a game intensely enough that he doesn't want a peanut butter sandwich or have time to make out his birthday party list or plan the number of new toys that Santa ought to bring with him that the contents of my wallet cannot cover.
I think that video games are like every other activity and pleasure, from entertainment to eating to exercise. All can be taken to extremes, which can turn out to be a very dangerous situation. But often, in moderation, all these activities can yield benefits. If the children slept with the game controllers in hand (I swear, The Boy did that only once) or refused to eat or go to school, refused the company of friends or the lure of Disney television, then I would worry a lot more than I do.
I really wouldn't mind though, if he got addicted for an hour or two once a day so I could get a nap.