A couple of years ago, I got the family a Wii for Christmas. My son had been bugging me about one – all of his friends had it! – and truth be told, I felt like I was missing out as well. Many of my dad-friends had a Wii, or an Xbox, and they seemed to enjoy playing video games with their kids – along with having a toy for themselves. When it comes to redirecting anger over that annoying boss or cube-mate, it seems that Halo and Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare are very therapeutic. So I got the Wii, figuring it was the most family-friendly console out there. And like all parents, I justified the purchase: it’ll be great for rainy days, or those times when I needed to do some work and keep him occupied, the motion-controllers will at least keep him up and out of his seat, and it’ll be something we can do together.
Two years and a couple dozen games later, the thing sits there, collecting dust.
I shouldn’t complain. I have friends whose kids spend hours on video games. Lucas is an outdoor kid – he wants to skateboard, toss the rugby ball around, and now (thanks to Santa) ride his bike up and and down the street. He saves his game playing time for those rare occasions when he’s got no energy to play outside, or early on Saturday and Sunday mornings when I’m writing and everyone else is asleep. These days, he’s much more likely to play an app on the retired iPhone we gave him, or bust out his handheld Nintendo DS – and even then, his preferred video game time is during long car rides. I suspect that if I took all of his video games away, he’d be upset for a day, then he’d move on.
This bothers me.
I’m not sure I even know why. Perhaps it’s because I’m not worried about him becoming a couch potato; he’s active almost to a fault, and – yes, every dad says this – possibly even gifted when it comes to athleticism. (Example: the bike we got him? It was his first without training wheels. He was riding it on his own without help within a day.) And he’s a fearless athlete – I coach his rugby team, which is still tag-only at his age; every week he begs me to let him practice with the big kids, who play tackle. He’s a voracious reader – he’s currently working his way through three young adult novels, and last night he started reading Tolkien’s The Hobbit, a book I didn’t attempt until the 5th grade. All things considered, he’s doing pretty well for a second grader. It occurs to me that most of his interests have little to do with me; growing up also means growing away, and he’s well on his way to becoming his own person. Perhaps blasting aliens on the TV screen could make for some excellent father-son bonding.
I’ve done quite a few video game reviews for other websites, so much so that recently a PR firm contacted me, offering to send me the latest version of one of the other two consoles. Of course I said yes; when I told the kid, he was excited as well. He rattled off a list of the games his friends were into – I was a bit surprised to learn that many of these kids, second graders all, were playing games that were rated T or even M. But hey, that’s their parents’ problem, not mine. Of course I countered with “well, we’ll play games that are for kids your age”, which was a disappointment. But a quick search of game titles revealed that there is in fact a rugby video game for the console. Score.
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