May 22, 2008

I play 2 video games.

Twice recently, I've had a house guest who has brought a video game system, attached it to my television, and insisted that I play it.

1. My first guest brought a Wii, and the game I was induced to play was: Bowling. I felt a little silly acting out the motions of bowling while holding a remote control and being represented on screen by a character that looked like one of those old Fisher-Price LittlePeople, but it was kind of fun. I don't remember my score. Better than 37, I'm sure. Efforts to induce me to play another game or to bowl again failed. I did watch a lot of playing and contemplated whether this was a reasonably healthful, decently athletic activity for a young child. Good enough, I thought. But as long as you're up and moving around, why not move around in this real world we have here instead of manipulating your guy in an impoverished play world? The more realistic a video game is, the more I'm likely to think about how much more realistic real life is. If you're making your guy bowl, I'm going to think: Hey, we should go bowling — actual bowling. If you're making multi-shaped blocks drop onto a pile, I'm just thinking rotate it! or whatever.

2. My second guest brought an Xbox, and the game was BioShock. So there I was floating in the ocean amidst the burning wreckage of a plane crash. Look around, I'm told. That is, wiggle my right thumb. Go places. That is, wiggle my left thumb. I'm told the crucial skill is to move around and look around at the same time, in some sort of fluid 3-D fashion. I realize I am never going to learn this skill. I'm either going to be looking around or moving, not both. But I have the game on "easy" mode, so I'm able to survive this and every other ineptitude. Okay, so I find the stairway out of the water and bumble my way into an elevator to the bottom of the ocean past various signs and cityscapes that make me say, "Hey, this game seems to be based on Ayn Rand." I'm told this is a correct observation. So I'm all: "You bought a right-wing game." Yes. But then I'm mostly moving around in lots of dark hallways, rooms, and staircases where various characters come at me and I slug them with a big monkey wrench I picked up somewhere. No matter how vicious my attackers are, I always kill them, because I'm playing in "easy" mode. I find I like to hit them about 10 more times after I've killed them, spattering blood about and feeling the thud in the vibrating controller in my hands. "Why do I like doing that? Does that mean I'm a bad person?" After a while, I say that's enough for me, get up, and feel queasy and dizzy. I go get a glass of orange juice, take a sip, then sit down at the table and put my head down. "That game made me sick."

68 comments:

George said...

"Pong."

Gentle, slow, non-violent. Fun.

"Avoid Missing Ball For High Score!!!"

Bob said...

*laughs*

I live an alternate life in Middle-Earth via Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar, where I have a collection of heroes of various races: Men, Elves, Hobbits, and Dwarves. Middle-Earth in the game is lovely, very realistic, and I can explore and interact with other people: talk to them, team up with them, etc. For someone stuck at home when not at work (I care for an invalid mother), it's a wonderful way to escape. Lately I've been learning to fish. *grins*

Topcat said...

I wouldn't say BioShock is right-wing. I saw it more as "when Galt's Gulch goes wrong". I got nauseated too, to the point I had to put it away, but I was recovering from major surgery at that time.

MadisonMan said...

You are standing in an open field west of a white house...

Best Game Ever.

Pogo said...

I love this post.

I never understood video games at all. I like bowling. Wii bowling? Meh.

bwebster said...

I find I like to hit them about 10 more times after I've killed them, spattering blood about and feeling the thud in the vibrating controller in my hands.

OK, that brightened up my entire morning. :-) Ah, such an image.... ..bruce..

rhhardin said...

I'm baffled by the attraction of video games, with the exception of flight simulators.

What great kidney savers they are. And you can pause the game and go get something to eat in the kitchen.

No need to freeze your kidneys, suffer frozen fingers, put up with turbulence or bad FBO vending machine food.

Hoosier Daddy said...

World of Warcraft. Best one ever although I did play Diablo until my fingers bled.

Think I'll have to check out Age of Conan.

Telecomedian said...

@Pogo - Both my mom and uncle are in their sixties, and they both play video games. Unk's a huge fan of BioShock, whereas Mom's a sucker for pretty much anything Mario. They both say it's a good opportunity to work on hand-eye coordination, and for my uncle, a chance to have some conversations with his son and his friends. Mom invites her new neighbors in Arizona over to play on the Wii, and it's been a good way for her to make new friends in her new state. There is a social aspect to gaming that comes in handy - and, frankly, watching my mom try to Wii Box is one of the funniest, most spastic sights I've seen. I thought she was going to knock herself out!

the Rising Jurist said...

BioShock is excellent. Good story, great atmosphere (in that zombie-deco sort of way). You didn't even play through to the creepy parts!

John K. said...

I play World of Warcraft. I have a Night Elf Druid named "Elfbearpig." It used to be a great way to socialize with my brother, but now he's playing Age of Conan.

Before that I used to enjoy playing the free downloadable games Jardinains (a breakout-type game involving garden gnomes) and N (a ninja game with spartan graphics but unique and varied game-play). And I can't forget FullTilt Poker, which has netted me about $20k. That's always a plus in a video game.

Lawgiver said...

Another vote for World of Warcraft. As a Night Elf Priest, the most fun I have is using my mind control technique to make opposing video addicts commit suicide by jumping off of virtual cliffs. It really pisses them off.

For all you other addicts out there, this is hilarious.

EnigmatiCore said...

BioShock isn't a right-wing game, it is a left-wing one. While the underwater society of the backstory was modeled after a Randian idea, the whole story involves that it was a very bad thing that led to death, destruction, and misery.

peter hoh said...

At a Christmas party, several people insisted that I try a game on the Wii. I tried. Supposedly, I did well. Whatever.

I don't understand the appeal.

Nintendo is the same. I've got a kid who loves gaming, and I've never been able to connect with it. Well, there was one racing game on his Gameboy that made sense -- it was a game he didn't like.

Give me ping pong over pong any day. And I find jigsaw puzzles more satisfying than Tetris.

Chess, there's a game. Computer chess was okay, but it's nothing like playing a person. Finding people at my level with whom to play was the problem. Not that I'm too good. Rather, most club players were much better than me, and I never found a club for sub-prime players.

Until now. Live chess on the internet. My rating goes up and down within a 100 point range. I can play with players around my ability level whenever I want. It's addictive.

Blue Moon said...

No matter how many times I play Halo 3 or GTA IV on my xbox360, I am still drawn to the greatness of NHL 08. Nothing sweeter than Sidney Crosby scoring a powerplay goal on a one timer from the point and hearing the foghorn go off.

John K. said...

I was also a chess addict back in high school, and went to the local city chess club and played in USCF tournaments. I thought I was going to be the next Bobby Fischer, but as it turns out I reached my plateau at only a measley USCF rating of around 1600. Although I did turn out to be crazy and hate the government, so I am the next Bobby Fischer so far as that goes.

Theo Boehm said...

I'm about Althouse's age, but I have two sons, 11 and 13--prime years to begin video game addiction and to expose old dad and mom to what they otherwise would pay no attention to.

I won't get all smug on you, but we made it plain from the beginning that we would never buy them a game system. If they wanted one, the would have to get it themselves. Enterprising as they are, they saved their money, did extra jobs, engaged in sharp trading with other kids, etc., and bought a Wii.

It's now on our houshold wi-fi, and they can play games such as Mario Cart with kids all over the world via the internet. I'm fairly amazed by all this, but not so amazed to not limit their playing time to non-school nights and 6 hours max on weekends.

Bowling is in the Wii Sports games that come bundled with the system. Bowling is the most realistic of the lot, and the one I've played a bit. I am much better at digital bowling than any other kind, just as I'm a much better virtual F-16 pilot or secret agent that I would be in real life. Not that I have spent too much time perfecting those skills in front of a glowing screen, nor should anyone else if they value such things as an income, a relationship with a spouse, their health, etc.

It's nice that some of these games require movement and simulate real-life activities. Some, such as DDR, can be a real work out for the kids, and also for parents' finances to afford the needed gizmos. No way our kids could buy that stuff on their own.

But in the end these games are sports porn--enough to get you vaguely interested, but nothing like the real thing.

Next up for my 13-year-old: real porn. Next up for dad: wailing and gnashing of teeth.

BTW, the oldest is a very good chess player, and we place no restrictions on his online chess, which is holding his attention less and less. Grump.

Tibore said...

Well, be happy no one loaded some really, really kinetic first person shooter onto your PC like Unreal Tournament 3 or (from what I understand; have yet to play it) Far Cry. You might have walked away with one whopper of a headache, not to mention the fact that being a "meat shield" in a game is no fun. Now granted, BioShock's an FPS too, but it's got some role playing elements in it, whereas games like the "UT's" (Unreal Tournament 2004 and UT3) are just straightforward shoot-em-ups, especially in deathmatch-type games. You see someth--- BANG!!! Oh, look, there's someone--- BANG!!! Hey look, a bunch of people (insert continuous explosive noise here).

Yes, I am talking about multiplayer, online mode. I bore quickly of the "missions" aspects of these games. Last one that caught my attention was Jedi Academy, and I wasn't all that much into it. Give me impressionistic, ADD-addled, supersaturated colored, high explosive multiplayer mode any day of the week.

Hoosier Daddy said...

the most fun I have is using my mind control technique to make opposing video addicts commit suicide by jumping off of virtual cliffs. It really pisses them off.

No kidding. I remember the first time that happened to me in a BG and I couldn't figure out wtf was happening.

Although as a rogue, I have mastered the ultimate stunlock and against squishes like priests and mages, it is most satisfying.

George said...

Parents of teenage boys, beware...World of Warcraft...more addictive than anything on the planet.

Disney's Club Penguin and Webkinz nearly as much so.

Lot of Chinese gold farming going on. These are companies in China whose employers do nothing but play games on-line, win points, and sell them on the internet to Americans who don't have the time to win the points themselves.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I've played video games since Pong and text based games like Zork (you are standing in an open field in front of a white house) for years. And currently have several lvl 70 World of Warcraft characters. (Hoosier, my Tauren hunter can kick your butt in AV)

I'm a game addict but keep it under control by scheduling my gaming just like I schedule my job. :-) sort of.

The difference between game types is vast and the difference between the types of players who play them is also vast. You can't generalize from one game to another. BioShock, is a first person shooter game I really dislike this type of game. Myst which is a single player puzzle game which I really liked and I bet Ann would enjoy too. Role playing like Baldur's Gate or online games such as World of Warcraft, Ultima, Lord of the Rings and now Age of Conan (which I am eagerly anticipating playing). All attract different types of personalities.

Spore is coming out in the fall....and I can't wait.

There is a lot of strategy needed to be able to play these games. WoW also requires math skills and complex decision trees.

There have also been serious studies of MMORPGs in terms of economics and social interactions.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

the most fun I have is using my mind control technique to make opposing video addicts commit suicide by jumping off of virtual cliffs. It really pisses them off.

Misdirection (hunter skill where you can shoot and instead of the bad guy attacking you, you can direct the rage so they will attack another player in your group) can be pretty interesting. :D Especially if you are in a picked up group of people (PUG) and one of them is a complete idiot. REVENGE!!

Lawgiver said...

Parents of teenage boys, beware...World of Warcraft...more addictive than anything on the planet.

When I first started playing I thought that everyone was a teenage boy. Not true. Lots of women play and are very good.

Joshua said...

For all you other addicts out there, this is hilarious.

Indeed, although the jokes are too "in" for it to be funny to non-WoW players. For example, level 40 is, in-game, when you get a horse or equivalent to ride around on, often nicknamed "mount".

A very entertaining game for me is the Hitman series. When you get tired of sneaking around and stealth-killing your targets, you can always go into a level with the M4 and blow everything away.

Ann Althouse said...

"Myst which is a single player puzzle game which I really liked and I bet Ann would enjoy too."

Got that back when it came out for one of my sons. I liked looking at the imagery but was never interested in the puzzles. Never got absorbed or fascinated in that sort of thing.

Hoosier Daddy said...

And currently have several lvl 70 World of Warcraft characters. (Hoosier, my Tauren hunter can kick your butt in AV)

Oh its on now! ;-)

Well hunters can own most classes save warriors although if I get the drop on you, its nighty night.

I remember the day when warriors were probably the most useless class at least in terms of pvp whereas now its like chopping down an oak tree with a steak knife.

And warlocks are OP.

:-)

vbspurs said...

1. My first guest brought a Wii, and the game I was induced to play was: Bowling. I felt a little silly acting out the motions of bowling

Nice!

And you have something in common with a certain 81 year old woman in England:

Elizabeth II Loves Wii Bowling

The report says that the system was a Christmas gift from Kate Middleton to her boyfriend Prince William, but after watching her grandson play, the monarch "begged to join in."

"She played a simple ten-pin bowling game and by all accounts was a natural," the paper states, presumably referring to (pack-in title) Wii Bowling.


Really, it's even money whose face and body I would adore to see in action playing this game: Ann or the Queen.

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Theo Boehm said...

As you can tell from my comment above, I'm not a gamer or much of a connoisseur, so I forgot to mention my kids' other big obsession, Runescape.  This was our introduction to online games, and my oldest, particularly, has gotten heavily into it.  It has been so big for him that he started a blog about it.  At its peak, he was getting nearly 2000 hits a week.  Not bad for a 13-year-old, particularly considering old dad only got 6 or 7 on his former, deadly dull blog.  This proves that if you blog, do it about something people care about, which is usually not your dreary ideas.

Runescape strikes me as a more wholesome pastime than WoW.  It's carefully monitored, and the kids have learned some skills that have real-world relevance, such as how to save and manage your money.  I realize that many games and online environments have virtual money, but I particularly like the way Runescape does it.  It also seems kinder, gentler, and generally less bizarre than WoW or other similar games, online and otherwise.  But, as I say, I am no connoisseur, so I may be missing the subtle strategy and beauty behind WoW.

Now that they've gotten the Wii, and can play a different kind of multiplayer online game, my oldest has lost interest in Runescape.  You can see he hasn't posted to his blog in some time.  Between school, violin lessons, travel scoccer, piano lessons, guitar lessons in the fall, and nine other things I'm forgetting just now, he's beginning to realize that becomming a Runescape maven may not be the best way to live.

So now he and his brother are off to race Mario Karts online against Japanese kids and their friends in Illinois. Runescape is beginning to fade into another of those discarded childhood interests whose memory will tug at our hearts long after the computer is gone and the boys have become men.

vbspurs said...

Now that they've gotten the Wii, and can play a different kind of multiplayer online game, my oldest has lost interest in Runescape. You can see he hasn't posted to his blog in some time. Between school, violin lessons, travel scoccer, piano lessons, guitar lessons in the fall, and nine other things I'm forgetting just now, he's beginning to realize that becomming a Runescape maven may not be the best way to live.

What a beautiful post, and a touching paragraph, Theo.

So now you know how your dad felt, when he saw you grow up and be a man.

Cheers,
Victoria

Dust Bunny Queen said...

"And warlocks are OP."

Yes we are :-) (70 undead warlock)

Theo. There is more to WoW than just beating Hoosier's butt in a battleground. :-) My Hunter character is a miner/engineer and there is a lot of economics, trade skills and mathmatics involved in the crafting side of the game. Capitalism and understanding supply and demand is cruical in making $$ in the Auction House. Bartering for goods is also skills that people need.

It isn't all beat'em up stuff.

Christy said...

When he was in 2nd grade my nephew would join me in an online game of chess after school. 3rd grade his mom allowed him into World of Warcraft and I haven't seen him since.

I loved Zork and Zelda, but these days I'm unwilling to invest the time needed for the MMORPGs.

Pogo said...

I am actually a bit jealous of those who seem to love the games. Not unlike rueing my lack of love for baseball stats, I just don't grok this stuff.

vbspurs said...

World of Warcraft

It seems everyone on Althouse knows what this game is. I have no idea.

Like Pogo, I feel left out of it. Unlike Pogo, I will now play with my Playstation2 which my boyfriend gave me for Christmas. I can see no sex in my future too.

(Whew, is the blog dull today or what! Nothing really to sink one's teeth into)

Cheers,
Victoria

Anthony said...

I agree with whoever said that simple comparisons between games is kind of nonsensical. A lot of people don't understand how anyone could enjoy moving little pieces of plastic around on a checkerboard for hours. Or how anyone can sit in a theater and watch a movie about people talking for two hours and enjoy it.

I've never really gotten addicted to video games, at least no more than I was ever addicted to any other activity for some period of time (chess -- including 3D! -- , backgammon, yo-yos, biking, etc.). I spent time with Leather Goddesses of Phobos (don't ask), Spear of Destiny, and the Tomb Raider series (archaeologist here). They each have their own diversionary qualities. You can thoroughly enjoy exploring places that simple don't exist in the real world, solving puzzles, shooting things, and even bowling without wearing someone else's shoes and making your arm sore the next morning. Plus, a lot of the Wii games are being used as physical therapy and activity for older folks and for those with limited movement. I think it's great.

Pogo said...

I can see no sex in my future too.

That happens without PS2, also. Or so I am told.

rcocean said...

I used to play "Silent Hunter" during downtime at work. Sunk many a Japanese Maru. Now I just blog.

blake said...

Zork? You guys are pikers.

At End Of Road

You are standing at the end of a road before a small brick building. Around you is a forest. A small stream flows out of the building and down a gully.

plugh!

Talk about childhood memories.

I was surprised on reading this that Althouse actually attempted to play Bioshock, as her reaction to computer animation is fairly visceral. That it exhausted or otherwise afflicted her does not surprise me in the least.

I know people who can't even glance at an FPS without getting nauseous. So, points there.

Now, as for all you "Why not do the real thing?" enthusiasts, there are many answers.

For one thing, Wii bowling is way easier than real bowling, especially for the young. For another thing, it takes about 10 minutes to play a game. You don't have to pack everyone up, drive to the lanes, rent shoes, find the right kind of ball, and give up after seven frames because you're bowling a 37. For $50.

There are, of course, very few orcs around to slay, and while there are multimillion dollar corporations, the odds of you getting a chance to helm one, assuming you even wanted to make that sort of commitment, are pretty small.

The fact that games are different than real life is a feature, not a bug.

Hoosier Daddy said...

There is more to WoW than just beating Hoosier's butt in a battleground. :-) My Hunter character is a miner/engineer and there is a lot of economics, trade skills and mathmatics involved in the crafting side of the game. Capitalism and understanding supply and demand is cruical in making $$ in the Auction House. Bartering for goods is also skills that people need.

Excellent point DBQ. That is one of the huge draws to that game because it has a depth that no other game really had although that's changing. Economics in this game is huge and probably the most important aspect you have to get used to in order to progress. Actually, I think WoW has probably created more capitalists than any course could ever do. You learn real fast what a profit margin is and why you want one as big as possible. You learn all about working your butt off and then selling a ton of stuff for a profit. Oh yes and the auction house teaches all about supply and demand. I always love it when you see someone come and dump a ton of [insert commodity] in the auction house and sellers start whining because their selling prices just went down the toilet.

I will now play with my Playstation2 which my boyfriend gave me for Christmas. I can see no sex in my future too.

Well if you're like any other woman, that was inevitable anyway which is why I play WoW.

blake said...

Lots of Infocom fans here, that's cool. I'd be surprised at any other political blog, I think (except maybe Ace of Spades).

The Wii is the first console I've had since the Channel F, or more accurately, since the Apple ][ let me program my own games.

If you think bowling is silly, pick up a copy of Warioware: Smooth Moves. It's designed around goofy movements--pumping up balloons, picking your virtual nose, etc.--and in multiplayer, you have to pass the baton around. It's goofy fun.

The new Wii Fit is interesting, too. But I think, like the Wii implrementation of DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) and a lot of Wii stuff, it's not well done.

The kinetic aspect of the Wii makes it interesting to me in ways console games aren't usually. (Though, for whatever reason, I've been computer gaming since the Apple ][ days. I guess there was no "Zork" for the Atari. Heh.)

The challenge, not well met yet, is how to use this kinetic aspect effectively.

Revenant said...

Spore is coming out in the fall....and I can't wait.

Yeah, that looks like it is going to be really interesting. The guy has a good track record with games, too.

I'm amused that so many other Althousians are thinking of playing Conan too.

John Lynch said...

Wow. That was a world collision. BioShock on a political blog instead of a game forum.

BioShock is actually a Randian dystopia. It's not really right wing.

Heh. Zork.

Pogo said...

"a Randian dystopia"

Redundant?

Balfegor said...

Got that back when it came out for one of my sons. I liked looking at the imagery but was never interested in the puzzles. Never got absorbed or fascinated in that sort of thing.

I like the pictures and often the animation on videogames -- puzzle games like Myst, and violent games like Gears of War -- but I've never really got into playing them. I did play through Myst, though. I sometimes wish I did play them, because the videos are so amazing nowadays, and getting better every year, but the time commitment involved is pretty daunting.

Re: MadisonMan:

"You are standing in an open field west of a white house..."

Best Game Ever.


When you excerpt it like that, it sounds almost novelistic. But then you're eaten by a grue, and it all kind of falls apart.

PatCA said...

The last game I played was Pac Man. I lost to a 10-year-old kid. Give me a good book or an old movie any day!

Dust Bunny Queen said...

You know you're a video game addict, and an old one at that when you see this

And your first thought is THIS

vbspurs said...

The last game I played was Pac Man. I lost to a 10-year-old kid. Give me a good book or an old movie any day!

And The Google?? And the Internets??

Come on, you know you play Minesweeper or Pinball on your computer sometimes. ;)

Cheers,
Victoria

Pogo said...

you know you play Minesweeper or Pinball

Nope. Not one game in years. Tried Wii bowling with Dear Child #3, but hit myself in the head with the white thingy, and then fell down over the footstool like Dick Van Dyke. True.

Twyla Tharp I ain't.

vbspurs said...

Twyla Tharp I ain't.

Wow, of all the dancers you could've chosen.

BTW, I'm also very clumsy. Remember that Wii site which had gory pics of Wii-inflicted wounds?

Well, I almost took out my dog's eye. Not pretty.

Revenant said...

DBQ,

Hah! Yep, Frogger was the first thing I thought of too.

blake said...

Nope. Not one game in years. Tried Wii bowling with Dear Child #3, but hit myself in the head with the white thingy, and then fell down over the footstool like Dick Van Dyke. True.

That. Is. Awesome.

You see! You see! Video games ARE dangerous!

Trooper York said...

I enjoy old school pc games like Age of Empires and Empire Earth where I can build up my civilization until I can drop atom bombs on the other team. (I always pick the French as the other team)

They also have cool historical campaigns too.

blake said...

My favorite of the RTS ilk is an oldie called Seven Kingdoms, but it didn't let you get to the atom bomb phase.

I had some fun playing EE, too.

Probably burnt the most time on Civ, tho'.

Pogo said...

of all the dancers you could've chosen.

I assume she could at least walk without falling down, a skill that sometimes eludes me.

vbspurs said...

Hehe, Pogo. No I meant that this is the pose she's most famous for.

And I winced for you as a male. ;)

If Maria Tallchief herself were to give me ballet lessons, I don't think she could make me any less clumsy.

PatCA said...

I do google quite well, and often. Minesweeper never could get the hang of. I do enjoy Sudoku online occasionally but that's about it. I'm just not very mechanical!

Pogo said...

this is the pose she's most famous for.

How weird; that's approximately the position I was in just before hitting the ground.

Daryl said...

But as long as you're up and moving around, why not move around in this real world we have here instead of manipulating your guy in an impoverished play world?

To answer your question: try playing "bioshock" in the real world.

You won't last very long trying to smack people to death with a heavy wrench.

Daryl said...

Also, the best way to play 3D games is with a mouse and keyboard. The paddle controllers are for little kids.

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Theo Boehm said...

Victoria:  Thank you for the nice words about my comment upthread.

I'm afraid my own childhood was fairly hellish, and that my father was well along to drinking himself to death by the time I was the age my oldest is now.  He never really saw me grown up.  I vowed that I would never subject a child of mine to anything like what I went through.  My main goal in life as a result has been to create as happy an atmosphere as possible for my boys  growing up.  That doesn't mean a lenient or unfocused one, but the kind of life where they can realize their best as human beings. I keep them on a fairly short leash about potentially disruptive things such as digital games, but, as you can see from my son's blog, I let them explore, within reason, anything they're interested in.

Dust Bunny Queen:  You and Hoosier Daddy make very good points about learning personal economics from games such as WoW.  Runescape is quite similar to WoW in this way among others, and I credit my boys' ability to save for and buy their own Wii to the skills they learned from it.  Thay have an astonishing ability to make real money, far in advance of anything I did at their age, that I think is due to all that sharp dealing in virtual dark age swag.

As I mentioned, I preferred the look and feel of Runescape over WoW, mostly because Runescape felt like a more jolly and funky place, but they are otherwise quite similar, and, from what I've seen, actually do teach some very real life skills.  Anyone playing them can learn a lot, as long as, with anything, it's kept in perspective.

vbspurs said...

It occured to me, Theo, after pressing send that I had a chance of having made a big error about your dad. Sadly, that is the case.

I don't buy this idea that fatherless men grow up to be bad dads, in part, because I've seen so many men like you who made it without their father's guidance. Even more importantly, they went on to be the best fathers themselves.

Best doesn't mean perfect. My own father is distant, but I never doubted his love and care for me because he showed it to me in his concern for my welfare.

So as sure as I am sitting here, I know your kid realises that now, or perhaps given the self-involved nature of youth, later.

But he will. :)

Cheers,
Victoria

Hoosier Daddy said...

I enjoy old school pc games like Age of Empires

Troop, then you need to check out the Medieval Total War series. Granted its all set in medieval era, Hence the name but very much along on the lines of Age of Empires but more complex in terms of economics and nation building. They also have Total War Rome which is my personal favorite being a lover of Roman history.

Theo Boehm said...

Victoria: Not to belabor this, but it's been my experience that a lot of guys who had bad childhoods have made similar resolutions to do better by their children. Perhaps it's a matter of social class, with the patterns of abuse skewing lower, because everyone I've met with a similar story has been middle class and have had the benefit of education and some wider experience of life. I'm sure there is sociological research about this, but, frankly, it's too painful a subject for me to be terribly curious.

I was fortunate in that my own father was basically a good guy, but he had a horrible problem. I have great memories of him until he began to fall apart, starting when I was about 8. He was out of my life by the time I was 12, so I basically raised myself through those...um..."challenging" years of adolescence. My mother was usually on one end or the other of her bipolar mood swings. With TWO bad parents, it was something of a perfect storm of a childhood.

Fortunately, I was obsessed with music, and spent my free time practicing the clarinet and piano, which ultimately led to my career. Thank God I did not fall into traps such as the games we're discussing, which can be a total waste for directionless kids such as I might have been. Another piece of luck was that these games didn't yet exist.

Personally, I find the proliferation of these games disturbing, because of the obvious potential to waste adolescents' lives. A kid only has so many of those wonder years. For my part, I try to keep the boys away from illusions of any kind that will diminish their future.

I just wish there wasn't so much money to be made in making that all the harder.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Theo: you are correct about keeping gaming in balance and proportion. Some people do tend to get obsessive about playing and neglect real life. It CAN suck in young people who have less direction and interaction from involved parents and it can be a danger. I recognize that I have this tendency myself, so when I play games, I set a schedule and adhere to it. Real life and my husband comes first.

Some of the people in my on-line guild consist of families and spouses that play together. One such group is a father, mother and their two college age children who enjoy not just playing the game but the chatting and joking around that accompanies the gaming. (In addition to just the game, there is a lot of social interaction by typing/conversing in real time during the game) He says its a great way to keep in touch with his kids and have fun at the same time. Some people have met in the "virtual" gaming world and later met in real life and have formed relationships similar to matchmakers.com etc. So, while gaming can be bad, it can also be good when controlled and in balance.

Sorry to hear about your difficult childhood. I can relate as my first husband was a manic/depressive alcoholic who got worse and worse over time. It was very difficult to create a calm environment for my daughter. Until we separated and divorced, life was sheer chaos.

Trooper York said...

The Age of Empires spin off based on the American Revolution is pretty cool too! It has minutemen and the British and Indian allies and all kind of cool stuff. I just don't get into the Lord of the Rings stuff too much. I much prefer the Last of the Mohicans. Especially when I can set it up to destroy whole villages. (I lost a bundle at the Mohegan Sun last year so I want to wipe them out before they can set up a casino).

Theo Boehm said...

Dust Bunny Queen:  Thanks, and sorry to hear about your ex.  You know, Sir Archy on these threads makes sometimes amusing references to "Lunaticks," but anyone who has been around the real thing knows it's not a Hogarthian satire.

But back on the topic:  I'm just learning about the positive social aspects of online gaming, along the lines of what you say.

Although we're Catholics, we became quite friendly with a new Lutheran minister and his family when they moved to town a few years ago. They have triplets the same age as our youngest, and all our kids became fast friends.  They are wonderful people, and the kids all enjoyed each other, not to mention the large central-casting dog that belonged to the triplets.  Interestingly enough, dad, the minister, is something of a gamer and, like you, plays only as much as time and his responsibilities allow.

(I'm wondering if Protestant clergy can be gamers, are there any Catholic priests who admit to it?)

Anyway, they were called to a new church in the Midwest, the natural habitat of Lutherans (they're a bit unusual here in Massachusetts), and everyone was sad to see them go.  But now that we're all set up with FiOS internet, the kids can play MarioKart on their Wii with their old friends halfway across the country.  They can chat and play together, and, although they've just started, it seems like it's a great way for them to stay in touch.   Our youngest is going to visit for a week this summer, so he'll be able to play and chat with his brother 1100 miles away.

Just not too much.

blake said...

Thank God I did not fall into traps such as the games we're discussing, which can be a total waste for directionless kids such as I might have been.

I'm sure it happens, but gaming can also be a good focus.

Even in a worst case scenario, you're often just talking about wasting a childhood playing games versus wasting a childhood watching TV. In my view, the interactivity of games is way better than the passivity TV watching.

These days, the social aspect means it's not all that much different, necessarily, from chatting online or, yes, even posting on Althouse....