The last day of school was this past Wednesday.  And there was great rejoicing (yaaaay!).  Neither of us likes getting up early in the morning, so summer arriving is a welcome respite from getting up at the asscrack of dawn every day.  I’m fairly certain I suffer from something called Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder, which is the medical term for people who really do function much better when they’re able to get their eight hours of sleep when they want them rather than when society dictates when they should need them.  Given my druthers, I’d go to sleep at 2am and get up at 10am.  That’s when I sleep best, and I can be extremely productive in the late evening.

Summer being here doesn’t mean I get to sleep in for the next twelve weeks, though.  Our daughter has science and technology camps for five weeks out of the summer, so there will be getting up early to get her to camp.  I can manage 7am, though.  Anything before then is psychologically daunting.  I just really, really hate getting up in the morning, regardless of how much sleep I’ve had.

Of course, summer arriving means a whole new set of battles with the child.  I am torn between the largely-based-in-speculation medical opinion that kids shouldn’t have more than two hours of  “screen time” a day, and by the very plain evidence to the contrary with at least one set of our friends who have a brilliant son who is well-adjusted, and is allowed to play all the damn video games he wants as long as he has his homework and chores done.  Really, the kid is an honor student and doesn’t show any of the signs of being unable to concentrate or having a lack of creativity that the scaremongers say will happen to our children if they watch too much tv or play too many video games.  Which is a funny thing to try to pass over on a society that is hardwired into their devices.  And who can blame us?  Most Americans work soul-sucking jobs that don’t pay them enough to do anything more than exist.  I’d watch a fuckload of tv, too.

So I’m trying to decide how much time she should get to play games and watch television over the summer, because if I leave it up to her, she’ll never read another fucking book again for the rest of her life if it means she can play fucking Minecraft 24/7.

Have I mentioned my deep and abiding hatred of games?  All games?  Board or otherwise?  Games do nothing but bring out the worst qualities in human beings, if you ask me.  Nothing will turn an otherwise perfectly pleasant human being into a total asshole like a competition or game will.  I despise competitive games.  Even the single player games are still competitive due to the nature of how game players compare themselves to other players.  Maybe there’s some base instinct being served by all that competitiveness, but I hate it.  Competition makes human beings treat each other like shit, because while we are in the modern world intellectually, the rest of our body is stuck in instinctual and biological modes that are more suited to surviving out in the wild than they are to modern existence.  Competition was a matter of survival for most of our relative existence.  If you didn’t compete, you died.

Well the world isn’t like that any more, not where I live, anyway.  I guess I should see games the same way that the Greeks saw the Olympics, which were invented as a way to give their warriors something to do in peacetime.  They recognized that you can’t create a combative personality without giving it something to combat, whether real or imagined.  I’m just not sure how to extrapolate that reasoning to modern games.  I don’t see what’s fun or appealing about them.  I tried playing Portal, but after the fifth or sixth puzzle, I just didn’t get it.  I like solving puzzles, but not those kinds of puzzles, and I have very little tolerance for the repeat-ad-nauseum method that most games seem to employ before you can pass to the next level.  I’m sorry, I don’t want to do something a hundred times before it’s successful.  That’s not fun to me, and unless I miss my mark, games are supposed to be FUN.  Fuck, I didn’t even like playing Myst!  Booooooring.

Understand that my attitude towards games places me in diametrical opposition to the other two members of my family, who love games and would play them all goddamn day and night if they could.  I don’t understand that, at all.  Particularly the wander-around-figuring-things-out games, like Fallout.  There’s so much nothing in that game, just a lot of walking around, talking to people, picking things up and looking at them, all interspersed with the occasional spate of zombie-killing.  If it were all  zombie killing, I might be able to understand it.  But all that other crap?  WHY?!?!  WHY is that FUN???

So even though summer is starting, in a way I’m not looking forward to it because it’s going to mean probably daily battles over how long she can play games and what it is that she’s doing with her screen time, because I’ll be damned if I’m going to let her do NOTHING but play games all summer.  I do agree with the doctors who say it’s bad to do nothing but play games.  Our brains aren’t meant to do that for hours on end, nor are our bodies meant to sit in one place doing nothing for hours on end.  She’s going to read, and draw, and do other things that don’t have a fucking thing to do with screens, and after a while I’m going to stop explaining myself.  She’ll just have to suck it up.

It’s going to be a long summer.

4 thoughts on “Summertime”

  1. Two counter data points, might not at all figure in your musings, but here goes:

    One friend’s son made a compelling case for getting a gaming system. He was otherwise being a fuckup because the friends available to hangout with were drug abusing losers/criminals. Getting a console, he aruged, would mean he could hangout, online, with a better “class” of kids, and bonus, he’s at home in a visible family room (not hidden in his room) instead of out hoodluming. He’s showing clear leadership & organizing skills in organizing team play with these nicer kids he plays with online, and access to the system is a great carrot/stick leverage point for the mom. Now that he wants the game, he’s MUCH more amenable to getting chores done, etc.

    Second, and this is an odd one, but I think you’d appreciate it is different from mere passive consumption: kids at Connelly high school, which is for “at risk” kids (ie, the type of kids my friend’s son was otherwise hanging around) are in a video game development class and they are KICKING ASS at using minecraft and Gamesaldad to instantiate games they have designed, made art for, and programmed into existance, and playtested. On teams, they have to to learn to work together, and super bonus, the teacher is sneaky at steering them toward topics that have deeper value, like phsyics models of water/lava flow, or how the body works, so the kids are inadvertantly teaching themselves core science concepts “to build a better game”. And some of these otherwise-likely-to-be-lost-souls are garnering college scholarships and the attention of game companies that want interns.

    Ok, three points, my parents play Cribbage most nights, they talk and interact without the bickering mean competition that some people might have in card games — for them it is truly a passing of time, in pleasant company. And they keep their minds nimble through many, many rapid small math calculations during the course of a game, as they keep score and move their game pieces around.

    None of which is to deny that the addictive and anti-conversational aspects of some games can be a huge turnoff for growth and relating to loved ones in face to face depth of connection.


    1. Thank you for all that. I have often suspected that the anti-screen movement was largely fear-based and not necessarily rooted in hard empirical evidence. I keep hearing stories like the ones you just related about kids who find a lot of focus through video games. I think I’ll stop worrying about it so much and just focus on making sure video games aren’t the *only* thing she does.


    1. You’re right, I had forgotten about SimCity. There is zero competitiveness in SimCity, that’s one thing. The puzzles are more complicated but are relatable, which makes them easier to solve. Maybe it’s most games complete lack of basis in any kind of reality that bothers me. It’s not that I don’t understand escapism. I just don’t understand why people like that particular form of escapism, not long term anyway. As much as I liked SimCity, even it stopped being fun after a while.


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