About every other week I read something that suggests that video games are a bad, bad thing. That too much exposure to them will rot childish brains. Parents and the people that like to tell parents what they should be doing seem to consider video games the crack cocaine of recreational entertainment. As far as I am concerned they are all like Henny Penny running around like doofuses proclaiming the sky is falling when what is really going on is they are clueless about gaming.
I once had someone suggest to me that it was okay for me to play video games because they weren't around until I was a literate adult. I had to point out to her that the Magnavox Odyssey came out in 1972. Atari, Coleco and others were also part of the first generation of game consoles. There were at least 5 different ones made and sold from '72 to '77. The second generation gave us more and that lasted from '77 to '82.
We are in the 7th generation now and anyone born after 1954 was not old enough to vote when it all started. They may not have played them but they could have.
Me, I played them. When arcades happened I spent all my pocket money in them. There weren't too many girls back then that hung out in arcades but I didn't care. I was in love with video games. I've never lost that love, either.
Strangely, my brains have yet to run out of my ears. I managed to obtain a degree, have many children, raise some of them to adulthood, buy a house, read about 5 books a week, make a decent living...and still play video games.
When I was a child growing up in a religious household the adults in my life felt the same way about television that people seem to feel about video games now. Better not to watch it at all but if you must then only watch carefully reviewed shows in small doses. The very box that housed the electronics was given an evil pall in their minds. As a result I did not grow up with a television. When I could finally get one of my own I was a glutton with it for about 10 years. I watched until my eyeballs bled. I had a hard time pulling myself away even if the show was appallingly bad.
That never would have happened if my parents hadn't been Henny Pennys about TV. If I had grown up being allowed to watch reasonable amounts then it wouldn't have taken me a decade to learn to balance my watching habits.
Video games are an entertainment just like everything else. They are no better or worse than TV, books, radio, sports, board games etc...
Since it has been 36 years since the advent of the first console system it is time that parents, educators and pundits get a grip and quit blaming all the world's ills on video games. Here are some facts on why:
Video games are not responsible for a rise in youth violence. In fact, youth violence has gone down since the advent of video games.
Video games are not inherently anti-social. My children play them together and with me. We socialize, bond and generally have a wonderful time as a family playing video games. Additionally, my children have made friends all over the world since the advent of online multi-player games. Australia, Japan, Germany. One of my kids has begun to study German because of a friendship he made. Of his own volition. They are learning about other cultures through video games.
Video games are sedentary but then again so is reading or any number of other entertainments. And not all video games mean sitting on your behind. Ever played Dance Dance Revolution? I suggest you get a note from your doctor first. The activity level in that is enough to make even a reasonably in shape person get a good aerobic heart rate going.
Video games do not take the place of other entertainment. Not if you don't let them. I guarantee you that even if your kids whine about not being allowed console or computer access for gaming during certain periods of the day they will find other ways to entertain themselves. They will read or go outside or play with each other. Video games are not responsible for kids that do nothing but play video games. Doormat, ineffective parenting is.
Not all video games are about blowing stuff up and other mindless violence. There are many, many games that teach things like basic problem solving skills, logic and how to implement strategy or time management. I'm not talking about lame educational games, either. I'm talking about real video games.
Video games, specifically an mmorpg (massively multi-player online role playing game), is what finally inspired my severely dyslexic son to read at all. The social nature of that game finally gave him the motivation to put into practice all the strategies his teachers and I had been trying to get him to use in vain for years. He wanted to be able to talk to the people he was playing with. In the two years since then his abilities have soared. He is still a year behind but before the video game lit a fire under him he was functionally illiterate. So instead of causing brain rot, a video game is responsible for my child being able to read and write.
So, there you have it. It is time to find a new evil to blame everything on. Video games are not, nor were they ever, a bad thing. They can be a pretty wonderful thing and they are great fun besides. I have to go cook dinner now and later I am going to fire up my Playstation2 and spend a couple of hours on my second run through Final Fantasy XII.