BY ESTHER J. CEPEDA, Washington Post Writers Group
CHICAGO -- Parents across the land, take heart -- I hear it on good account that young-adult video-game obsession is not the end of the world.
A few weeks ago I lamented that young people who are immersed in fantastical video games are often despondent when faced with the boring details of day-to-day living.
I wrote: “There’s a big difference between the video-game world our kids have grown up in and adults who played many hours of Atari or Nintendo but still spent most of their time learning how to read, learn and study without any interactive, multimedia tech.
“Teens today are playing in better-than-real worlds where you’re invincible and can make money with little effort -- and being taught by teachers who have exhausted themselves desperately trying to entertain them into learning.
“What hath we wrought?”
And though I got more than one proclamation that school is, in fact, boring -- not to mention a few notes implying that I’m too old to “get it” -- many more inspired me.
There was a wide assortment of proud parents eager to tell me about their children excelling in high school and going on to elite colleges and jobs despite their gaming habit, and others who were just as nervous as I am as a mom of two teen boys. But the best messages came from the gamers themselves.
“Recently read your commentary about video games,” emailed a reader identifying himself as J. Travakh. “I am probably one of those kids you’re talking about ... I’ve been playing video games constantly since I was about 11 (25 now), and have played many different genres at many levels, from story-driven role-playing games to competitive gaming contests with large prize pots. I would estimate I’ve played video games at least 15 hours a week every week ... with various marathon sessions and stretches where I’d play upwards of 80 hours a week, despite the efforts of my parents to prevent it.
“I am also a successful and (I believe) well-adjusted electrical engineer ... which I attribute to an early interest in computers and engineering, kindled by video games.
“Video games are a hobby like any other. In excess they are a vice, yet less harmful than most. I’ve driven a car through a mountain pass going 120 in both a virtual and the real world, and the former is far less dangerous. The type of child who neglects their responsibilities to play video games wouldn’t suddenly become the perfect studious prodigy their parents want were the video games to suddenly vanish into the ether.”
I can’t argue with this. And since my older son is dying to buy a motorcycle, I suppose I should count my blessings that, for now, he’s only riding one virtually.
A gentleman who identified himself as a grandfather with three sons, “two of which grew up playing video games and ... turned out to be excellent adults,” parted with this wisdom: “The key is balance. I started playing seriously when the PlayStation 2 came out. I introduced all my grandsons to gaming when they reached the ripe old age of 2-3, and they are all in the advanced education programs with their respective schools. They have great genes, but my daughter-in-law is the key because she only allows them to play at certain times. They’re involved in sports throughout the year and are very happy children. It’s the parents!”
I was truly surprised to get so many uplifting success stories from self-professed gaming fanatics. I couldn’t include them all here, but they are all very active longtime gamers who achieved excellent educations, healthy careers and happy families.
One of my favorites came from “Gamer in Moderation,” a college graduate and new dad who is now trying to balance ubiquitous video games with their potential effect on his growing infant’s brain.
He shared: “I am not completely sure how I was able to recognize the benefits of college as well as being gainfully employed instead of being a sad sequel to ‘Failure to Launch.’ [But] for you and other parents who have introduced some gaming system into their kids’ lives -- don’t forget to also teach and model responsibility and healthful habits. More might sink in than you (or them for that matter) might think.”
This will definitely help me sleep better tonight.
Esther J. Cepeda is a Nationally Syndicated Columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group and President of The EJC Agency: creative content & marketing/communications http://www.eejayceeinc.com