Video Games Are Not the Issue

Did your kids get a video game system for the holidays? Did they spend hours and hours playing those new systems?

The topic of video games is a hottie! One the one side, we have the “limit screen time” crew, with all the various reasons. On the other we have “don’t set limits”.

This is the wrong discussion to be having. Video game success doesn’t depend on whether we set time limits or not.

This is where I stand on the video game thing – everything in moderation. (Even moderation.) I love video games, my husband does too and the kids do. We love a lot of other things too. Our position on the video game issue doesn’t even place us on the ‘set limits-don’t set limits’ measuring stick.

Because, most of the video game issues aren’t even about video games.

If we didn’t do anything else, the kids would play video games all day. If we didn’t do anything else, they’d run around the house all day. If we didn’t do anything else, they’d play in the back yard all day in the mud. There are a lot of things they’d do all day if we did nothing else. Here’s the solution: we do so many different kinds of things, it doesn’t matter if there is something that they would do all day if we did nothing else, because we are too busy to have time to spend all day doing one thing. That’s not the reason we do lots of things, but it’s a side effect.

Kids arguing over video games is one of reasons parents get frustrated with them. But arguing about video games isn’t any different than arguing over board games, or sports, or sharing paints. If the kids are at a point where they can’t deal, it’s time to change gears for a bit, and come back to it later. Kind of like a mom who finds herself screaming at her kids needs some time out with girlfriends or some centered time dealing with her baggage (hey, so maybe I’m speaking from experience here 🙂 What she doesn’t need is a self-imposed limit to 1hr a day with her kids or her kids to be taken away so she won’t yell at them.

Video games or no video games, it doesn’t matter to me. But it doesn’t make sense to blame the box, when people are arguing and yelling at each other. It’s not the game’s fault. There’s something else going on.

I want to share a story about my personal experience with video games, as a player.

My husband and I used to play a lot of video games together. When the babies were little, I’d nurse them while running my character around in Everquest, making money so that my husband could go on raids and buy “l33t” gear. It was this family thing we did together.

There was a turning point, where I realized that the kids were getting old enough that they couldn’t join us (because we didn’t have enough computers), and they weren’t happy just sitting on our laps while we played anymore. So I started playing board games with them during that time instead, and my husband still played EQ. A lot. What used to be a very social game for us, turned into an isolated one from my perspective.

But it was a hard call, because my husband’s friends were all in the game. Before, he could be with his family and his friends at the same time. And, he really enjoyed playing. (And, to be honest, it was hard for me too. I wanted to play, and had to make daily decisions on whether or not I was going to.)

Over time, we’ve made many adjustments so that my husband can play with his friends, but he still spends time with us playing board games, or other video games that we can all play together. Some games we’ve played were single-player games, where we rooted each other on, and took turns. Other games, we’d all play at once (can you say Rock Band? OMG).

It’s not the video games that was the issue. It was US, trying to deal with our own personal needs to 1) spend time with family, 2) spend time alone and 3) spend time with friends. And get it all worked out. That was our issue – I could have easily blamed EQ for all of our problems – it’s addictive or it never ends or it takes my hubby from our family. But because I had played for a long time myself before, I could understand that this issue wasn’t so black and white. It was not about the game. It was about figuring out why we play, balancing our time and understanding everyone’s needs.

Today, I don’t play video games very often anymore. I spend a lot of time writing and reading instead. This takes a lot of concentration and often it has to be done in isolation. I get grumpy when people interrupt me when I’m concentrating. I think about my writing a lot when I’m not writing. I get frustrated when I can’t say something the way I want to. These are all very similar feelings to what I hear about kids playing video games. But for me, it’s writing. Should I stop writing? Limit myself to a certain amount of time? Or should I just let myself write as long as I need to the exclusion of everything else? There’s a balance to be had. I write as much as I can squeeze in. When I’m frustrated, I take a break.

When I see my kids frustrated at video games, or legos or board games, I think of that. I think of how I feel when I’m writing. And try to help them find solutions where they can still do the things they love, and have tools to deal with the frustration that comes along with being passionate about something.

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12 Responses to “Video Games Are Not the Issue”

  1. Tana Says:

    Thank you. I got lost in Solitaire while I was in college, then Mindsweeper. It was mentally challenging activity where I knew I could do it, so it filled a need for me. Now it’s been years since I played, but I can understand the addiction.

  2. Sheri Says:

    You rock!

    I relate to this post more than you can imagine…with the one exception that we do have enough computers for everyone to play EQ or WoW together.

    And whereas Hubby’s passion for gaming never waned (he was txt rgping on a dial-up BBS for 6 years already when I met him) and the kids’ is still peaking, mine is fading.

    Like you, I want to write and read and write and write some more and I also get grumpy when I’m interrupted.

    I think you are so right, it’s not about the gaming or the writing. It’s not about putting limits on our passions or denying someone we love, something they love.

    It’s about making sure to facilitate a balance of activity that reinforces the family as a unit, not just a conglomerate of individuals that live under the same roof, while appreciating each other’s differences. (Even if you do get to occassionally tromp around the Commonlands together.)

    So that, as free as everyone feels to pursue their own interests with passion and vigor, these pursuits are not to be placed higher than the immediate needs of another member of the family.

    (Can you tell I’ve been reading Shakespeare?)

    Awesome post!

  3. Jay Kelly Says:

    I agree with both you and Sheri, where there needs to be a limit or balance in life in what we do. I don’t have the experience with balancing family since Im in school, but between school, work, and friends I struggle with the same thing, finding a balance and being happy with those around me. Its great though that you and your family at least have something in common to share. Awesome blog Tammy.

  4. Tammy Says:

    Tana – Minesweeper is indeed addictive! For me it was Tetris! I played so much, I started seeing Tetris shapes all over campus.

    Sheri – I still miss EQ from time to time. I have some really great memories from that time in my life.

    Jay – Thanks for stopping by. It’s good that you’re already working on balance. Most college students aren’t there in their heads yet.

  5. Living By Learning Says:

    I hate to be in complete agreement (it’s so boring), but you are all so right!

    Finding balance is critically important, but parents also need to be flexible.

    Sometimes it is OK to let your child gorge on their passion. There are times when we are in creative flow mode where you NEED unlimited time to reach your goal.

    Tammy, this article points out that parents need to be involved in or at least understanding of their kid’s online passions. There is so much more than what is visible on the surface to nongamers. Thank you!

  6. Crystal Says:

    It’s funny but shortly before discovering this entry I’d just been resolving to make more time for video games. My family got a Wii for xmas. Even the five-year-old enjoys Wii bowling with the family and my seven-year-old worked up quite a sweat last night playing tennis by herself. I live in a difficult climate and this seems like a great way to keep active when we can’t get out and it’s good family time. So there I was thinking I must commit myself to turning on the Wii every day we’re shut-in and then I got reminded that many moms are trying to get their families away from the game console. I think you’re right that it is all part of the eternal balancing act. But at least this part is fun to balance.

  7. sunniemom Says:

    Another thing that is great about home education- living a life full of variety and interest, which creates its own balance.

  8. Renae Says:

    I do not like video games, but my husband and son love them. What’s a girl to do? Start blogging, I guess. Ha!

    Seriously, you have made some very good points. It is never about the external thing, i.e. video games, but the internal attitudes. Our family does limit game time, but it is in an effort to instill good habits of balance and discipline. We can’t just do what we feel like doing all day. Some days that would be the most loving thing to do, but most days I have a tendency to be selfish.

  9. Stacie Says:

    I am so glad I am not the only homeschooling mom who gets grumpy when I am interrupted during my writing time, and lose my concentration. Or can’t find enough quiet time, or can’t find the words or time to write what I have to say. I also think about my writing when I’m not writing, and I’ve been feeling very guilty about all these things lately. I still have not found the answer, but I do believe that balance is the answer.

  10. Ryan Says:

    I feel out of place here cuz you are all older, but I am 15, but almost 16. I consider myself a gamer, but my mom and dad absolutely hate it, they do anything to keep me from video games. The thing is, I don’t sit around all night after school and play, I play soccer with 4 different teams and I am also in 2 different tennis leagues. I have many friends, and we often hang out, I also keep mostly all A’s and a few B’s (and the C+ in math class, but who was ever good at math (=. ) but whatever I seem to do isn’t enough for my parents obviously high standards.

    Just a few days ago they came at me with “if you don’t play some tennis within a couple days you can’t get your drivers license.” Now what the …. I can only play 3 hrs a week total with homework and chores done and only 1 hour per day. Now TAMMY I play WoW, but EQ and that are very similar. Now could you tell me if 3 hrs total (1 hour a day) is sufficient time to get anything done?!

    I am doing this late at night with many tests the next day so sadly as an excuse my writing isnt so hot, but does anyone in this forum have any advice?! I have tried approaching my parents with a great/nice attitude and also a mean/angry attitude and as you can imagine neither worked. I need some advice on how to get through to them so they can understand its something I ❤ (love) doing.

  11. Ryan Says:

    O btw TAMMY, I wish you were my mom lol =)

  12. Tara Says:

    I love this post. I love what you said about a mom not needing to have her kids taken away or not needing to only see her kids for an hr a day. lol Great point!

    I agree – Z only plays video games all day or watches TV all day when we are not doing something else. But with variety in our lives, he’s perfectly happy going from those things to something else back to those things and finding a perfect balance.

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