Going gaga over a Gameboy

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NOTE: The following Vintage Berry Wine column was never published; it was written in February 1993, after the author found out how addictive her son, Zach’s, electronic toys could be. Zach was then eight.

The expression “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” has been echoed many times, for various reasons. I have recently found myself uttering the words, and what’s more, enjoying being a participant.
For years, I thumbed my nose at the idea of going into a place, generally referred to as an arcade, and playing video games. I could not see the sense in throwing money away on such trivial pursuits, and I knew such activities weren’t for me. I even questioned the sanity of those who could spend hours, entranced, before the machines.
Many has been the time, while walking through a mall, that my children have requested a trip to the arcade and although I may have given in a few times, I didn’t do it very often. I certainly didn’t stand around to see what the attraction was, and if I did, it was with a rather “all right, machine, hurry up and turn off so we can get out of here” attitude. I just couldn’t see the significance of standing before a video game trying to earn points by shooting this missile or clubbing that foe.
As an avid anti-violence supporter, I still agree with that last statement. However, there are, I am finding, video games that can be played that involve very little violence (although these are the exception).
And how, you may ask, did I come to this conclusion, since I’ve rarely ever set foot in an arcade? Well, suffice to say I’ve been converted. Once staunchly opposed to video games, I’m finding they can offer a pleasant diversion. The thanks goes to my son Zachary, and our little friend Chad, who showed us both just how much fun he had while playing something called a “Gameboy.”
Earlier this summer, I found myself watching Chad playing with his toy, and I soon found myself eager to give the thing a try. It wasn’t long before I was hooked – quickly trying to push the buttons so I would get ahead in the game; vocalizing my discontent when I wasn’t able to do so, and finding there is some enjoyment to be had in video games after all. We were on the highway at the time, and Chad had brought along the game to keep himself occupied. It wasn’t long, though, before his dad remarked that he may not get it back from me.
More recently, Zack was in school and I had a few minutes to relax and unwind. Picking up his video game, I sat out on the porch in the sunshine, trying to see how dexterous I could be while playing a game that builds walls out of falling blocks. The kids, when they arrived home on the bus, I thought vaguely, would surely laugh to see me sitting there with his game. But I hardly noticed – so engrossed was I in building walls. I reluctantly put it aside a few minutes later, to chat with my children about their school day. (Their thoughts were still on the electronic toy, asking me how many points I had, and what level I was at, and so on. They were, I had predicted rightly, quite amused to see their mother playing with a toy.)
The fun that was enjoyed by both Chad and Zack has been responsible for my actually playing a video game in an arcade, too. I must admit I now know why so many people lose their quarters in such places. There’s just something exciting, and definitely pleasurable, about moving the knobs, pushing the buttons, and seeing the figures move about on a video screen. While I haven’t entirely figured out what the attraction is, I’m more understanding now of the kids who hang out in arcades, or spend spare time with an electronic toy in hand. I no longer look down on such activities, and plan to partake from time to time myself.
In fact, during the weekend, I’m sure I’ll have enough time to kick back my heels and relax. Now, I know I could probably finish that novel I started reading awhile ago, or do some much needed studying, or maybe I could put on some soft music and just sit and think about absolutely nothing at all.
I can just see it now – such a peaceful scene. But wait, what’s that – over there on the buffet? Could it be that Zack has somehow forgotten to take his Gameboy to his father’s, during weekend visitation? Why, it certainly appears that way. Well, I guess I could finish that novel later today, and the studying can best be done at bedtime … just give me a few minutes with the toy, that’s all I want!


1 Comment

Courtney Wine · March 28, 2006 at 2:23 PM

Not that I’m jumping on a political bandwagon here, but lets re-evaluate game systems. Most games nowadays are very adult like, very dramatic, and feature immoral and corrupt villians. There is debate over what influences these games actually have on children. If a parent’s actions influence a child’s behavior, then would it not be so hard to believe that those deadly video games might too, influence thoughts, actions or even promote ideas? I don’t support video game purchases for children under the age of 14 unless they are direct learning enhancement programs. When I was growing up, we played Mavis Beacon, a typing skill game. There was also the game Tetris my mother was referring to as her addicition, a game focused on using shapes to conserve space and build points as you go. Games do become addictive, to the point where you block out things going on around you. Ignoring family, dinners, and even trips. If everybody was still playing Frogger, Tetris, and Mavis Beacon, I think only PETA would be upset.

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