Revisited – The Onion Layers of Time

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I wrote this back in March of 2012. I can tell you that I’ve chilled out a bit since then. No longer do I feel angry or frustrated when I don’t get to play a game in the evening. I’ve gotten to where I might game once a week (IF). I more so now enjoy the time I’m spending with my family. Just needed to grow up and discover a few more layers. Always thankful to Shrek for that analogy. – Bryan

As we advance in years, I believe that we all wish that we would personally be able to grow and mature with time as well. For some, growth and maturity are unattainable due to personal life choices; for others, growing in maturity and stature are a knowingly made decision.

Before I was married, I had all the time in the world to pursue what I wanted to pursue. If I wanted to go out with friends for coffee at 2AM, I could. If I wanted to sit down and play a video game every evening, for hours on end, I could do so as well. I was a free man and time was all mine.

Photo by Thomas Martinsen on Unsplash

As I dated and was soon married, my time quickly became our time. No longer did I have the freedom to do what I wanted to do. I had to now take my wife into consideration. What did she want to do? What could we do together? There was nothing wrong or bad about this change in the way I spent my time. Like an onion, I had simply discovered a new layer of personal depth; like an onion, my time had also grown thinner in peeling away that new layer.

The birth of our son set into motion the equation of: my time + our time = his time.

Age, growth and maturity force us to constantly evaluate the things that matter to us. Are we spending our free time pursuing the things that we love or the things that we simply like? This got me thinking about video games and my constant struggle to figure out where they place in my life. Do I love them or just like them? Are they keeping me from pursuing the things that I love?

What about you?

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Video Games and Attitude

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We have a rule in Hall household that goes something like this:

When you start to get angry or frustrated at a video game, you need to turn it off and take a break.

This rule applies to myself and to my son. Years of playing video games has taught me that taking a break, when angry or frustrated, is beneficial. Even when you are so frustrated that all you want to do is keep pushing through, I’ve found that it is best to stop. There is something taking a break does to the brain. As a kid, I remember pausing a game overnight and then being able to destroy a boss, that was previously impossible, the next day.

But what about when a game causes attitude? Anger that one can’t play longer or even has to quit? I remember a period when I was playing Mass Effect 2 a few years ago. I’d play the game late into the night, ignoring my bride, who would end up giving up and going to bed. I felt a pull while playing that game, a drive to see where the story went. Mass Effect 2 had it’s hooks in me just as World of Warcraft did years before.

I know that I can have issues with some games. Even though I haven’t been hooked on a game in awhile, I know that the right combination of design elements can take me down.

The same is true with my son. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild pushed all the right buttons for him. It was all that he and the kids at church were talking about. I’d constantly hear about the Divine Powers:

  • Revali’s Gale
  • Daruk’s Protection
  • Mipha’s Grace
  • Urbosa’s Fury

I’d hear so much about Breath of the Wild that I thought I was going to go nuts. And the attitude that came with the game, whenever he had to quit, was frustrating.

Tabitha and I find ourselves at the same attitude point again with Fortnite. But this time it’s a little different due to gaming elements Fortnite embraces (your child is being manipulated):

  1. The Store with Artificial Demand – When you log into the game, you can easily tab over to the Fortnite store. Here you can look/obsess/covet the latest in Fortnite cosmetics. Some of these cosmetics are available for a limited time, playing into an artificial demand where kids think they have to purchase something before it is gone.
  2. The Subscription with a Shady Pay-to-Win-with-Time Formula – Once you buy the $10 Battle Pass, Fortnite is all about unlocking tiers, which then unlock different cosmetics/skins/cool looking things. Fortnite developers Epic Games boasts on their website that the Battle Pass equals: 100 tiers, 100 rewards. One marketing bullet point states that it takes 75-150 hours worth of gameplay to unlock everything in the Battle Pass. Fortnite encourages players to dump as much time as they can into the game through their shady tier/unlock scheme. A pay-to-win-with-time formula, aimed at children.
  3. The Feedback Loop – A typical match takes 20 minutes to play. Unless you are knocked out of the match, in which case you can just jump into another match… and another match… and another match. This creates a feel good feedback loop for your brain. Just one more match, mom.

What is a parent to do? Here are a few things I’ve learned:

  • On the Nintendo Switch, you can set a screen time timer to help manage your child’s play. There are several options to choose from when the timer runs out, including shutting down the console (if you are feeling evil; Do not provoke your children… – Ephesians 6:4). Each console has different parental settings, read up on them, empower yourself.
  • Parent. Talk to your child about their attitude. Be ready to follow through with consequences (don’t offer empty threats). Also don’t be afraid to have your child take a day off a game.

Gaming attitude is something our parents did not have to deal with as much as we have to–although I say that while clearly remembering my Mom taking away the NES controllers–. So set some boundaries/consequences and read up/educate yourself on the tools you have at your disposal. Learn about the game your child is playing, the one you are growing to hate because of their attitude. You never know, you might learn something about your child and be able to help them set healthy boundaries to use later on in their adult lives.

You are the parent. You do not deal nor negotiate with emotional terrorism.

Gaming is a privilege, not a right. (I can’t believe I just wrote that as a dad who games.)

How are you working through your child’s attitude when it comes to games?

Don’t Be A Looky-Loo

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I do not drive much anymore. Living in a small town, my workplace is about 10-15 minutes from the house; church is about the same distance on a good day. Compare that to the time I spent in the car when I lived in California and its nothing. I remember, especially in junior college, hitting the weekend and being happy to be nowhere near the inside of a car.

Southern California and freeway traffic go hand-in-hand. Carpool lanes, express lanes, all have done little to alleviate the problem of too many cars in a small space. Driving the 91 Freeway, I have vivid memories of cruising along at 70mph only to crest a hill and have traffic come to a dead stop. Often these traffic jam would be caused by serious accidents. Other times traffic would come to a dead stop because everyone was slowing down to look at a car that had broken down on the side of the road. Drove me nuts! We even had a term for such people, looky-loos.

Have you ever noticed that when we see or hear about a situation, say a ministry a falling apart, that we want to know more about it? Even if we have no connection to the community (Facebook group, website, podcast, etc.) we want to know the gory details. Curiosity, in this case, can quickly lead to gossip. Gossip that can then further fuel anger and hurt that is already present.

A rather large ministry, one that I’ve followed from the sidelines, has been hurt this past week. Accusations are flying, staff being let go, a complete restructuring of the ministry is taking place. While I am sad to hear of such things, as the ministry is closely patterned off of something I once wanted to do myself, I want to urge caution to my friends.

The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;
    they go down to the inmost parts. – Proverbs 18:8 (boldness added for emphasis)

You may want to know more about what has happened with this particular ministry; you may want to hear the “choice morsels”. A certain level of curiosity is understood. But at some point, the things you are looking at (tax/salary information, etc.) is not for you to look at. It is easy to judge from the sidelines. To say, “If I had been running that ministry, I would have structured it this way.” The thing is, you and I were not running that particular ministry. A group of people who felt they were doing the work of the Lord are.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. – 1 Peter 5:8

My wife reminded me today that a ministry blowing up is the work of Satan getting in among Christians. Causing hurt and ultimately division for fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Such division is not meant to be.

I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. – Romans 16:17-18

It’s okay to pause and mourn a ministry that is going through upheaval. But don’t slam on your own personal brakes for too long or you’ll end up causing a pile-up. Keep your eyes open, take note, and drive the path the Lord has you on. I write this just as much for myself as I do for others.

Grace and peace to all my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Adventures in Odyssey will help me discuss puberty with my son

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Jimmy Barclay was going through changes. Or as Mr. Whittaker put it, he was going through “adolescence”. Jimmy was growing up. He noticed that:

  • His voice was changing
  • He was angry at people for no reason at all
  • He was in love, with Connie Kendall
So flat. So boring. Captive audience on an 8 hour drive.

So flat. So boring. Captive audience on an 8 hour drive.

As we listened to “Coming of Age”, an episode of Adventures in Odyssey, Tabitha and I laughed. There is something surreal about listening to an episode on puberty with your seven-year-old in the car. We were driving home from vacation. The boy was in the backseat, running a high fever, and had no clue about what was plaguing Jimmy.

I told Tabitha that when Wyatt starts to go through puberty, I am going to make him listen to this episode. Odyssey can explain everything. Poof! An awkward conversation bites the dust. Who wants to talk to their parents about changes anyways?

Let this be a lesson to all parents: Media is a fantastic substitute for all major life conversations.

This important lesson is provided to you by JohnnyBGamer, tongue-in-cheek.

Bad Parenting: How To Not Play Rocket League With Your 6-Year-Old

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Imagine radio controlled cars, with rockets, playing a game of soccer. Good ball control is key and takes much skill and time to develop.

Wyatt and I played a lot of Rocket League. Then I noticed how I started talking to him. We weren’t doing well in the match we were playing. I felt like I was playing alone versus actually playing with a teammate against two bots. Now this is not Wyatt’s fault, Rocket League is a fun/simple game with deep deep mechanics. But I found that the words coming out of my mouth were not uplifting, in fact, my words were angry and annoyed. Wyatt’s body language was defensive, I was about to lose him. So I had to mentally check myself:

– I am an adult.

– I am playing a game with my son. He is six years old.

– Why am I acting this way?

After a few talks with my wife, I decided that I would make more of an effort to use encouraging words. To try and let go of my competitive spirit and just have fun. And so we did.

Ever since then, I have tried to speak words of life, versus death. This is not easy. But parenting isn’t easy either.

Super Mario Bros. Wii is another game we play together. A game I have had serious issues with in the past, due to how anger-inducing the co-op experience can be. But you know what? We laughed. Wyatt giggled over causing me to die, many times. We had fun.

Win or lose, playing games with your children is awesome. As a dad, the key is realizing that playing a videogame is another teachable moment. Model the words you want to spoken during competitive play. Encourage teamwork. Embrace defeat. Together, we can do this.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” – James 1:19