Why Do We Play?

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A few weeks ago, I asked the Theology Gaming Community:

The TG Community answered:

  • Entertainment
  • Bridge gaps of distance
  • Stories
  • To slow down and enjoy friends
  • To learn new systems/rules
  • To be invited into a piece of art, by the artist, as a collaborator
  • To forget about problems
  • Video games are fun
  • Enjoyment
  • Escapism
  • Fantasy of having increased power/capability
  • Gaming brings people together

Sam went on to say:

Mainly it’s my time to ‘turn off’ from any sort of stresses in real life and just sit back and enjoy something. But there are other huge things I’d miss if I wasn’t gaming. Mainly the excellent communities you become a part of, and I have found, since starting college, it’s a great way to keep in touch with friends who went elsewhere.

Joe emailed me his reply:

Apollo 13 is one of my favorite movies. It’s a classic tale of man versus adversity. Human ingenuity wins out over a catastrophe that almost certainly should have spelled certain death for the three brave crewmen. It’s a great story to watch, but as a viewer I can only be a passive observer of this story. Kerbal Space Program, however, allows me to be the solution as well as the cause of all my Kerbonaut’s problems. What should be a routine trip around the moon turns into an epic series of rescue mission because of my inability to effectively design spacecraft. Running out of fuel, botched engine burns, missing solar panels, and the inability to dock two spacecraft turn Kerbal Space Program into an interactive rescue simulation. The best part of all this? My experience will never be exactly the same as anyone else’s. 
That’s the appeal of gaming to me: personalized entertainment. While most games will offer a similar overall experience to its players, little details and interactions are unique to each person. Nobody has the same struggles as I do in Kerbal Space Program. My approach to clearing Liberty Island in Deus Ex will be different than anyone else I know. Dark Souls fosters camaraderie with fellow players who follow the same story beats, even though not everyone will struggle with the same sections. Though I play the same game as thousands and millions of other people, my own experiences with that game are unique to me. This is what sets gaming apart from every other form of media. It’s fun, it’s dynamic, and it’s accessible. Why wouldn’t I play games?  

For me, gaming is about:

Relationships  The conversations that happen while trying to outscore my wife in King Domino.

Nostalgia – Playing Chess with my son reminds me of all the times I played Chess with my Grandpa. I miss him and those times we had together playing Chess, flying remote control airplanes, and telling stories.

Imagination – As with good books, video games allow me to visit other worlds and step into the shoes of someone else.

Discovery – Digital worlds come with their own individual sets of rules. I love seeing what a game world will allow me to do/not do.

Connection – Nothing like discussing games with fellow enthusiasts, taps into my nerdier side.

Sampling All The Flavors – I love constantly trying new games which allows me to experience the different gaming mechanics they each bring to the screen.

Why do you play?

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Grow Up Faster, Kid

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Tab and I were at the bookstore recently and I came across Iron Man: The Gauntlet by Eoin Colfer. Knowing Colfer’s reputation from his Artemis Fowl series, I picked up the Iron Man book to read to Wyatt before bed. Being a good dad, in that moment, I decided to read a bit of the book before reading it aloud to the boy. I am happy I did.

Within the first chapter, teenage Tony Stark is accused of being “one of those boys”. Howard Stark’s secretary is angry at Tony for something he might have/have not done with her daughter. Tony acts surprised. All I could think of, as I was reading this, was having to explain to my 8 year old what “one of those boys” meant. I get that this is 100% par for the course for the character of Tony Stark. But I wish that Colfer could have played teen Stark more like he is in the cartoon Iron Man: Armored Adventures. Which is to say a Tony Stark that is driven, sometimes moody, but always resourceful; a Tony who is not on the girl crazy bus, yet.

For years now, I’ve noticed that children’s media (cartoons, TV shows, books, etc.) seems aimed at rushing kids to grow up. Presenting them with topics and life issues kids won’t encounter until well into the middle school years.

As someone who was homeschooled fourth grade through high school, I know that there is no hurry to grow up. Kids can be innocent, their imaginations left to thrive, by proper parental engagement in curating media choices.

My goal is not to shelter Wyatt. I want to help him work through life issues as they are presented to him. My goal is to be wary, watchful, and help make sure no outside media influences are forcing him to grow up faster than he is ready to grow up. I want my kid to remain a kid, on his own terms.

Age classifications and ratings boards cannot do the job of a parent. Just because another entity designates a piece of media as age appropriate doesn’t mean that it is.

As parents, we need to stay vigilant, realizing that we might need to hold off on introducing such things as Iron Man: The Gauntlet until our child is ready for it. Even if that day of being ready is weeks, months, or even years away.

What are you kids consuming, media-wise, that is causing them to grow up faster than they should?

Too Much Blood For My Six Year Old

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Wyatt and I watched Naruto for the first time. Let us just say that will also be the last time the orange jump suited ninja will be allowed in our home for awhile.

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The line between fantasy and reality is a thin one when you are a kid. Our imaginations go wild in youth. Dreaming big dreams, playing on playgrounds of fantasy. Reality, physical consequence, stalking at the unseen edges ready to pounce.

In one of the Naruto episodes Wyatt and I watched, Naruto accidentally gets clawed by a weapon in battle. The weapon’s tips laced in poison. Naruto decides to act. To get rid of the poison, he jams a knife into his hand. Blood shoots out. At this point, I’m blocking my son’s eyes. I wasn’t quick enough.

Sometime later:

“Daddy, do you remember that ninja guy who shoved a knife into his hand?”

“Yes. You know that wasn’t real but was fiction, right?”

Silence.

As much as my preferences for story surge against the dam of sanity, I made a mistake. Not only that, but that I failed in my role as a guide for my son.

I have to remember, I am the gatekeeper. Not only controlling what walks in past the gate but also for taking my son in hand and beyond the gate. His mom and I are tasked with explaining life to him. Helping him navigate between what is real and what is fantastical.

One of my greatest faults, as a father, that I’m sure I share, is that I am always in a hurry for my child to grow up. I want to share much cooler worlds than those that Garfield inhibits. Age, individual maturity, and even family rules dictate that Naruto stay beyond the gate. For now.

The last thing I want is for him to think that the mature violence depicted is somehow okay to carry out in real life.

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I apologized to Wyatt. Told him that Naruto can’t come over and play for a bit. He wasn’t thrilled, cliffhanger episode, but maybe with time he’ll understand.

Being a dad is hard. The mistakes I make are often centered around me wanting to fast forward time. Contentment, meanwhile, calls.