Every Rebel Needs a Cause

There’s a Tom Lehrer joke here, but I decided to leave it alone. I’m so classy.

Mine happens to be parental involvement in video games. I believe strongly on this topic, for a variety of reasons, many of which I’ll probably go into here and in occasional future entries, because it’s something I care deeply about.

No, I don’t mean “parental involvement” in the way that games usually get it. I don’t mean letters to the ESRB or angry letters to Rockstar about the latest GTA that young Billy was playing and how scandalous it is that they’re sold. Nope, not really. It is the illusion of involvement, the attempt to remove the onus of being involved by third party mandate.

Parental involvement means what it always does and always has—taking a direct interest and hand in a child’s life. Providing guidance, understanding… values to a child that is not yet equipped to develop them for themselves.

This is just an overview of something I have come to feel strongly about, so detailed discussion will have to wait for later. But now is a good time to explain my perspective on this.

I am not, myself, a parent—though I hope that soon I can afford to undertake the responsibility. I am, however, the eldest of four children. I am a child of perhaps the first real video game generation, though I was born on the trailing edge of that distinction, in 1979. But I came into games at a very young age. My father is and was a programmer—before I was born, in fact—and I grew up with technology. I daresay I likely started gaming much earlier in my life than was normal at the time. My earliest gaming memory is logging into a mainframe at Dad’s workplace in the evening from a WYSE-50 terminal to play Rogue, which may have been the first computer dungeon-crawler. It probably depends on how one feels about Colossal Cave Adventure in relation to the genre (I played that, too, but much later).

It went on from there. Dungeons and Dragons was something I played with friends before I was even in double-digits, age-wise, though we didn’t fully understand the game at the time. I recall owning and playing an Atari 9600, and I still vividly remember the days I got my Nintendo Entertainment System (which I still have) and my Sega Genesis (which my brother has, because Sydney still has the one she owned). I played many of the great PC classics and practically lived Wing Commander, X-Wing, TIE Fighter, ELITE and Descent for a period, to say nothing of the golden age of adventure games. The family library of board games was large, varied, and roughly-loved. The point is, I grew up with games, games, games.

And yet, I turned out all right. I’m a well-adjusted adult with a healthy understanding of the difference between fantasy and reality, good social skills and relationships for the most part, and generally every bit the opposite of what people fear video games do to children.

For this, I lay basically every bit of credit on my parents and their relationship to my games. We’ll talk about that later.

The point is, games get demonized. Yes, I’m biased, I love games. But that doesn’t mean that it’s any less true. Nor does it mean it’s any less unfortunate.

I have an urge, or perhaps a need, to try to convince, help and educate the average parent on the topic of modern games. I don’t believe it’s fully understood that they have changed as much as they have. I’m not sure that there’s a realization of basic underlying problems that cause the issues that actually get raised. I believe that our tendency is to attempt to treat the symptoms and not the cause, and that personal responsibility gets shifted to shoulders other than our own. And I believe our future, our children, are the ones that are going to suffer for it, because ultimately, it isn’t about games. It’s simply the expression of it.

In my heart of hearts, it’s something I want to eventually find ways to get out there. I may one day attempt to write a book, though I don’t know that anyone would ever publish it. I don’t now that the public or even the industry would care as I do. I believe they would if it was there to see, though, optimist that I really am. I believe that it could even make the world a better place, if even in the most infinitesimal of ways.

In the theater of my mind, I have even thought of talking about it on some wide platform, say a television show as a guest spot (I do have my preferences on where I’d want to take it if I had the chance, too). I’ve given it a lot of thought, as do we all when we find something we feel strongly about.

I admit to some trepidation talking about it at all, of course. It’s a scary thing to discuss for any number of reasons. But maybe that’s just an indication it’s worth talking about.

there’ll be more to come on this. But it’s late and this is already rather long.

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One Response to Every Rebel Needs a Cause

  1. Syd K. says:

    One of my earliest memories is of the morning where my parents and I piled into the Chevy to go and buy my NES, along with the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt dual-cartridge. I still remember playing things like the Legend of Zelda and Rush ‘n Attack by myself or with my friends, and my Uncle Richard in particular loved to watch me play the WWF game that had Andre the Giant and the Big Boss Man on the cover – watching professional wrestling together was our Big Thing.

    One of my fondest memories is one of the countless occasions where my big brother – and by “big,”, I mean “thirteen years older than me,” and by “brother,” I mean “we share a mother but not a father” – would come up to my room and ask if I wanted to play a basketball game with him. Then we’d spend hours with the Genesis, Coach K’s College B (or NBA Jam, or NBA Live (YEAR), or whatever, but Coach K’s was my favorite for the character animation and the breakable backboards), and each other.

    Blood made us related, but games were a huge part of what made us family.

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