Video games used to be an innocent past time. My first one was from Atari, and it was a tennis game. You could play with another player or with the system, and the game consisted of hitting a ball over a line at varying degrees of intensity. I would play it until I got bored, which didn't take very long.
In my college days, I spent more than a few quarters at the local arcade to get my fill of Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Millipede. The games had different levels, and once you beat one level, you could graduate to a more difficult level. The games had an ending in sight. And once you beat the highest level, very often the appeal was lost.
When I had children, I put the video games aside until my oldest son reached an age where he was interested. So I gave in and gone him a Nintendo system. And I found that the video games were much better in terms of graphics, challenges, and the music. Once again, I found myself hooked on Super Mario Brothers and a new and improved version of Donkey Kong.
Then came the RPG games...the so-called reality games. These games became an entirely different genre of video game. And with them, I became lost. They are long, drawn out strategy games that tell a story. There is lots of reading and strategizing. The graphics are kin to watching a movie, and very beautiful in the realism. The music is orchestral. And beating one of these games can take weeks or days. These became the game of preference for my my older son, and now for my younger son. As a matter of fact, I truly believe had it not been for the extensive reading in these games, neither of my sons would be able to read and write so well.
Now, there is a genre of reality game that is scary in its realism. The game is played online, and although there are several, the one to which I refer is called World of Warcraft...or WOW, as gamers call it. In this game, the player is transported into a world of fantasy complete with gnomes and fairies and priests and all kind of creatures. You play online with people from all over the planet who are also connected. You can talk to one another as you play. And the game basically has no ending. It's ongoing.
The problem with games such as these appears to be their addictive nature. I know several people who play the game who will play for twelve and fourteen hours a day. I know marriages who are in trouble because one of the partners cannot seem to get away from it. I know people who leave work to go home and play it....or, if possible, play it while at work.
My fourteen year old and I have almost come to blows over this game. In his life, there is nothing more important.....school, girls, family. Its ridiculous. I have to make him leave the computer by any means possible, and it usually ends up in a screaming match. I believe he suffers actual withdrawal symptoms when he has to stop playing.
I have recently talked to him and explained to him that there needs to be a balance in his life or there will be no game at all. And it has gotten somewhat better. But I have to constantly moniter.
Its scary and makes me wonder what in a game is so powerful to draw someone out of his real life. Or perhaps the question should be what is so missing in a person's real life that he can be so easily drawn into a video game...........