I was 12 when we got an Atari. I mostly remember playing Pac-Man. There was something cathartic about being able to eat all of those white dots. Who doesn’t love to eat? And then I found it gratifying to turn around and gobble up the multi-colored ghosts after they had been chasing me around. Even though it fulfilled my need to eat, it never consumed a large amount of my time.
When my son asked for a Nintendo DS, I naively believed his shared DNA would also translate to a similar mild interest for playing video games. Sure, I assumed he would like it, but I had no idea it was possible to avoid sleeping and eating in an effort to keep the game going. I also didn’t know it was only the beginning. After receiving the DS, he wanted more: a Wii, an Xbox and an iPad.
Besides the fact I didn’t understand the devotion to staring at an electronic screen, I also failed to comprehend the video game language. Often he plays with friends and I can hear them talking (rather screaming). I know they are speaking English (at least it sounds like English words), yet they might as well be speaking French or discussing the aerodynamics of flight since either one would probably make more sense to me (I did take a few years of French in high school).
This was an actual conversation (if you could call it that) I heard while attempting to fold laundry.
“Do you like my skin?”
“Yeah, I’m going to change mine, too.”
“Wait, where’s the bedrock?”
“I’m glitching. It’s disappearing.”
“Come to the house. Come to the roof”
“Wow, that’s so much higher than last time.”
Can someone please translate this for me?
You might respond, well you only heard part of the conversation which is why you didn’t know what they are talking about. Unfortunately, I have heard hours of these conversations and hearing more doesn’t help, rather it makes me want to find the main switch to the fuse box and feign a power outage. Yes, there are some days I would prefer not having electricity rather than listening to conversations about skins and glitching.
Recently, my son asked me to go for a walk, and of course, I immediately was suspicious, wondering why he was choosing (instead of being forced) to be away from his screens (take your pick of TV screen, iPad screen or any other electronic). I didn’t have to wait long for an answer. Before we were even out of the door, he asked if he could use my phone. He wanted to play Pokémon Go and he could only do so using the data from my phone.
During family vacations to the beach, I would walk on the beach, collecting sea glass, unusual seashells and searching for sea life. I found it relaxing to gaze out into the horizon, watching the waves crashing. I thought I could share my love of the beach with my son on our most recent trip, but with his nose almost touching my phone screen, it was going to be a challenge.
Inhaling the salty sea air, I began my search for sea glass. As I was bending down to pick up what looked like a smooth pink colored stone, my son shouted with delight, “I found a Squirtle!
“Do you mean Sea Glass?” I asked. He was still staring at the phone so I was confused about how he found anything in his surroundings.
“What color is it?” I asked.
“Oh wow, blue sea glass is not easy to find.”
“No, a Squirtle is from the game. I didn’t find any sea glass.”
Rolling my eyes, it wasn’t necessary to hide my disdain since he was still glued to the screen in front of him. I must admit though, he was smiling and at least he was getting some fresh air and exercise.
“Look, you can see the ocean, it looks like we are walking on it. Isn’t that funny?”
I peered over and saw a GPS type map with a figure walking on the ocean. Suddenly another figure popped up.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s a Poliwag. I have to catch it,” he responded.
“Well, quick go get it.”
This exchange continued for the next half hour. It was the first time I found a Squirtle, Poliwag, and Staryu on a walk. I loved seeing my son become excited about his discoveries and at least he voluntarily left the house.
“Mom, I’m hungry. Can we go to the house and have dinner?” he asked. “I wonder if he knows how to play Pac-Man,” I thought. ■