Sweaty hands clench awkward-shaped plastic. I push forward the right side of the plus-sign shaped button as if my actual life depends on it, and my right thumb pounds “A” with the driving force of a jackhammer.
Some of my most vivid memories involve my middle brother and I wasting away days in front of the Super Nintendo, then Nintendo 64 and Gameboy, later the Game Cube. We would freak out (as we used to say,) when we would make a stupid mistake and loose a virtual life. Later, I “grew-up” and stopped playing videogames.
This may have been a mistake, because according to University of Rochester’s Daphne Bavelier in a Parentalguide.org report, research shows that five to eight hours of action video game play weekly, for seven to 10 weeks in 18-25-year-olds improves vision, attention, cognition and decision making.
Recently a friend revealed a shady and probably illegal app that allows one to play old NES games on the iPhone, and I immediately felt like I was in second grade again. I shared the “cheat code” with my brother (the app I cannot disclose here for fear the publicity will bring the demise of my sketchy game emulator.) We now “freak-out” with expletives when we jump into that enemy in route to the end sign. My dreams turned into navigation through Donkey Kong Country — my nightmares losing Diddy to an upright crocodile creature.
In the U.S., 58 percent of the population play videogames, and gamers who now play more video games than they did three years ago spend less time playing board games, watching TV, going to the movies and watching movies at home, according to The 2013 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry. While these forms of entertainment may be equally informative, nothing satisfies more than control over the outcome of your entertainment (and the conquest of that “boss.”) Even though I am not a fan of newer video game consoles, I respect what Nintendo used to be and what my endless sessions staring at that flickering screen taught me.
“Duck Hunt” taught me that technology is unreliable (our orange “gun” was faulty most days;) “Mario Kart 64” taught me how to drive; “Pokémon “stadium mini-games taught me to compete with my all and lose gracefully; lastly, before I deserted my love of videogames, “Animal Crossing” taught me how to live a productive life.
These important lessons and my fond memories are not all the result of videogames, though I feel like the time I spent jumping over shells and battling Pidgeys lasted for eternity.
Double roughly twice the time I spent gaming; that is how often I was either playing outside or reading a book.
My overall outlook on videogames is while they encourage problem solving and critical thinking, something I learned in Shannon Mortimore-Smith’s ENG 336 two years ago, I strongly assert the mantra “everything in moderation.” The class featured a game-modeled syllabus and encouraged students to explore how videogames can relay real world concepts.
Prior to the class, I forgot my roots and how videogames allowed me a new thought process while increasing my creativity. What games one chooses to play, or broader, entertainment to consume, allows the consumer to escape from reality.
And that is OK, just as long as you return to this world long enough to not detach completely.