From Pac-Man to Fortnight

One fateful evening at Columbo’s Pizza Parlor in Bozeman, Montana, I gained serious “street cred” with my teenage boys.  Despite being in retirement for over 25 years, I was able to get back on the Ms. Pac-Man horse and totally destroy Andrew and Chandler at what was a mainstay at the video arcade when I was a teenager.  I was able to not only beat them but humiliate them.  I more than doubled their score every game we played.  A moment of glory I will not soon forget.

While playing video games was a once in a while treat when I grew up, today’s kids are falling into what experts are calling a compulsive psychological disorder when it comes to video games. As crazy as it may seem, addiction to video games is a real problem all over the world.   In a WebMD feature on the definition of addiction, psychiatrist Michael Brody, MD, set forth the following criteria:

  1. The person needs more and more of a substance or behavior to keep him going.
  2. If the person does not get more of the substance or behavior, he becomes irritable and miserable.

If your teenager cannot get enough of a video game and becomes irritable and miserable if it is taken away, he or she may be more than just a little cranky.  Video game addiction is very real.

My wife Heather and I each grew up in homes largely without video games.  (In the Foust house, we purchased Pong sometime in the 1970s and an Atari in 1983.  They collected a lot of dust). Games today can become an all-consuming way of life for some kids. Heather and I made a decision early on that our home would not have video games. Like our decision to hold off on cell phones, we were in the minority.  I had no idea just how outside of the norm we were until I read a few articles on the subject.

I was amazed to discover that two-thirds of American families regularly play video games, and a staggering 80% of households own video game consoles. Although I now know I am a nerd, I would not change this for anything.

Our house is on a very tight routine.  Andrew and Chandler are at school until 6 or 6:30 p.m.  We have dinner, they do their homework, we maybe watch a little television and end the day.  As busy as Andrew and Chandler are I have no idea where they would find time to play video games.  Like most rules, Heather has stuck to her guns and we have not purchased a gaming system.  I tend to think our world is a little bit better because of it.