There’s been much debate about the effect that video games and online games have in the development of our children and even in the socialization of adults. Reams have been written about the ways in which video games isolate youngsters and encourage a sedentary lifestyle. Some argue that, when adults play video games and online games to the exclusion of other activities, they effectively distance themselves from others and put up emotional barriers.
While moderation and self-control may be important considerations when playing video games and online games, I believe a case can be made that some addictive games promote family values.
Some people grow up in “game” families, and others do not. I’m from a family of avid gamers – and this was long before the advent of video games and online games. Some of my first memories are of going with my parents to their friends’ houses and sitting quietly while they played bridge all evening. My father worked in construction, and so was out of work during the winter. I fondly recall coming home from school and finding my mother, father, and my father’s best friend sitting around the table playing cutthroat pinochle. As I grew older, I spent many weekends up at a mountain cabin, playing hearts with eight or ten other people until the wee hours of the morning.
In our family, we didn’t only play card games. We played every kind of game imaginable – board games, travel games, Mah Jong, outdoor games – you name it. I was the reigning backgammon champion in my college dorm. We also were voracious puzzle solvers. I preferred cryptograms and anacrostics, while my grandmother solved crossword puzzles in pen until she was 94 years old. And, yes, when the first Ataris came out, my mother bought one and we spent countless hours playing Pong and Donkey Kong.
There’s no question in my mind that the addictive games we played united our family and taught us important life lessons. The first lesson, of course, was don’t cheat – and never play with cheaters. That has served me well in business. The second lesson was good sportsmanship: always play to win, but be gracious when you lose. That, too, has been an important life lesson. Even though I try my best, sometimes I don’t come out on top. The third lesson was about the importance of thinking ahead and strategizing to reach your goals. The fourth lesson was about partnerships and teamwork. I had to learn to be a team player, and sometimes a former adversary would become an ally at a moment’s notice.
Most of all, though, our family’s addictive game playing gave us an opportunity to be together, to have fun, and to laugh. We’re all highly competitive, but at the end of the day, we’re all friends.
My son has inherited my love of games and puzzles. To be honest, I couldn’t wait until he got old enough to start playing kid’s games. Like many parents, I played Chutes and Ladders until my eyes crossed! He plays his video games – but we play a lot of them together. We also do jigsaw puzzles together and enjoy working in puzzle books and magazines. He even creates puzzle books for his classmates using the class’ spelling words.
So, while people turn up their noses at addictive games, I say that they can teach important life lessons and instill great family values. Play on!