An old man rant.
There was a time when it was almost intolerable to sit there and watch your buddy play video games and have to wait your turn. It was like having a bowl of chips in front of you and being told you aren’t allowed to touch them. You’d get jittery, and frustrated because you could see the mistakes he was making. You knew you could get through that area without having to go back after falling off the ledge. You knew the pattern to beat the boss. But nooooo you have to sit there until your friend, who coincidentally was the one who owned the shiny new Nintendo console, was done and deigned to give you turn.
But now there are people getting rich by doing just that. Playing video games for kids to sit and watch. What is this? How is this more interesting than playing yourself? And it isn’t like they’re playing a new game no one has seen. It’s Fortnite. Virtually every kid over the age of 6 is playing Fortnite. But instead of playing and honing their skills they sit and watch YouTube videos of screaming halfwits yelling on camera while they play.
I’ve asked my son about this phenomenon and all I get is “I like it.” Ok, fair enough. You’re allowed to like what you like. I mean I watch videos and listen podcasts of people play Dungeons & Dragons. But at least there’s a narrative to it. It isn’t just running around and screaming incoherently.
Don’t get me wrong. YouTube and Twitch have created a platform for people who might not otherwise have a voice. It’s created a market that never existed before. And has made it easier to make a living doing something you love to do. But oh my God some of those people are irritating. I say this now as a cranky 39 year old but I’m sure when I was his age if there was a way to broadcast ourselves playing video games or a way to watch others play games we couldn’t get through we would have done it. And I’m sure we were just as annoying as some of those YouTubers.
The thing is we didn’t have those options. We had the NES and Turbgrafx 16. Internet wasn’t a thing. So we had to sit and watch each other play and wait our turn. And that was agonizing. Or the other option was we get kicked out of the house and told to go play outside. And we did. We went out rode our bikes around town, bought jujubes (gummy candy) and lit stuff on fire. Those were simpler times. But now if you suggest to a 10 year old that they turn of the Xbox and go run around in the forest they look at you like you grew a second head. And that second head stared at you like you were an idiot. “Outside?!” They proclaim with shock. “What am I supposed to do outside?” i don’t know. Anything. There’s a whole world out there for you to explore. Go get lost, go find a weird bug in the woods. Go get in trouble.
I’m sure there was a point to this post but I think it got lost somewhere. Oh yeah now I remember. My son needs to clean his room, nope that’s not it. Well I mean he does need to clean his room but that’s not what I was getting at. Right, the point is there has been a cultural shift, video games used to be something we played when we were done outside or it was just to shitty out. Now it’s as though that’s all there is and going outside is punishment. When did this happen? Why did this happen? Was it because the consoles and games got better and better that the need to use your imagination and make your own fun became unnecessary? Is there a correlation between screen time and the rise in ADHD cases? I’m sure there’s a study somewhere, I just don’t feel like finding it. And yes the onus is on us parents to limit the screen time and force the kids outside, to put our phones down and go out with them and explore together. And I’m just as guilty of not doing that as anyone else. And yes I’m aware of the irony of ranting against screen time while I write on a blog on the internet. I’m not against video games or YouTube. I love them, I don’t play very often but I used to before I had kids. Before I got old. But more and more I’m finding the best way for me to get old and stay young is to get out and explore. And I want to do that with my kids without them complaining that they have to be outside.
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