One Order of Imagination, Please
Hold the Video Games
Published: Monday, October 15, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 15, 2012 16:10
College is a time for growing up, for finding our niche in the world, for moving past the learning-heavy phase of our life and into the doing-heavy phase. It is a time where we reap the fruits of the long hours of development we went through as children. And as we reap those fruits, college also becomes a time when we can see in ourselves – and others – the ways in which our upbringing defines us as people.
The way our parents disciplined us, the way they catered to our needs (and wants, for the spoiled kids) and the activities we participated in shows us how we became who we are today. This perspective allows us to determine what we think is best in raising children, and perhaps begin to choose those methods we liked or did not like about our own upbringing, in order to cultivate our own future methods for raising kids. In our generation, we see some of the first kids who grew up with video games.
“Oh, here we go again!” I can hear you saying it now. To our generation, the debate seems as old as time. Are video games okay for kids? Do they cause violence, bullying or murder? How much time with video games is too much time? You are about to switch to the next article. I know you’re thinking it! But bear with me, because this actually is important.
I was never allowed video games when I was growing up. My peers couldn’t believe it. They laughed at me and empathized with me, but not much of it made a difference-- no amount of begging in the world would get my parents to change their mind. And I guarantee you if I invested in a gaming console even today, they would have something to say about it.
Even though I “missed out” on the gaming generation, even though I “suffered” through all of my friends having video games while I moped about not having them, I must say that today I haven’t a single regret. All except for all the time I spent whining and complaining about not having video games. I really could have been doing so many better things with my time.
See, my childhood was still filled with adventure. No, I did not have a television screen to show me the government agencies I infiltrated with James Bond or the Nazis I killed playing Medal of Honor, but my imagination knew no difference. The baseball bats and broomsticks my brother and I used for guns didn’t shoot any less fake bullets than the guns on Call of Duty. And we even got a workout and a tan while we played!
We were always outside! I distinctly remember one summer afternoon when my Dad sent me out to play after lunch, and told me not to come back until dark. He clearly just wanted me out from under his feet for the day, but what better a way to do it?
When other Dads plopped their kid down in front of a television and hooked up the brain-drain cables to keep their kid occupied for the day, mine forced me to use my imagination, forced me to go and create my own adventure, to develop my mind and body in the fresh air and sunshine. He forced me to go out into the world and make decisions on my own, to find the line between right and wrong on my own, and not merely have it told to me.
And what about those rainy days, you ask? What did you do then? How about at night when it was too dark to play, or when you were sick and couldn’t go outside? The answer is right in front of your eyes: I read! Though my parents never invested in video games for my brother and I, they always made sure we had an extensive collection of literature to peruse. When I tired of indoor games, farming the carpeted fields of my living room with toy tractors and duck hunting out of my “duck boat” (bed), I took my imagination to lands much further away.
There can be no replacement for the hours I spent tramping through tropical rain forests with Robinson Crusoe, feeling the salty sea spray on the deck of the Hispaniola with Long John Silver, or shivering in the icy Youkon winds with Buck and John. And I promise you that my imagination, reading and writing have all benefited far more from reading books than they ever would have from playing video games.
No, you gamers can keep your CoD and your Halo and your Madden too! Give me a bike, some sunshine, a grassy field, or a dusty baseball diamond. Give me a public swimming pool, a small-town street and ghost-in-the-graveyard with some friends. I may never have the hand-eye coordination or the fine motor skills that my Super Smash Bros. obsessed roommates do, but I would never trade that in for the childhood I had.
Nathan is a senior majoring in landscape architecture. Follow him on twitter @nwstottler.