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We have all seen, heard, and read no end of press that focuses on the negative aspects of video games. Including quite a lot about how video games are isolating and anti-social activities that degrade real personal relationships.
Video games are the root of all evil. Brain softening, child-corrupting, hot coffee slinging purveyors of cop killing, pimp-handed avatars of loose morals and questionable character, engaged in all manner of congress.
Speaking of Congress, it seems that whenever a politician needs to strut, or as is more often the case, polish their moral credentials, video games are their social evil of choice to rally against in brandishing their family values.
Personally I'm a little tired of it, especially when my own experience has been exactly the opposite. If anything, killing people online with my dad has improved our relationship.
I am the kind of person that when I find something I enjoy I like to share it with friends, especially if it makes the experience more enjoyable for me. Video games are no different. It’s just more enjoyable to play with people you know and like than strangers who often don’t even speak the same language and sometimes can be just plain offensive. Additionally, it is unquestionably much more enjoyable to own bragging rights over friends and family.
When I was a kid we got an Atari 2600 for Christmas one year, and my dad and I used to spend hours competing with each other in games like Asteroids, Chopper Command, and Galaga. We had a great time, and later when emulators became common, we even revisited some of those old competitions and had a great time doing it. So I knew my dad enjoyed playing video games, and yet I hadn’t been able to interest him in playing modern video games.
Then, a few years ago, my dad came into town on a business trip and opted to stay with me rather than at a hotel. As it happened, when he arrived that evening, I was unwinding after a long day by killing people on the internet in round of Battlefield 1942.
As he came in, I said I’d be with him in a minute or two after I finished the round. He told me to keep playing and that he didn’t want to interrupt. He was going to say hello to Rachelle (my wife), bring in his bags and get himself sorted.
Then as he was about to leave the room something caught his eye, “Hey that’s a corsair!”
“Yeah this is Battlefield 1942, it's a first person shooter based on WWII.”
That seemed to catch his interest a little and as he watched over my shoulder he began to ask some questions: who was who?; was the object of the game just killing the enemy or was there was some greater goal?; and whether or not you could play both sides of the fight?, etc.
So I suggested he sit down and give it a go, and I would walk him through the controls.
He immediately gave me his standard excuses for when I asked this question; he didn’t know how to play or even what the controls were and didn’t enjoy the frustration of having his ass kicked repeatedly. That just wasn’t his idea of fun.
His interest however, was genuine and even as he recited his reasons for not wanting to play, I could see from the fascination in his eyes as he watched the game play out on my monitor that he really did. Provided of course he could actually get there and play as opposed to being slaughtered 2 seconds after he spawned.
Then I had an idea.
“I’ll teach you,” I said. “And it’ll just be you and me, and I’ll take it easy on you until you get the hang of the whole thing.
“How are you going to do that?” he asked. “We can’t both play on your machine at the same time.”
“We don’t have to,” I replied. “I have more than one computer AND they are networked. We can play on a LAN.”
That, he decided might be okay.