Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Future of Video Games

This article about the effects of too much Wii-usage got me thinking. We've tried to avoid owning any video game console because we know how much we love playing them and it would probably take too much time from other things, though at this point in our transition into parenthood any "free" time I have is spent trying to sleep, and we probably watch way too much TV. I would like to spend more time outdoors and at least have some reading time at some point in the day, but that will most likely happen when I get off this computer and catch up on my sleep.

That said, if we ever do own some video game playing-device, it will probably be when our son is old enough to appreciate it, which will be a few years down the road. You all probably know the Wii encourages movement when playing, so it had me pondering about the next evolution in video game abilities.

In a few years, perhaps you won't need a controller at all. Perhaps Wii-type games will no longer need to be played with any type of controller. A camera on the device records your movements and transfers them straight to the character on the screen, no handheld controller or glove or wristbands or vest necessary. With this type of setup, more people could play at once. You'd have little kids banging around all over the place in front of a screen. As the number of players expanded, of course, you'd have to move things outside. Larger screens (or smaller, individual screens), more players, more room to move. Soon, you'd have large groups of kids playing the same game, interacting with each other, moving around in physical activity, outside, in real time, competing for points....

Hmmmm. Sounds like something we've got already, doesn't it? Parents lazy enough not to limit their kids' video game playing time (14 hours a week on average?! and that doesn't factor in time just watching TV!) are wasting precious hours that could be spent in real interactions between the kids and their parents or in interactions with other children in real physical activity. I'm not saying we shouldn't ever have video games, just that we should limit them, and better yet, play with them. Then we should go play sports. And they don't have to be "organized"!

I played video games as a kid (how I loved Super Mario and now lust after an opportunity to play Super Paper Mario), but I remember spending more of my time hiking through the woods, building bridges and forts, playing homerun derby and war games with the neighborhood kids, and riding my bicycle. I lament the death of recess. Kids need more time for Red Rover and Simon Says. Do kids these days even know how to play those? Or better yet, do they ever take the initiative and make up their own games?

Bottom line: Parents should get kids off the couch, away from the TV/video game/computer and go be active with their kids. I, for one, need to heed my own advice. It's a beautiful day!

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