Here’s the update on my grand video game experiment: Unlimited video games has been great. If there is nothing my kids are supposed to be doing—feeding goats, practicing violin, taking a skateboard lesson—then they can play video games. I have not put limits on how much they play or what they play. I have even been very liberal about making purchases that they kids needed to play what they want. Here are some examples of what happened:
1. I realized the kids use the video games to squelch boredom.
There are times when life is boring. We all have those times. Even if you are homeschooled and you can pick anything in the world to do. There are boring times: waiting for dinner at a restaurant, driving to swimming, taking a break during a playdate.
These are times when I eat. They are times when I get very stressed and tell myself not to eat. Eating from boredom is bad. It will make me fat. Be in the moment. Feel that I am not hungry. I tell myself all these things, but still, I eat when I am bored. And I think, I wish so much that I could play video games when I am bored instead of eating.
2. One son started making movies.
Only 10% of Internet users are content creators. The rest just consume. I am convinced that the percentage of creators will go through the roof with Generation Z, and the line between content creator and content consumer will blur. But for right now, I have to tell you that I’m really proud to have two content creators.
I think I have mentioned 1000 times that creating content for the whole world on the Internet is much more educational than creating content for your teacher to read. The Stanford study that I have linked to a billion times found that Stanford students were better writers because they wrote for the Internet—they worked harder online to write well enough to get people to read and respond. The reward of the teacher reading and giving it a grade pales in comparison to social media.
So I bought $500 worth of equipment, not including the $1500 Mac we already had, so that my son could run the Wii through the computer and narrate games. This week, three people he has never met subscribed to his YouTube channel. My son was absolutely ecstatic. He is trying harder than ever to make his videos useful and entertaining, and he is doing things on the computer that are specialized and take tons of concentration and determination, and he makes me love that he plays video games.
3. One son started taking photos.
The DS has a built-in camera. So, since my son has his DS with him all the time, he also has his camera with him. He took photos at a Japanese restaurant in Chicago because he said he wanted to remember what the food looks like. He took pictures on the train when we went from NYC to New Jersey, and he noticed how cool it was that the photos were blurry. (That’s him, on the train, in the photo above.)
He uses the software to pixilate, exaggerate, and distort. And he is learning how to document his life and show the world as he sees it. He would not have realized he wanted to do this if I didn’t let him have his DS on all the time.
4. The kids with video-game naysayers as parents are totally annoying.
These kids come over to our house and they see all our video games (we have a lot) and it’s all they want to do. On his last playdate, my son asked me to tell his friend that video games are off limits for the rest of the playdate.
So I did.
The boy complained.
I said, “Why don’t you go home and tell your parents they should buy you some video games so you don’t have to go to someone else’s house to play?”