During my recent reading of “Boys Adrift” by Dr. Leonard Sax, I came across a letter that really grabbed my attention. The letter’s author is a 27-year-old doctoral student at Notre Dame — oh, and he’s addicted to video games.
I don’t think you understand the computer game phenomenon when you talk about it sapping the motivation of male 20-somethings. That’s only part of the picture. The other part is that computer games allow people to do things that feel as significant or important as the things they wish they could do in real life but don’t see any way of doing. I don’t mean that people are playing Battlefield 2 because they wish they could be shooting lots of people. But they do wish they could be doing something that mattered. When they’re playing that game, they can, for a few hours, feel like they’re doing something significant.
When I started grad school, I had a rough first year or so. Many times I came home feeling like I was never going to be any good as a scholar, like I had no hope of ever actually doing anything significant, or making any serious contribution even just in the academic community. But I could turn on the computer and play X-Wing and feel like I was helping to defeat the Galactic Empire. If you want to feel significant, feeling like you just destroyed the Death Star helps for a little while. ….
…[T]here is also in many games beauty and adventure. In Morrowind, you can wander through a really beautiful, detailed, vivid world. Now I prefer reality. But I live in South Bend, Indiana. There aren’t lots of places to hike or even to walk. …
Of course I agree that people should stop wasting time in front of the PC/Xbox and go do something real. But in order to treat a problem it may be helpful to know something about how it seems to those who suffer from it.
Richard R., Notre Dame
From Richard’s letter, we can learn several important things about how to thoughtfully and gracefully talk with our kids about video games: