Publisher's Message / Apr/May 2012
About a year ago my family took a road trip to visit some old friends in San Francisco. While we were there, my kids had the opportunity to play video games on an xBox 360 with Kinect. The Kinect system actually “watches” you and tracks your movements to control the game; there are no remote controls. For example, if you are playing a baseball video game, when you make the motion of swinging the bat your avatar on the screen mimics the same motion. It’s Brave New World stuff.
On our drive home I could not talk about anything but the Giant’s game we had just attended. While the kids agreed that it was pretty cool – especially the Coca-Cola slide in the left field bleachers – they couldn’t stop talking about the Kinect system. And, for every time I mentioned some nuance about Buster Posey’s at-bat they would counter with “did you see my dance moves on the Kinect?” I think it was when we were crossing the Bay Bridge that the question first came up: “Mom, Dad… can we get a Kinect?”
Oh, boy. My wife and I dreaded this day. We had talked a bit about video games in the past, and thought about how we would handle it when the day came – we just didn’t expect it to be so soon (my kids are 8, 7, and 3-years-old). I’ve been pretty much dead-set against video games. Although, I grew up in the era of Atari, it was always my friends’ homes, not mine, where Pac Man was gobbling up his digital treats.
Our initial strategy was to stall, figuring that someday they would just lose interest. During those months, my wife and I continued our debate. Should the kids have a video game system? What does that mean for them? Would it really rot their brains? At some point during these talks we developed a brilliant strategy. We would tell the kids that, yes, they could get a Kinect - but they would have to buy it themselves. It was the parental equivalent of punting on 4th and inches. And, since they each earn a mere dollar per week if they do their chores, even if the three of them pooled their resources, it would be at least two years before they could afford the system. Plus, by then, their alliance would surely fracture and they will have forgotten all about it.
Once again, I was outsmarted by my kids, and they immediately went to work. Our lemon tree was emptied of its contents and a lemonade stand went up on the corner. They set out selling premium juice - $2 a glass, ouch! I suggested that they lower their prices, but they stuck to their guns in a way that would make a Starbucks executive blush. Next, we noticed that our avocado tree was not producing as it had in years past. Turns out that our neighborhood will yield a $1 for 2 avocados. This went on for about three months until they came to us and said, “Ok, Mom, Dad. We have enough for a Kinect.”
I was equal parts bursting with pride for their industriousness and terrified for the future of humanity as we walked up to the cash register. The kids handed the young clerk their Mason jar, which had been used to hold the savings. After ten minutes of sorting and counting loose change and small bills with the assistance of my wife and the store manager, the clerk triumphantly declared that our kids were now the proud owners of a Kinect system.
The kids spent that first day playing with their new video game system and congratulating each other on accomplishing their goal. The next day they played some more, but I noticed that it was not quite as much. At some point, and in part thanks to our “no screens until after 5 o’clock” rule, bike riding, tetherball, and actual (as opposed to virtual) baseball became the activities of choice once again. Thankfully, humanity, while it still has its problems, is back on track, and I am happy to report that no one’s brain has rotted as a result of playing video games.
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