I don’t know if a love of video games is an example of nature or nurture, but Penguin, and by the looks of it, Owl, are both gamer aficionados.

When I was in high school, I had a Sega Genesis system. I was really crap with most games, save Aliens. I made an impressive Ripley and I took down, nay DESTROYED, entire alien colonies. I beat the game and then some, and it was a very satisfying feeling indeed. I also purchased this one game, and the name evades me, and I could never get more than 5 minutes in before throwing it across the room and stewing silently to myself. It was more of an RPG game, a format wholly incompatible with my ADHD. I could never figure out how to jump from one tree to another and I died in the same spot time after time, day after day. It was predictably infuriating.

When Papa Bird and I met, he introduced me to computer games, and there were a few that I found interesting. Red Alert, in particular, held my attention. He refused to play it with me, however, because I made tactical decisions and employed a strategy best summarized by the phrase, “What happens if I do this?” Shortly thereafter, we purchased a Sony Playstation and bought a game which, for me, represented the finest in entertainment. Katamari Damacy is a very simple game. You roll around and collect things on a ball, set in bizarre Japanese worlds with bizarre, comical music. It’s the closest one can get to an acid trip without dropping acid. And I loved it. Played it all the time. Still get a hankering to play it if I have a few moments.

All of this, though, is a preface to my new reality, which is the overtaking of my life by Minecraft. Not my life in the sense that I am playing it. My life in the sense that I have to beat Papa Bird and Penguin off of the computer to stand up and get some fresh air already. What I like about the Penguin’s game playing, aside from watching him plot out his moves, learn new skills and take risks in an electronic environment that I don’t think he would take elsewhere, is that it actually has become fodder for imaginative play. Now, even when we are not playing the game on the computer, Penguin plays “real life Minecraft,” using his pickaxe and sword and crates to do – whatever it is one does in Minecraft. I’m not quite sure.

I know that video games get a bad rap. And sometimes these criticisms are deserved. I’ve no patience for violent, bloody or angry video games. But these games, the ones that let you inhabit a different world for a bit, I have to admit: I’m kind of sold on them if they hold your interest. Not excessively, mind you, but in moderation. When you are the mother of a little boy that exudes a highly cautious, highly dependent nature, the adventures they go on in the gaming world matter. Unafraid of failure, embarrassment or hurt, I’ve seen Penguin try things in a game that I could not picture him trying in real life. Motivated by a world that intrigues him, I’ve seen him translate the electronic world of Minecraft into real-world creative self-play, both indoors and out.

When I tell some people that I am raising a gamer, I get the predicted “tsk-tsk.” But I think this comes from people who never liked games, or don’t like the noise and the busyness of the graphics, or think it is a shame to sit  in front of an electronic device or just plain don’t like it, thank you very much. And I might have been of the same opinion a few years back, prechildren, when it came to gaming and my own kids. Pragmatically, I have all the evidence in the world that gaming and growing up healthy and well-rounded are not incompatible. Papa Bird is a case in point. Yet, I too was swayed by the idea that overall, games and TV  just weren’t good for kids because…. erm, because. But I’ve seen the possibility for transformative effects and I’ve liked what I’ve seen thus far.

So, it looks I’m raising a gamer. Maybe two. Owl does love his Leapster.

Throw your controllers in the air and wave ’em like you just don’t care, ya’ll.

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