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Accepting a hard video game fact

A harsh reality hit me one night last week. I am the average gamer -- male in his late 20s.

I watched a documentary on the history of the video game. It started with video games from the Atari years. I am very proud to say that I played Pong, Space Invaders, Pac Man and Pole Position.

The narrator stated that people in my age range have grown up along side the video game industry. It's been so interesting to look back on what I played as a child and think about how games evolved at about the same speed as I matured.

I went from playing Tank and E.T. on Atari to Super Mario Brothers and the Legend of Zelda on Nintendo. I kept that Nintendo console until it died many years later. Incidentally, my Atari still works.

I bought a used Nintendo 64 while in college for the James Bond game GoldenEye and Star Wars Pod Racer. I played Crazy Taxi and the fighting game DOA2 on a friend's Dreamcast.

Somewhere along the way my mother got interested in watching her children play video games. She bought a Playstation 2 in the midst of them disappearing faster than Sony could make them.

We discovered the snowboarding game SSX and got addicted. My mom never plays; she says she's not coordinated enough. She just enjoys watching us play.

The next generation of the multi-player games came with the Microsoft behemoth, the X-Box. All of my friends got sucked into that with games like Halo. I've played it, but I always find a way to get knocked off pretty quickly and repeatedly.

I refused to buy an X-Box because I don't want to make Bill Gates any richer, so I just continue to use my mom's Playstation 2. But it's eerie to think about the parallels between video games and my generation. Games are no longer just for kids any more.

But kids have access to a slew of adult games. Which sparks the debate the documentary spent a good deal of time discussing.

Are video games too violent? Does the violence and fantasy role-playing have an adverse affect on people of all ages? Is game addiction a bad thing?

We'll never be able to control the material that game designers choose to put out. What people can do is limit the time their kids spend playing and not allow them to play the violent, adult-themed games.

My parents did that. Unlike so many others, they didn't allow video games to raise their children.

I've always enjoyed the challenge of trying to get to the next level or beating that stubborn opponent. But I know video games have their time and place. They should only exist for brief escapism. When they start to dominate lives and change behavior, it's time to back off.

Being that deep into video games would be extremely scary. Now I know I'm glad to be just the average gamer.

Web posted on Thursday, September 16, 2004

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