Halo Happiness

Our 19 year old son, Ethan, got home from work around 8:30 pm on Friday night and the first thing out of his mouth was, “Are you guys going to bed soon?” Although I’m sure that we were so tired that we looked about 110 years old as we sat staring blankly at a movie, his question was not motivated by a desire to make sure we went to bed early to get some rest. He wanted to know when he would have our one-and-only TV to himself so he get the next cool item ““ and bragging rights ““ in Halo 3.

Ethan has always loved playing video games. There was even a point in his life that we felt that video games had gone beyond just being a diversion; they had become an escape from dealing with the world around him ““ which I suppose is the definition of an addiction. Painful as it was, he went cold turkey from playing them for a year.

When he went back to playing games, he had more balance in his life but he never lost his passion for them. Still, his video game mania does frustrate me at times. When he is explaining in great detail why the physics of “Half-Life 2″ are revolutionary, I find myself thinking that if he put half as much brainpower and energy into physics in real life that mountains would be moved or bridges would be built”¦But what do I have to complain about? I’ve got a teenage son who wants to talk to me ““ even if it is about first-person shooters. 

Sometimes I tell Steve that I’m worried that if there was a pie chart titled “What Ethan Spends His Time Thinking About,” that video games would be half of the pie. “Work, School, and Friends” would be almost the entire other half with just a little sliver for “Future Plans.”

Steve can give me a little perspective on this because even though he has never held a game controller in his life, he shares the same DNA and he understands why video games are so appealing for a young man like Ethan. He pointed out to me that there was an article in the newspaper that described the soldiers in Iraq, who are the same age as Ethan, unwinding from a day of fighting insurgents by playing video games in their barracks.

I’m thankful that the stress in Ethan’s life right now is not life threatening and is limited to cranky customers during his shift at Blockbuster, but everybody needs a way to blow off some steam and video games just happens to be his recreation of choice ““ him and millions of other males born after 1975.

I thought video games were a pastime that he would eventually leave behind like Legos and Pokemon cards because I was in denial about how intrinsic video games really are to Ethan and guys who have grown up with technology. However, the release of Halo 3 and the media attention surrounding it made me realize that video games are here to stay and getting bigger every year.

No one is going to “grow out” of playing video games, in fact, this generation is going to grow old with them. Can’t you imagine the old guys at the retirement home with controllers in their gnarled hands, huddled around the Xbox 1800 playing Halo 13, shouting, “I’m dead!”?

If I had any money to invest, I know where I’d put it: a drug company that’s developing arthritis medication to keep their thumbs nimble.

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