Video Game Addiction: A 30-Year-Old Cautionary Guide for Kids Still Rings True
When you have children, your parents and in-laws use that fact to unload every single bit of your own childhood that they refused to throw away. It's a hit-or-miss process that usually ends with me just dumping or donating things when I get home, but last weekend I got a treat.
This is The Survival Series for Kids, written by Joy Wilt Berry and illustrated by Bartholomew. Back in the '80s, they were a pretty good set of 22 books (two guides per book) that were designed to help kids deal with everything from writing to grandma to hanging out with the wrong crowd. The Wife With One F had a complete collection that her mother had held onto until she handed them off to us. Buried among them was What to Do When Your Mom or Dad Says... Don't Overdo with Video Games!
It was published in 1983. The great video game crash of 1983 was looming, threatening to destroy the home market forever until the NES debuted two years later. Pole Position was the dominant arcade game that year, and rumors swirled that mysterious government agents would collect high scores in order to either recruit or experiment on gamers.
In other words, it was a very different world of gaming from the one we have now. I flipped through the book expecting to see a bunch of laughably out-of-date fears and advice, but was honestly shocked to see nothing of the kind. The book is eerily apropos even for today's audience.
The thrust of the book is not that video games are bad or a waste of time. Berry is more concerned with not only the overuse of games but the reasons behind the overuse. To that end, it's actually a very sobering tome.
"Sometimes video games can provide an escape from problems [Author's emphasis]. The games make it possible for people to run away from things that are bothering them. Some people spend their time playing the games so that they will not have to face their problems."
Berry is certainly accurate there. I remember unplugging from a long string of bullying and abuse at school with endless hours of Final Fantasy VI. My brother denied his own growing mental problems by disappearing for days into Everquest. A reprieve from the real world is the purpose of a game, of course, but long periods of play with single-minded concentration is not a good sign.