The gadgets have taken over my house
And I have no one to blame but myself
George Romero has nothing on Nintendo when it comes to creating zombies.
I've seen it all over; kids tied to their gaming systems, oblivious to anything that's going on around them. And now, this pandemic has claimed my own child.
Quite often I look across the room and see my daughter staring intently at a Nintendo DS, an iPod or an iPad – feverishly punching away at buttons or swiping her finger across the screen.
The funny thing is I have no one to blame but myself. I am patient zero.
Confession: I don't hate video games. I've invested hours into scouring the old West in Red Dead Redemption. I've conjured dozens of “Fus Ro Dah” in Skyrim. When my daughter was younger, she would be hanging around doing toddler things – slapping stickers on the dog or dancing to music only she could hear – and I'd be playing Xbox 360 online with her uncle and cousins. It was fun, and in a strange way it was somewhat social and familial. As she got older and coordinated enough to start playing herself, I got her a Wii gaming system. I think this is where the monster first crept into our home – invited across our threshold by none other than me.
In the beginning I swore I'd avoid creating a video game zombie. We'd have a child that valued reading, pursued musical studies, played team sports and spent time outside with friends. And she does all those things. Yet at some point every day I'll hear the all-too-familiar bleeping and blooping emanating from the living room and I'll know the zombie is skulking just around the corner.
It seemed innocent enough at first. Lego Star Wars led to Lego Harry Potter, which in turn became the gateway to handheld games and Apple's insidious tablet-based entertainment.
It's not all bad though. She and her mom play a game together called Just Dance on the Wii. The two of them stand in front of the TV and flail about to the music in synchronized movements. They both end the session out of breath and flush. There's clearly a cardio workout going on as I play my own game called Just Sit and Watch. (I don't want to inflict my own particular dance styles on anyone – including family. That would be cruel.)
If video games must be played, then I can't really find much wrong with something that gets her up and moving. But it can't go on all the time. My wife and I have now created a safe zone – a “gadget-free” time when we're talking or watching TV together or just being social. But even then we aren't safe from the incessant march of the video game zombie.
When dinner is done, the dishes are put away and homework is a memory, we'll fall in to our regular couch-based tableaux; my wife on one end of the couch with my daughter in the middle and me occupying the other side. Usually the Bruins are on, and we are in our element. And then I'll step back and take a look at what's actually going on: wife is on the Macbook, daughter is on the iPod Touch and I'm cradling the iPad.
We have been assimilated.
Bill Burke is an Olympic-level Angry Birds player who lives in southern N.H. with his wife and 9-year-old daughter.