In my last post on the Xbox Generation, I received this anonymous comment:
This is ridiculous. I think this post just shows a glaring generational barrier. You just don’t get it. People play Xbox. People play PC games. PlayStation. DS.
I think it is one of the follies and conceits of youth to assume that there is a generational barrier (“old people just don’t understand life!”) whenever someone older expresses concern about what the young are doing. What, older people didn’t have leisure activities when they were young? We didn’t have temptations, ways to waste away our lives and stunt our progress?
Look, video and computer games were not invented in the last five years. They been around for a couple decades, though they are much better now, of course. Television and movies have been around for decades. Game playing has been around for centuries. And so have addictions and vices of all kinds.
We have an Xbox. I enjoy some of the games on it. We’ve got Super Nintendo and had the original Nintendo and Play Station. We’ve long had computer games and all sorts of games in my family. I have kids who enjoy such games. And we’ve all learned that we need limits and controls. Strict limits to keep such things to a small corner of our lives.
As a former bishop, young men’s president, and friend and associate of many people, I have many years of experience watching people harm their lives in various ways. Games out of control have been a common theme. Smart, cool young men who spent their free time absorbed in video games, Magic the Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, poker, computer games, and Risk (one of my favorites when I was younger) seemed to harm themselves. These games were OK when they were for occasional social activities, but when it became their obsession, they missed out on so much of life. I’ve seen several people with great potential – almost always men – lose so much through their obsessions with games.
In the 1980s, I knew a Ph.D. student who become so obsessed with a stupid role playing game on a Vax computer that he spent too many of his hours in graduate school playing games rather than doing the computational modeling work his advisor thought he was doing. He ultimately lost his Ph.D. and lost a job he had accepted. I hope he has changed – people can change – but what a tragedy that was for him and his family.
I have seen similar patterns with other young men and adults who became too hooked on video and computer games. I’ve seen them drop out of school, neglect duties and responsibilities, fail in work, and become far less than they could be – and I’ve seen this over and over for years.
The abuses of some does not condemn games in general, just as the destruction caused by immorality does not condemn sex itself. But without controls, when something gets out of control or takes over too much of a persons life, harm follows – and video games seem especially adept at drawing people into spending – no, wasting – vast portions of their lives.
We older people, suffering from our generational blindness, see large portions of the younger generation unable to carry out a meaningful conversation, unable to pursue intelligent goals, unable to socialize and pursue marriage and career responsibilities, in part because they have become slaves to addictions that include the self-absorbed and often dark world of video games.
Enjoy them, but with caution and strict limits. Don’t let them become your life or your only form of recreation.
Back to the general issue of the alleged generation gap: the tendency of youth to immediately reject advice from the older generation, when it challenges the norms and favorite behaviors of the young, is akin to the tendency of the modern world to reject the advice of our old modern prophets and especially the advice from those especially ancient geezers in the scriptures. What could Mormon and Moroni know of our day? “How dare they criticize us – they know nothing of modern life and just don’t get it.” It’s a deadly form of pride, coupled with pride’s best friend, ignorance.