I wholeheartedly believe in playing video games, both for myself and for the children. Yes, it leads to the development of strategy, improves memory and fosters creativity, but for me at least, they also bring relaxation. I laugh at that thought too, because mom used to complain about Frogger. She'd say, "I can never get that fucking frog across the highway." Game play certainly wasn't relaxing for her.
When I was a preteen and teenager, we'd save quarters to play at the arcade - and I use that term loosely - at the front of the local grocery store. There was a Ms. Pac Man that called to me, and a pinball machine that I bruised my right palm on once I learned you could slap the release for a faster shot instead of pulling it. How can you pass up a pinball machine? The lights, the marvelous sounds, the adrenaline from keeping the ball in play ... it's heaven.
When I went off to college, one of our friends off campus had a Nintendo. During parties when everyone else was pairing off or climbing the fire escapes and generally having a drunk and debaucherous time, I was the moody girl with the bottle of Boone's Farm in front of the Nintendo willing Mario to finish each level. As I look back on that time, another reason why those people were such good friends, and many brothers in the fraternity I later joined, was that they never gave me any grief about it. The party just went on around me. Also, I'll never drink Boone's Farm Sangria ever again.
During the summers between school, my husband stayed at my mother's house with me. We'd play shareware computer games that we picked up for a dollar a piece on the computer we set up in my brother's room. When my husband and I moved to Texas, we were quite poor and living off very little, waiting for my student loan refund check to come. We didn't have any furniture until a friend gave us a couch that came in pieces. You put it together like a puzzle. We slept on a pile of blankets, ate at a low metal table that he liberated from a condemned building on campus, watched a tiny black and white TV that sat on his foot locker. After the check came through, I bought a futon, a rocking chair, a color TV and stand, and a Nintendo 64. Mario and I were together again.
Long before we could afford a Playstation, I fell in love with Tomb Raider and Lara Croft on the computer. I tried Myst, but it never really stuck. I wanted adventure. Years later, when we had finally saved up for a Playstation, he could play NBA Live promising the baby that he'd win the next game for her, and I could play ... whatever, as long as I got to 100% completion. Our eldest likes certain games, but not as much as #2 and #3. The boy has been playing religiously since he was 3 years old. I used to hand him a disconnected controller so he could play beside me and not effect my outcome. Eventually we would play together or separately, but always pushing each to be the first to finish a level. We're always behind the most recent console by a couple generations, because I'm cheap, and I almost never trade my games in because you never know when you might want to play something again.
#2 has to collect everything too, obsessive like his mother. Now he likes the games where every time you finish the entire storyline, the difficulty ratchets up a notch ... so you finish it again. That's my boy. When he was six and broke his arm, we asked the doctor to put the cast on in such a way so he could still hold his controller. I think we both would have been disconsolate if he couldn't play. The youngest holds her own well on a console game or her tablet. I like to believe it's improving her reading and planning skills, so when she's running her banana republic one day, she'll thank me. We devour all the Lego games as a family. Although Mario will always be dear to my heart, I've become quite fond of the Assassin's Creed games. Nothing makes a long day at work more bearable than plugging in, pulling the cowl down to the edge of your eyes and dispatching some enemies in quick fashion. For some reason, I find the efficiency of sharpened steel more comforting than bashing my head against bricks - which may be a weird metaphor for adulthood. Or something I should embroider on a pillow.