Video Games: Time Wasters or Career Path Makers?

This morning I was taking my kids plus a friend's child to school and I overheard the friend say this from the backseat:

Friend: In Super Mario Party 8 Luigi wins by doing absolutely nothing!

Finally! A game I could actually be good at.

When I was very young I had dreams of being a medical doctor, more specifically, a general surgeon. And then I had a revelation (thanks to Atari) about how truly horrible my eye-hand coordination was. If my general coordination were as bad I wouldn't be able to walk across a room.

My parents gave my younger sister, Page, and me an Atari gaming system for Christmas when we were 6 and 10 years old, respectively. Does anyone remember Pong, Space Command, and Missile Invaders?

A screenshot of Pong


For those born after the Dark Ages (i.e. before computers, cell phones, and modern video game systems) Pong was a game in which you moved the outside "lines" on the screen to bounce a tiny square dot between them. Like table tennis. Riveting, huh?

Well, my sister would either play one another (in two-player games) or take turns (in one player games). When playing alone we would hand over the control to the other at each "death." This was a losing proposition for me. My turn would last about 15 seconds. I would then "die." And then I would have time to go gestate or write a dissertation or build a car from scratch, or whatever, before it would be my turn again. Because Page was that good. She was scary. I never did get any better. She probably did, but she was so far ahead of me I couldn't tell. So I gave up on video games and found other things to do. And after quickly mastering the cutting-edge games of the day Page got tired of the system and came out too. Until Nintendo came out. And then PS3. And then Wii....

And then, a few Christmases ago, Page sent a Wii to my house for my kids. Because she hates me loves her nieces and nephews and wants to watch them humiliate me at a new game share her love of video games with them.

In any case, I credit Atari for the beginning of the end of my surgical dreams. My mom was wrong. Video games aren't just mind-numbing time-wasters. They also save lives.

This was the joystick for Atari. One controller and one button. I actually sucked at this.

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