Bill Linnane: Are my kids going to be deficient because I let them play video games?

Video games are a menace. I know this because we took the kids to Santa shortly before Christmas and the big man told us himself. During the usual pre-gift preamble, he asked my 11-year-old if he played sport, or had any interest in the GAA. My son said no, he didn’t and he hadn’t. Santa shook his head solemnly, issuing a stern warning to my kids about a child he knew who ran sleepwalking into the street because he dreamed he was playing Fortnite.

It was a stark and sombre moment given that we were hoping for the usual banter from the supposedly jolly soul. Instead we got a vision a terrifying dystopian future we were all sleepwalking into. ‘You think you are taking something from the game, but it is taking something from you in return,’ Santa whispered. He topped it off by telling my son he should really take up a sport.

Still, Santa must have changed his mind, as he still brought the 11-year-old a PlayStation Pro for Christmas. Not only that, but to add to his hypocrisy, Santa brought Switch Lites to the two smallies, upon which they immediately installed the dreaded somnambulist fodder Fortnite.

Our kids spend a lot of time on screens. I should probably wring my hands a bit more, or try to force them out into the rain to kick a ball against the gable wall, but that isn’t really an option – we live in the sticks, there aren’t many kids around, and besides, video games are actually pretty great.

When I was growing up, arcades were the only option – you could sneak into the local snooker hall and queue up with local ne’er do wells to play Double Dragon, but once your pocket money was gone, that was it.

Then a friend would get a console – a glitchy, temperamental Commodore 64 or Atari, and you could play, but would have to go home eventually.

I finally got a console of my own at the ripe old age of 22, and proceeded to pour vast portions of my life into it, depending on what game I got hooked on. I can remember skipping college to immerse myself in the abject horror of Silent Hill, or losing myself in the wild, weird narratives of Metal Gear Solid 2.

I can’t really give out to my kids about spending too much time playing video games, because if I never had kids, I would be throttling Death Stranding for 12 hours a day. As it stands, when I do sit down with the boys, it’s usually because I have been drafted in as an expert to solve a byzantine riddle in Uncharted or dispatch ghouls in Luigi’s Mansion.

The bigger question here is – do video games cause harm? Are my kids going to be deficient intellectually, socially, or physically because I let them play games, sometimes for a couple of hours a day? Was Santa right – are they being drained by playing video games?

No, they are not. Everything in moderation, be it field sports or eSports. And am I raising nerds? I sure as hell hope so – if this rapidly overheating rock needs anything, it’s more brainiacs who can solve puzzles. If Alexander the Great were alive today he would be punching in cheat codes to hack the Gordian Knot.

So my kids love video games, and I am OK with that. It can’t all be trips to museums and walks in the woods – sometimes you just want them to sit down quietly and play something for a couple of hours, while you sneak into another room to hammer through a few levels of The Last Of Us, which Santa also gener-ously brought to the 44-year-old man child of the house.

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