When I was a boy, my mom often told me that I was ‘too smart for my own good.’ The phrase was never intended in the literal sense; rather it was my mom’s way of telling me that I thought I knew more about something than I actually did and that there was a good chance it could land me in trouble.
Other than when I was sitting in a classroom or a church, I grew up spending most of my youth outside. In my early years, I rode my skateboard or bicycle and played catch with my friends. During adolescence, I moved on to playing golf, basketball and spending the hot summer afternoons at the pool or on the beach. I was fortunate: growing up in a Navy family, we usually lived where the climate was conducive to sporting a tan year-round.
During my junior year in high school Pong, the first electronic game was invented. Someone had actually developed a game that could be played without ever leaving the couch, let alone the house. The game was destined to revolutionize the world of recreation. My best friend Jeff and I couldn’t wait to play, and when we finally had the opportunity to engage in a mesmerizing game of Pong, it immediately captivated us and held onto our full and undivided attention.
For about ten minutes. Then we got on our bikes, rode to the neighborhood basketball court and shot jumpers until the streetlights came on and we had to go home for dinner.
I’ll admit to playing a game or two of Space Invaders and Asteroids in my time, but include me among the few people that survived the ‘80’s that never played a single game of Pac Man or Donkey Kong.
There are over one million different computer games available for the children of today. As you can tell by the absence of youngsters on football fields, baseball diamonds and basketball courts, computer games have taken their place in society in the spot that was once occupied by horsehide and pigskin. And it’s a damn shame.
Nature, fresh air and physical fitness have been replaced with handheld electronic devices, headsets and jockeying for a seat on the family couch. PlayStation and XBOX systems have demonstrated they can survive the test of time and continue to thrive, often serving as faux ‘babysitters’ because they have the ability to occupy a youngster’s time for an indeterminate number of hours on end.
Ask yourself this: how often do you see the children in your neighborhood after they get home from school in the afternoon? The answer is probably the same as mine; hardly ever. And as we’ve already established, it’s a damn shame.
Computer games aren’t simply holding youngsters hostage inside their homes, either. They’re costing someone—you, your spouse, your children—an arm and a leg. Have you priced a computer game lately? Taking it a step further, the life of a computer game lasts about as long as it takes someone to develop a ‘new and improved’ version that will instantly become a ‘must-have’ to replace the outdated one. Meanwhile, footballs, baseballs and basketballs haven’t changed in more than a century.
Computer games are a blemish on the childhood of today, and I won’t even bother to mention the level of violence displayed in many of them and their possible ramifications.
Don’t get me wrong; it takes someone a lot more intelligent than me to develop these intricate, highly sophisticated games that are guaranteed to keep youngsters indoors where they can spend countless hours engaging in one game of thumb hockey after another. Meanwhile, the playgrounds and ball fields remain virtually empty.
‘Too smart for our own good.’ The phrase was never intended in the literal sense.
It is now.
Scott Ludwig lives, runs and writes in Senoia. His latest book, “Southern Charm” is a collection of his first 101 columns for The Newnan Times-Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .