Stuff for Sporadic Saturday

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Reminder: I don’t blog on Saturdays. I haven’t been for about three months. Though I’ve blogged every Saturday for the last three months, I’m not blogging on Saturdays.

If that makes sense, you drank more beer than I did last night at the office Christmas party.

I guess it’s more accurate to say, “blogging is sporadic on Saturdays.” Some Saturdays are regular blog days, some are much lighter. Whereas I make myself blog Monday through Friday and always post something edifying but short on Sunday, on Saturday you get solely what the Hour Glass and Muses allow.
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A few administrative things:

(1) A few readers email potential stories to me. This is appreciated. If you’re thinking, “Boy, this story should get out there; I wish I had a blog,” send the link to me. I’ll post it, unless the story is stale or lame (and even if it’s lame, I might post it, if it’s a public service type of thing).

(2) If you’re a blogger and think you’ve written an insightful or funny post, email me the link. Don’t be modest. Don’t be angry if I don’t post it, but don’t be modest. (And if the blog post is from that day, I might use it at The Register’s Blog Watch page.)

(3) Don’t forget to use the Amazon link on the right for buying stuff. If you don’t use my blog link, use someone else’s. It’s kind of bogue not to (unless, of course, you simply forget). It doesn’t cost you anything, except the extra mouse click and page load.
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First, bowling alone. Now, foosball alone: “The table system cost about $500 to build, and combines a webcam, an 800MHz Pentium PC and servo-controlled paddles to move, twist, and kick. Here’s how it works . . .”.
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Fr. de Souza cogently condemns video games:

Video games take what is most precious — time and thought. And they are making kids fat.

Video games are like a black hole into which time disappears. Students today often confess to wasting a couple of hours a day on them. Corporate Canada likely loses whole weeks of productive work to those who are playing games at work. Video games have some kind of addictive allure that means any number of hours is not enough. It is always possible to play again — to rise to that “next level” which somehow acquires near-mystical importance. They are the crack cocaine of the electronic world.

My response: He’s right, kinda. But I’d call video games the Red Bull and Vodka of the video world. The stuff is addicting, in the sense that it gets kids hooked on the dopamine ups and downs and the low-impact thrill of a video world. But lots of things are like that: golf, bowling, sex, any absorbing hobby. The answer to any such threat is moderation, not abstinence. I think video games pose a greater risk than bowling, but I think it’s a difference of degree, not kind.

I think it’s an important distinction. De Souza wasn’t allowed access to video games at all. When he got to college, he got hooked on Tetris. My parents allowed me to play video games while growing up, all the while warning me against excessive play time and threatening to police my use if I couldn’t police it myself. When I went to college, I got hooked on . . . nothing (beer excepted).

This is important. If you over-state the risk (calling it “crack cocaine”), kids will stay away while living in the shelter of their parents’ home, but when they go to college and see friends playing video games without ending up on the Bowery, they’ll try it. Once they try it and discover that their world isn’t coming to an end after all, they’ll conclude everything they heard before wasn’t true . . . and they’ll charge in and play to excess. That’s when they become addicts.

Finally, the total abstinence approach gives video games an allure that they don’t deserve. Video games are stupid (often fun, but at bottom, stupid). They don’t deserve as much attention as effective prohibition requires, and by enforcing prohibition, you make the chance of their abuse much higher. They say drunks come from two types of households: the soused and the teetotaling. I suspect a similar thing can be said about the video game obsessed. They come from two types of households: The household that keeps a TV on all the time and never questions whether the screen media could be harmful (the soused) and the puritan-like household that doesn’t allow screens.

Moderation in all things, except the intrinsically evil and the holy. Any other approach will lead to problems.