Does Violence Really Make Games More “Fun”?

A significant number of my 19-28 year old male college students would give a resounding “yes!” to that question. I asked an informal research question in one of my classes, asking the guys if their Xbox violent games were more “fun” when they contain more violence, more killing and more blood. They laughed out loud, nodding manly at one another and yelled, “heck yeah!”

Many NFL and NHL season ticket holders would say the same. I wonder: is there a fun-level difference between participating in the act of violence and simply watching the violence?  I agree with those who argue that people who play violent video games and watch violence in sports are participants, particularly the gamers. But, my question centers on the issue of “fun”.

Driving my son to school after a doctor appointment, the radio news confirmed that a 16 year old boy in a neighboring area died after a head on collision during his Varsity football game. Friday night, his school and community were cheering on their team. Today, their schools are closed, all sports are cancelled, and a community mourns.

I’ve never found myself an advocate for safety in sports. Honestly, I don’t believe much will change no matter how many millions the NFL has to pay out. But, will the Dad of the young man who died from a high school hit, ever again jump to his feet on a Sunday afternoon, throwing fist-punches into the air, cheering at the hit he just saw in a Dallas Cowboys game? Will he ever again view a “great hit” as fun?

A Dad on the sidelines of my daughter’s soccer team last season mentioned the need for some sort of helmet in soccer. Since my son is in a highly competitive ice hockey league, and has had a concussion, I somewhat shrugged off the Dad’s comment. Ice hockey is brutal for me to watch. Seeing my daughter in soccer all these years was far less stressful.

This season, where my daughter is at a higher soccer level and my son just started playing, my view changed. Watching kids jump 3’ in the air and hit heads instead of the ball, is intense. In sports such as soccer, girls’ lacrosse, and field hockey, perhaps the question should be, “will the sport be less fun if we institute helmets?” As Mom, I say “protection keeps the “fun” in sports!”

There is the ongoing helmet debate, but the bigger issue simply lies in contact sports. Fans won’t pay if hitting is taken out of hockey and football. Players don’t feel as competitive without the physical violence. And parents promote the fierceness. I’m one of the quieter hockey Moms, but wow, have I sat next to the crazy ones, who literally scream to their boys, demanding hits on their opponent. Better yet, I had a Grandma who set me straight on the importance of hitting in hockey:

When my son was 13 and just began body-checking in hockey, he took a wicked hit when playing in Canada one afternoon. I winced and said to my daughter next to me,  “jeeze, he needs to get used to this now that they are checking. That hit was horrible!”

No kidding, a Canadian Grandma turned to me and snarkily quipped, “Maybe you Americans should get your boys hitting as Peewees like we do. Then they would be better players by now.”  Hmmm. Better players? Or better hitters? FYI: Canada recently banned U13 body-checking. PS: I love Canada <3.

Does violence really make games more “fun”?  While I personally say no, (as I cringe in the stands), America yells, “heck yeah!” to the tune of ONE BILLION DOLLARS – that was in two weeks from one game, not arena sports.

Violence in games has been a form of entertainment since before the gladiator games in Ancient Rome. We can squawk about having evolved as parents and grown more educated and sophisticated as humans, and less barbaric in our entertainment, but the truth lies in America’s family living rooms: Black Ops II day one sales made $500million, reaching $1billion in sales 15 days after its launch. This week, Grand Theft Auto V made $800million in 24 hours. Kids 5-20 years old didn’t fund that entire $800million, but they’re playing. Mom and Dad are buying.

Grand Theft Auto III gave the player ability to hire a prostitute, have sex with her, kill her, then steal her money. What must Grand Theft Auto V give the player the ability to do?

Heck, if that’s how we Americans are defining “fun”, hockey body-checking and football collisions must seem downright boring.

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My face through my son’s hockey helmet

Throwback Thursday: 5/23/13

My son’s wide, blue eyes beamed through the cage of his hockey helmet, and I noticed he was really looking at me.  I was standing over him in the Emergency Room, as he lay on a stretcher, still in full uniform from the concussion he suffered an hour earlier.  He almost seemed to be studying my face for reassurance, so I leaned in closer, tenderly comforting him that everything was going to be fine.

“Mama?” he beckoned quietly, still intensely staring at me through the metal bars.

I gently touched his sweaty, disgusting shoulder pad, as if it was a soft, delicate rose.  “Yes, sweetheart?”  My tone dripping with Motherly devotion toward her only son.

“You have a lot of holes in your face.”

The sweet smile froze to my cheeks supernaturally, though my eyebrows rose higher and I blinked a few times, attempting to process the comment.  Understand that I was experiencing that every-now-and-then moment Moms have when our children are hurting and we gaze upon them as if they are angels with halos, lavishing affection and adoration, leaving our hearts utterly exposed.  I was stunned.  Then hurt.  Then, a little annoyed.

Did he not see how cute I looked when we left for the rink?  Did he somehow not hear the ear-piercing sound of my heart beating wildly out of my chest as the rink medical staff ran onto the ice tending to his motionless body?  Did he miss the sweat pouring down my face in the ambulance, although I felt cold and was violently shaking?

Drips of love fell from those outrageous numbers of pores while he was being hauled off of an ice rink floor!  The iron will that prevented me from launching into my perspective of the last 60 minutes was only recently developed, after fielding unnecessary remarks made by my son since he became a teenager.

The nurse began taking off his uniform, freeing me up to scan my face in the paper towel holder on the wall.  No visible pores.  We stopped to buy him a taco on the way home from the hospital and I ducked into the ladies room for a quick peek.  Not the skin of a 30-year old, but no cavernous valleys were apparent.  After three hours, five x-rays, a CT, two doctors, and a $1,573 bill, all I could focus on was how to reduce the size of my pores!

Promptly the next day, I pulled out a facial gift certificate that I hadn’t used in the 10 months since it was given to me.  The spa had an opening, and I jumped in the car.  The aesthetician handed me a questionnaire in the dimly lit room.  After 20 silly questions peculiarly unrelated to my face, the form got down to business.  “What brings you in for a facial today?”  Answer:  enlarged pores.  “What is your #1 concern that you would like addressed?”  Answer: pores diminished.  “If you would purchase one product from our line today, what do you hope it would accomplish?”  You know.

As the 40-something beauty began working on my face, I asked whether she read the form I filled out.  “Shhh….just relax.”  I shifted irritably under my pretty little towel.  My pores didn’t feel any tighter and we were in there at least five minutes already.

“So, how do my pores look?” I asked casually.

She pushed down my shoulders.  “Relax.”

Relax?!  Who can relax now that we are 20 minutes into this and she may not have even read the sheet?!

Suddenly, the aroma of something I never smell at home filled my senses.  It was gentle, calming, forcing me against my will to sink deeper into the soft bed beneath me.  The smell was definitely not the sweaty hockey equipment my husband tends to dry over the heater vents in my kitchen.

My sweet boy actually did me a favor.  I decided to release his remark and my foolish reaction.  He was a teenager who called it like he saw it, albeit a supremely poor time to announce a flaw in his indulgent Mother.  I searched my memory for the last time I had a facial.  Surely it had been years and after all that child put me through over the weekend, I decided to enjoy what time was left of the rare pampering experience.

Does Violence Really Make Games More “FUN”?

A significant number of my 19-28 year old male college students would give a resounding “yes!” to that question. I asked an informal research question in one of my classes, asking the guys if their Xbox violent games were more “fun” when they contain more violence, more killing and more blood. They laughed out loud, nodding manly at one another and yelled, “heck yeah!”

Many NFL and NHL season ticket holders would say the same. I wonder: is there a fun-level difference between participating in the act of violence and simply watching the violence?  I agree with those who argue that people who play violent video games and watch violence in sports are participants, particularly the gamers. But, my question centers on the issue of “fun”.

Driving my son to school after a doctor appointment, the radio news confirmed that a 16 year old boy in a neighboring area died after a head on collision during his Varsity football game. Friday night, his school and community were cheering on their team. Today, their schools are closed, all sports are cancelled, and a community mourns.

I’ve never found myself an advocate for safety in sports. Honestly, I don’t believe much will change no matter how many millions the NFL has to pay out. But, will the Dad of the young man who died from a high school hit, ever again jump to his feet on a Sunday afternoon, throwing fist-punches into the air, cheering at the hit he just saw in a Dallas Cowboys game? Will he ever again view a “great hit” as fun?

A Dad on the sidelines of my daughter’s soccer team last season mentioned the need for some sort of helmet in soccer. Since my son is in a highly competitive ice hockey league, and has had a concussion, I somewhat shrugged off the Dad’s comment. Ice hockey is brutal for me to watch. Seeing my daughter in soccer all these years was far less stressful.

This season, where my daughter is at a higher soccer level and my son just started playing, my view changed. Watching kids jump 3’ in the air and hit heads instead of the ball, is intense. In sports such as soccer, girls’ lacrosse, and field hockey, perhaps the question should be, “will the sport be less fun if we institute helmets?” As Mom, I say “protection keeps the “fun” in sports!”

There is the ongoing helmet debate, but the bigger issue simply lies in contact sports. Fans won’t pay if hitting is taken out of hockey and football. Players don’t feel as competitive without the physical violence. And parents promote the fierceness. I’m one of the quieter hockey Moms, but wow, have I sat next to the crazy ones, who literally scream to their boys, demanding hits on their opponent. Better yet, I had a Grandma who set me straight on the importance of hitting in hockey:

When my son was 13 and just began body-checking in hockey, he took a wicked hit when playing in Canada one afternoon. I winced and said to my daughter next to me,  “jeeze, he needs to get used to this now that they are checking. That hit was horrible!”

No kidding, a Canadian Grandma turned to me and snarkily quipped, “Maybe you Americans should get your boys hitting as Peewees like we do. Then they would be better players by now.”  Hmmm. Better players? Or better hitters? FYI: Canada recently banned U13 body-checking.

Does violence really make games more “fun”?  While I personally say no, (as I cringe in the stands), America yells, “heck yeah!” to the tune of ONE BILLION DOLLARS.

Violence in games has been a form of entertainment since before the gladiator games in Ancient Rome. We can squawk about having evolved as parents and grown more educated and sophisticated as humans, and less barbaric in our entertainment, but the truth lies in America’s family living rooms: Black Ops II day one sales made $500million, reaching $1billion in sales 15 days after its launch. This week, Grand Theft Auto V made $800million in 24 hours. Kids 5-20 years old didn’t fund that entire $800million, but they’re playing. Mom and Dad are buying.

Grand Theft Auto III gave the player ability to hire a prostitute, have sex with her, kill her, then steal her money. What must Grand Theft Auto V give the player the ability to do?

Heck, if that’s how we Americans are defining “fun”, hockey body-checking and football collisions must seem downright boring.

3 Teenagers with 97 Practices and 68 Games – In 60 days.

MMy girls each play one fall sport and my son plays two. Since he has a lighter ice hockey schedule this year, he joined Varsity soccer as a second sport. The above title does not include Saturday morning recreational soccer games for my oldest two. And, lest you judge us as “that family”…you know, “the ones who have their kids in too much”…read on.

When my youngest was in the 5th grade, I met a fellow Mom in the school hallway who was completely frazzled. Like me, she had 3 children, but 2 of hers were well into the high school years. She told me she had driven back and forth to the school 17 times in two days. I thought she was exaggerating. Breathlessly, she listed her kids’ varying sports schedules, after school clubs, homecoming meetings, etc. etc. etc.  When she finished, I laughed and said, “Wow, you need a break with a cup of tea!”  She looked at me like I was crazy to think she’d have the time. Me? I sat around the kitchen island with my kids that afternoon, enjoying after-school cookies and milk, while leisurely hearing all the details of their day.

Knowing me back then (before my kids were teenagers and I smugly believed that my family was the most harmonious of all), I probably judged her for not having enough family dinners and for putting her kids into too many activities.

Fast forward 4 years.

As of Wednesday, all 3 of my children are in high school. Even though school just began for us, sports started in August and I have a well-worn path between my house and the school campus!

There was a time when I foolishly believed that kids belong at home the majority of the time and anything other than one outside interest was too much. Honestly, I fought for that life until I watched my twins become teenagers, and they grew into a new breed of humans right before my eyes. Yes, they needed more than home.

The school, travel, and recreational sports provide my teens with a sense of belonging. The physical exertion is excellent for their bodies and minds. The research I did to disprove their need for more than Mom 😉 showed that teen sports involvement elevated overall confidence, and monumentally reduced the amount of drug and alcohol use, and sexual promiscuity among teens.

Do sports cure all ills? Of course not. But music, athletics, and any other outside interest a child willingly pursues grows them personally and sometimes, professionally.

In summary, my daughter signed me up to host the first Varsity soccer team pasta dinner the night before school started. Just when I was feeling rather proud of myself for organizing our 60-day insane schedule and a dinner for 18 girls, one of the Dad’s picking up his daughter mentioned how busy they were. I nodded, thinking about our 97 practices. He added, “I don’t know if my daughter told you, but she’s the oldest of six kids. We’re working hard to stay on schedule.”

Hmmmm. Six kids? Well, now I just feel less amazing! God bless us all as we drive to countless fields and rinks, supporting our children. Someday when they are all in college, these will be our autumn memories!

Choose My Battles?

boxing-gloves-picLast week my husband suggested that I more carefully “choose battles” with my twin 16-year olds.  Spending so much time together during the summer apparently had me criticizing them about “stupid things”.

While I might have dismissed my husband’s comment ;), I was convicted while reading a statement from Ruth Graham, located in the book: Billy Graham in Quotes.  She writes, “Never let a single day pass without saying an encouraging word to each child…” (pg. 41).

That hit me hard because my son was nearby looking sad.  Not mad, not angry, just disappointed that I suggested he get a haircut.  His hair is one of the battles that I’ve (for the most part) kept quiet about because he is a hockey player and having “sick flow” that sticks out of the back of the helmet is quite the rage.  I looked up from my book to see his expression which probably had less to do with the haircut and more to do with the previous hour.

“Your bedroom floor is always a mess.  Why don’t you bring the laundry when you go upstairs?  Did you seriously just leave the door open again, letting out the air conditioning?!  Can you please, just once, put the wet towels in a separate laundry basket?! Did you read anything today or just watch TV?”

His response?  “Mom, I cleaned all three bathrooms, did the dishes, and took out the garbage.  Did you notice those things?”  I had, but instead of praising the good, I focused on what needed “improvement”.

I had wet eyes as Proverbs 10:19 jumped into my head.  Just to make sure I got the hint, God dropped Colossians 3:21 into my mind:  “…do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.”

Leaving my kids with heavy hearts due to “unnecessary comments” is a change I need to make.  So, I decided to abandon criticism and my drill sergeant tone of voice.  Within two hours, my resolution was a vapor and I promptly had something to say about my daughter’s shirt neckline being too low.

Her response? “Go ahead, make me feel bad again about the clothes I wear!”  All I heard was “again…”  I immediately tried to diffuse the situation, but she waved me off and stormed down the hall.

I have three really good teenagers and the four of us are particularly close.  This fact makes it especially terrible that I don’t always think before I talk.  I questioned why I am continually in their business and realized that although they have grown into young adults, often, I still attend to them as if they were ten.  There’s a major mind shift required by parents when kids become “upper-teens”.  Where monitoring the amount of texting and TV time was previously a sign of good parenting, during these years, such things become “battles”.

My daughter was recently watching “baby videos”, as we’ve been transferring old VHS tapes into DVDs of the kids when they were little.  All you hear are praises and encouragements spewing out of my husband and I on those tapes.  “Good boy!” “Great job!” given with serious enthusiasm from both of our “big” personalities.  Staring at the screen, I was reminded that those adorable cherub faces at 4 years old are the same people, just in bigger bodies…needing the same encouragement but less micro-management.  I again resolved to eliminate criticism.

It’s been a week since my resolution went into effect and it has been exceedingly more influential upon me than my kids.  I’ve picked up the laundry several times to find wet towels on top of good clothes.  The door is continuously left open on 80+ degree days.  They’ve plopped down to watch television while a mountain of clean laundry the size of Everest sat directly in front of them, waiting to be folded.  My mouth has either remained zipped or I’ve gently asked they take the clothes upstairs to their rooms.

What an enormous exercise in self-control.  About “choosing battles”?  There is already a societal and spiritual battle raging to destroy our kids.  I’m not “choosing battles”.  While I’m still making suggestions, I’m “choosing encouragement”.  1Thess5:11