Blog, Personal Growth

The Great Video Game Detox Experiment

I have a love-hate relationship with video games. To be more precise, I love to hate video games.

I cannot stand the mind-numbing effect it has on my kids. I detest how turning on a game essentially means turning off your hearing to everything around you. I hate the time wasted. Video games are like mental clutter to me.

I have two boys, ages nine and eleven who absolutely live to play video games and this is not a good thing in my book. For the most part, they don’t understand my negative feelings towards video games.

Growing a Video Game Addiction

I don’t think I always hated video games so much. Like most issues that grow into problems, it started small and slowly built momentum. We didn’t adopt a minimalist mindset until we’d been married for many years so the issues weren’t always so obvious.

In our poor days as newlyweds, my husband and I used to play Tetris and other simple games for our date nights. Being married to a computer geek also meant he has a love of all things technology based.

As the gaming systems advanced, so did our collection. Birthdays and Christmas were the perfect opportunities to add the newest gaming system and family members eagerly bought more games for the kids.

As our boys got older, it became a favorite pass time to play games with daddy. As time went by, they slowly transitioned to playing more games on their own. With a father who builds computers, there was eventually a computer for the kids with games on it as well.

Like many addictions, the easiest way to become addicted is to convince yourself you don’t have a problem and that you can handle things how they are.

Looking back, I can’t exactly pinpoint where things went wrong. But I do know if I had to do it over again, I would avoid video games completely.

The Wake-Up Call

I had grown increasingly unhappy with the issue of video games in our house. We have built in limits that our kids cannot play games before their day of homeschool and they only get a two hour window in the afternoon to play. If they took longer on their schoolwork, then they miss out on their play time. Sounds simple enough, right?

What we found was that although the chance to play games acted as a good motivator to finish up their lessons, it was their entire focus. They would get whiny if they missed out on their game time and they absolutely lived for weekends when no schoolwork stood in the way of their screen time.

The brainstorm for my Video Game Detox Experiment came the other day when my oldest son asked if they could have “a fun day.” I told him that we could have a fun day, but that didn’t mean they’d be having games all day. He replied,

Wow. In that moment, I saw how big of a problem we had and something had to change now.

Video Game Statistics

Here are some statistics on video games that I found. I was pretty shocked by many of them.

  • 72% of American households play computer or video games
  • 33% of gamers say that playing computer or video games is their favorite entertainment activity
  • Total Spent on Video Games for 2010: $25.1 BILLION

I was surprised by the average age of game players.

  • The average game player is 37 years old and has been playing games for 13 years.
  • 18% of gamers are under 18 yrs, 53% are 18-49yrs, and 29% are 50+ yrs

I believe much of this is because the habits that children are taught follow them into adulthood.

Many parents don’t see video game playing as a problem and actually see it as a positive experience:

  • 68% Believe game play provides mental stimulation or education
  • 54% Believe game play helps to connect with friends
  • 57% Believe game play helps the family spend time together

When you further consider the role that violent video games play, the research is even more disheartening. The top selling games each year are consistently the “Action” and “Shooter” games.

Violent video games are significantly associated with:

  • Increased aggressive behavior, thoughts, and affect
  • Increased physiological arousal
  • Decreased pro-social (helping) behavior

High levels of violent video game exposure have been linked to:

  • Delinquency
  • Fighting at school and during free play periods
  • Violent criminal behavior (e.g., self-reported assault, robbery)

I simply don’t want my family being any part of these kinds of statistics. However, the truth is that video gaming isn’t always bad – it can be a great way to start with minimalism on a low income, as it can stop you spending money you don’t have.

The Brainstorm

In the past we’d taken breaks from video games but it never seemed long enough to snap them out of their obsession.

So, I had the idea to take off an entire month from every kind of video game, computer game, portable gaming system, and even the little game apps on their iPods.

For the month of October our family will be video game free. I wasn’t met with as much resistance as I originally expected but I knew better than to say they’ll be gone for good.

After some time goes by, I plan to interview my boys on their thoughts about how the experiment is going. I’ll probably post an update here as well. I’m hopeful for big changes.