My husband fancies himself something of a gamer. He’s owned a number of game systems over the years; at the moment he has two. One claims that it’s a family-friendly game console. During our time in couples therapy, we spent some time every week doing things together. Gruff started reading books with me (we read The Kite Runner aloud, chapter by chapter, nearly every day) and I started playing video games with him. I didn’t want to play shooting games, so we settled on this one – sporty, silly, a lot more active and interactive than a traditional sit-on-your-bum-and-move-your-thumbs game. We did have a lot of fun with it, giggling and breaking up the horrible tension that hung like a cloud over so many of our days. It’s been a few months since we played together, but I’m fond of the Wii. Not only is it honestly a fun way to kill a half-hour and a great party game, but it was a fun distraction during a stressful time. If you’re looking for a video game system for your home, this is the one I’d recommend (because, odds are, you can find a game that you’ll enjoy and one that you’ll approve of your kids playing).
But then, there’s that other game system. I hate it. Hate with the fire of a thousand suns. Most of the games seem to be shooters and war-related, which bothers me. I don’t like the violence on the screen; I don’t like thinking of Gruff as enjoying that kind of violence; I don’t want Smooch to be exposed to even a background-noise level of those games. I don’t understand why people play them at all. I hate the stupid earpiece for the stupid live-chat feature, which allows my husband to say things like, “Good shot, dude!” and “What the hell!?” to his co-players (whom I envision to be a motley crew of 11 and 12 year old boys in various stages of geekdom). It’s particularly disturbing when he has all of the game sound routed to his headphones, though, because I sit in the family room happily typing away until he calls, “Look out! Here they come!” It makes me jump every.single.time.
Without a doubt, though, the biggest problem with video games at our house is the time-drain. Gruff already works insane hours – right now, and for the next six months or so, his schedule involves leaving the house around 4:30 a.m. and returning at 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, with two weekends off and two weekends performing rounds each month. That doesn’t leave much time for anything else at all.
Add in a toddler who’s having a major phase of wanting Daddy, a surgical-training exam looming in two weeks, a wife who enjoys the occasional adult conversation and quiet time together, and the necessities of life like eating and sleeping…. well. You can do the math, right? No free time.
So when Gruff gets settled in his chair, pulls out that wireless controller and earpiece, and pulls out Mass Effect or Assassin’s Creed, or BioShock, I can’t help but sigh. And maybe grumble or huff. And possibly slam a few books around. Or stomp up the stairs. You know, whatever. Because I’m all about the communication. And then, around midnight – when I’ve already been asleep for two or three hours – when Gruff comes upstairs to go to bed, I might sigh and huff and mumble, “What time is it?” just to really drive my point home. Because I care.
I just can’t stand the way that Box takes over his time. It would be one thing if he could implement an internal ‘off’ switch; it would be one thing if his stated plan to start using a kitchen timer to limit the game play had followed through. Unfortunately, right now it seems like there’s no way to restrain him. I’m stuck, like all those women who bid farewell to spouse-time when hunting season (or football season, or good-golf-weather season) rolls around, waiting for him to turn off the console.