Monday, August 26, 2019

Just A Phase

I console myself with those words: "It's just a phase."


Michael will be starting high school in a few days, a fact that floors me. He could technically start driving before summer next year, and could potentially get a job working for actual money.

But he's not showing a lot of interest in anything aside from being anxious about the cats and playing video games.

And, oddly enough, watching other people play games on YouTube.

This is a phenomenon I really cannot fathom. The vicarious enjoyment of watching someone else play a game and listening to their running commentary is just beyond me. It's not even to watch what they're doing and learn from their mistakes or their successes, it's simply to be entertained by their actions and reactions to events and adventures in this digital, virtual realm.

And it's always the same kind of thing, no matter which channel or which player: a man-child alternately yelling "OH MY G*D!" and issuing shrill screams plows his way through whatever game it is they happen to be playing at the moment, whether it's a first person shooter or speed run right or crafting game or what have you. Fortnight, Roblox, Minecraft, Baldy's Basics... it doesn't matter. The gameplay all sounds the same: alternating invective and shrieking.

At least Michael has the integrity enough to avoid channels where hard swearing is the norm; we have set the limit on that.

But how he can derive any sort of entertaining value from the high-pitched antics of these basement-dwelling proto-adults is beyond me. And you can't blame the guy who owns the channel; there are a number of them, and they've all figured out they can actually make money playing games and yelling like toddlers. Technically, this is a paying job, so I can't cite them for being lazy and unproductive, in a technical sense. But what kind of example is this setting for my son?

Disney has picked up on the phenomenon as well, devoting entire programming lineups to these guys, with "Select Player" and "Parker Plays" among others. Headshots of fledgling facial hair visages with headsets inset on their monitor screen view as their digital characters go about their gameplay within a virtual world. We have reached the point where kids can watch other kids play videogames.

"Get him involved with something else," you say. "Get him away from his screen." Yes, I agree. And this I do, as often as I can. We limit his time with screens, and though it is a large limit, there are still boundaries. He knows he cannot visit sites or view content that is inappropriate for our values. He knows he must attend to his chores and whatever learning activity he is tasked with. But for the time not covered by obligation, his go-to is his phone and the glorious YouTube videos of screaming man- children.

Like all things, the fun to be found here will wane. Just as he lost interest in looking at sprinklers, finding smoke alarms, or watching "The Shaggy Dog," he will lose interest in this as well. Hopefully before he gets too far in high school.

I continue to console myself with "It's just a phase."

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