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Why We Can’t Be Mad at Video Games
I have a favorite lecture I like to give my kids when I feel like they are spending too much time on technology. I tell them that the world is divided into two kinds of people:
Those who Create and
Those who Receive what others create.
In my mind, playing video games is an activity that falls in the receiving category. People get lost for hours in an experience manifested through the talents and gifts of another person. And while playing the games earns the Receiver temporary satisfaction, chances are the Creator earned a real paycheck.
The value I place on Creating over Receiving is one of reasons we don’t have a gaming system in our home.
So imagine my frustration when discovering my fourteen year old son abandoned practicing tennis, because he got lost in playing video games at his friend’s house. For two straight hours.
But then I had an aha and, while I don’t like his decision anymore than I did, I now better understand how it could happen.
Researcher and psychologist, Csikszentmihalyi, coined the term “flow” to describe the state people are in when they get so lost in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. He even outlined seven conditions for achieving flow.
Knowing what to do
Knowing how to do it
Knowing how well you are doing
Knowing where to go
Perceiving significant challenges
Perceiving significant skills
Being free from distractions
When looking at that list, it makes a lot more sense how kids can get so lost in video games.
They know what to do
How to do it
How well they are doing, and
Where to go.
They are faced with challenges
Perceive themselves as skilled, and
Are free from distractions.
In the absence of something else that provides kids the satisfaction of being in a state of flow, we shouldn’t wonder why they resort to the positive feelings they get from playing video games. Our job, as parents and loving adults, is to help young people find experiences other than video games that fill them with all those same feelings.