Growing up my mother was adamant that we didn’t have electronics in our home. There was no internet, smart phones or tablets when I was a kid, but there was Pac-Man, Donkey-Kong and Asteroids. And my mother did all she could to make sure there was never Atari, Nintendo or a Game Boy in our home. I’m not sure if my parents banned video games because of the price tag or the brain damage, but I’m glad they did. They knew something back then that I did not…video games do one thing…distract us from reaching our potential.
Now that I’m a parent I have two words that I call this video gaming “distraction”. Dream Killers.
My son Tate is ten years old. He is our youngest. For years he’s been asking us to buy an XBOX. I’ve always been, like my mother, anti-gaming and anti-electronics. There is no video gaming in the Spaulding home. Our daughter, Caroline, is just about the only seventh grader in her school that does not have a cell phone. And I’m proud of that!
But last year I caved and bought Tate an XBOX…only because he wanted to play NHL 18 (hockey) and Madden (football). I figured playing sport video games is better than all the shooting, stabbing and killing video games.
Then came Fortnite. My eighteen-year old step-son, Anthony, downloaded it on the home XBOX and the rest is history. Tate became a Fortnite addict.
Fortnite is dominating the world of video gaming. Over 125 million people have played the game since it launched last year. There are more Fortnite players than PlayStation4 and Nintendo Switch owners combined. The entire population of Mexico is about equivalent to the number of people playing Fortnight. And that is all within the last 13 months, since Fortnite launched back in July of 2017 (businessinsider.com).
Most of my readers know, my son Tate is passionate about ice hockey. He gets up at 5:00am four days a week before school for hockey practice. And he’s been doing this since he was five years old. As I write this BLOG, Tate and I are in New England at one of his hockey tournaments. The kid is obsessed with the sport. Practically sleeps with his skates on. All he talks about is one day playing for the New York Rangers.
Until Fortnite nearly killed his dream.
I’ve never seen anything like it. All Tate wanted to do is play Fortnite. Before morning hockey practice, after school, before dinner, after homework, before bedtime…the kid was addicted. He was a zombie…being pulled into the basement to get his fix. The game became his new obsession.
After a couple months of this craze I put my foot down. I pulled Tate aside and had a heart to heart. I told him that I didn’t want it to be my decision to pull the XBOX from our home, but I could see that Fortnite was killing his dreams. “Every time you go down in the basement to play Fortnite, it’s one minute that you could be shooting pucks, doing stick handling exercises or hockey drills”, I shared.
Tate listened and did not say a word.
A few weeks ago, Tate came up to me and asked that I get rid of the XBOX. He told me that he was addicted to Fortnite (his exact words). He admitted that he was not practicing hockey as much as he used too. And he said Fortnite was not going to get him on the New York Rangers. That day, Tate quit Fortnite cold turkey.
We may not be addicted to video games, but we all have things in our lives that are dream killers. Perhaps we surf the web too much. Perhaps we are addicted to social media. Perhaps we are glued to our favorite show on NETFLIX. We all have our fixes. There are so many distractions that can steal our potential. And kill our dreams.
If a ten-year old can have the strength and discipline to alleviate distractions, we can too. And look what we can do with all that extra time…thirty more minutes on the treadmill, twenty more minutes reading a good book, ten more minutes writing a handwritten note, five more minutes to call a friend in need and one more minute to tell someone you love them. My mother made sure Pac-Man, Donkey-Kong and Asteroids did not kill my dreams. I hope we can do the same for ourselves.