The Upside of My Son’s Video Game Addiction
Ever since the lockdown, my fifteen-year-old son, Judd, has been playing countless hours of video games. He wears a headpiece when he plays, and I hear his voice reverberating through the house, sometimes talking, sometimes cheering, and most of the time yelling into the microphone at his friends who are playing with him.
The quarantine started right before spring break, which meant Judd’s lacrosse trip was cancelled, along with an early closure of the ski mountains. With not much else to do, I didn’t mind that most of Judd’s day was spent gaming. It kept him busy and happy, and he was interacting with his buddies.
As the days turned into weeks, I started to get annoyed that Judd would sit in his bedroom all day, still in his pajama pants, playing video games. Other than asking me to make him a sandwich, he and I rarely talked during the day. When the weather was nice, he’d go outside for a few hours to play lacrosse by himself, but as soon as he came home, he’d go right back into the gaming zone.
I wanted our family to make the most of this time together. I requested movie nights, but Judd would refuse to join, preferring to hang in his teen cave, playing Xbox. I assumed that when online school started, he would be so busy learning and doing schoolwork that it would cut down on his gaming obsession. It didn’t. The minute he’d complete his assignments, the gaming would resume.
A few days ago, I managed to convince Judd to join me for a walk with the dog. I was grateful to finally spend quality time with him. Chatting along the way, he shared two of his life goals with me. The first one he mentioned was to become a professional lacrosse player. Grinning, I told him he should focus on that dream and that he should continue practicing and working out. But when he also told me that he wanted to be a professional video game player, I flashed him a disapproving look.
For the rest of our walk, he lectured me on how much money pro gamers make, which is significantly more than a pro lacrosse player. He told me about a few of his gaming idols, one of whom, along with earning millions of dollars, is also a pro skimboarder. He went on and on telling me about his earning potential if he became a professional video game player. I wanted to tell him that I thought his fantasy sounded ridiculous and that he should consider pursuing an intellectual career, perhaps something in engineering or computer programing. Rather than speak my mind, I kept my lips sealed and listened to him as he bubbled over with enthusiasm.
For the next few weeks, Judd continued his gaming addiction, while I swallowed my irritation that he was wasting his life away in some imaginary, action-packed world in front of his monitor. Even though we live in the same house, Judd was spending so much time in his room playing Xbox that I missed hanging with him.
One afternoon, during a lunch break, he told me about a YouTube video he had watched the night before that he wanted me to see. He said it was moving, and knowing how much I enjoy inspirational stories, he thought I would like it. When I asked him to give me some background on the video, he told me it was about the number one Fortnite streamer who won three million dollars at the 2019 World Cup Finale. I rolled my eyes in annoyance when he turned it on.
Sitting next to me, Judd and I watched the video, highlighting the journey of sixteen-year-old Kyle Giersdorf, who goes by his gaming name, Bugha, to the World Cup Finale. Bugha is a clean-cut, well-spoken teenager growing up in the suburbs of Pennsylvania. Like so many of his peers, he’d been playing video games throughout his childhood, and with hours and hours of practice, he’d managed to earn his way to the super bowl of gaming. In the video, Bugha’s parents supported their son’s dream every step of the way. Speaking about their son, his father was bursting with pride, and his mother’s eyes were filled with tears of joy.
Learning about Giersdorf’s accomplishments changed my perspective on becoming a pro gamer. Like any sport, it takes skill, hard work, practice, and determination to achieve success. And it’s not a solitary activity; it’s interactive, allowing kids to play with each other and make new friends. Prior to understanding what it takes to make it in the gaming world, I was angry about how much time Judd spent playing video games, and I would have preferred that he practiced lacrosse for six hours a day instead. I now realize that my ignorance kept me from understanding the value that some video games offer and the difficulty it takes to master them.
As long as Judd’s gaming hobby isn’t taking away from his academics, and assuming he’s still getting fresh air and exercising, then why not let him pursue this fantasy—for now, at least? If I’m supportive, then he’ll be willing to talk to me about it, and the conversation will serve as an opportunity to spend time with him—which selfishly, as his mother, is all I want anyway.