I’m not a gamer. I never have gamed. And neither has my son.
There’s no Playstation in my house, no Xbox, no Wii. My son’s exposure to video games has been limited to the handful of times we’ve stumbled across an old arcade machine and I’ve tried to teach him how to play Pac-Man. He hasn’t been all that into it. (Probably because he’s TERRIBLE. You have to AVOID the ghosts, genius!)
But if his interest in the gaming devices his cousins were playing over the holidays was any indication, that’s about to change. Which means I’m going to have to shell out for a system.
Or am I? I recently got a new piece of hardware that is saving my ass. And my wallet. For now.
You may recall that I am a Lenovo INsider, which means I sometimes serve as a kind of digital and social ambassador for the technology company and its products. As a perk, they occasionally give me access to some products (including this ridiculous all-in-one desktop computer that is currently serving as a “TV” in my bedroom) in the hopes that I’ll write about them. I have, because I use them every single day, and they are great, and I love them, and I want to marry them and become The Lawnmower Man.
I especially love their new Yoga laptop (which is so-called because it bends in unnatural way, I think? I don’t know a lot about computers. Or yoga.)
This tiny laptop that folds back into a makeshift tablet is the best computer I’ve ever owned, hands down. It’s super-light and thus easy to travel with, but most importantly, it’s allowing me to both trick my son into playing the kind of games I’d prefer he play (i.e., educational apps) and simultaneously avoid buying a video game system full of games I’d rather he not play.
Detective Munch has never touched a game controller, and he can’t type to save his life (he’ll never be a secretary typing less than one actual word-per-minute!). Which limits his ability to use certain tech. I’ve never actually let him touch my laptop, because I write my blog posts on it, and listen to music on it, and surf the net on it, and stream TV and movies on it, and tweet and post to Facebook and Instagram on it, and there are too many ways for him to screw something up by touching the wrong keys and accidentally deleting every blog post, all my music, and the entire photo library.
A tablet, however, is perfect for a kid. And the best thing about this bendable Yoga laptop is the way it is a laptop when I need it and a tablet when he does. Apps are so plentiful these days that you don’t need a game system to play games. Plus he can draw and build LEGO and practice sight words. All without shooting anything! And when he wants to watch something, the added perk of “tent” mode means I can prop the touch screen up, tent-style, so he doesn’t even have to hold or touch the screen with his perpetually filthy preschooler hands.
At four, the kid is already a pro at touch screens, partially because we keep handing them when we’re out in public to get him to shut up. And that’s the downside to the laptop/tablet hybrid. The Yoga began as my computer, but thanks to the ability to make it into a tablet, it has quickly become his (like just about everything else in my life). He used to only use it to watch “Wild Kratts” or “RescueBots” or on planes and at restaurants, but after spending the holidays with a bunch of kids who have their own handheld video games, those have become his every desire.
So far I’ve held it at bay by giving him two options when it comes to technology: touch and no. I’ve been able to sate him with learning-based games, but I know it won’t last; dude has already started demanding to play with “screens!” So I’ve implemented some rules. No controllers, yet. No guns, yet. No Google Glass, yet, and no virtual reality helmets, ever! (The last thing I need is my son usurping my dream and becoming the Lawnmower Man before me!)
It’s terrifying, the inexorable march of technology and how inescapable it already is for us, never mind for future generations. And it will get much more terrifying when I can no longer limit my son to a tablet or a laptop and he starts using his “screens” to pretend to be a sniper or pretend to steal cars and have sex with hookers or pretend to be a Baltimore Raven. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no prude, nor am I one of those parents who blames video games for Columbine and its ilk. But the longer I can keep the gratuitous violence and increasingly realistic sex in video games away from my son, the better…
Of course, when I put it that way, I suddenly want a gaming system of my own!