Game Over!

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 21 Jun 2018 12:45:38









 By Aasawari Shenolikar

REMEMBER Mario - the cute guy who entered our lives not so long via the cassette that had ‘Video Games’ written over the cover. The cassette with Mario, also had a game called Bomber Man. That caught my fancy. And I, a mother of a three-year-old girl, would wait for my daughter to go off to sleep before rushing to the TV console, so that I could play Bomber Man. As my motor skills at handling the remote developed, so did my urge and hunger to complete more and more levels. And at one point of time, I played on till I completed 50 levels. That was a marathon session, and it took close to eight hours. I had to give up my sleep that night. Even as I felt elated at achieving a great feat, as I got up, my head spun and I felt completely disoriented. It was then I realised what a zombie must be feeling. I couldn’t, for a few minutes, make head or tale out of my surroundings. Sanity prevailed. And even though it was very difficult, I forced myself from picking up the Video cassette again.

This was a one-off in my life. Many others, I am sure, have also gone through similar experiences. But imagine, what could have happened if I had become completely addicted to it? I can now envisage what these youngsters must be feeling who do not let go of the remote and sit before the TV that flashes images and they use the remote to fire away at virtual enemies for hours together, some even for days. Haven’t we read of reports where children have died because they’d been playing video games without a break for well over a few days. That is how addictive it can become! The outcome of anything in excess has always been disastrous. And it stands true, even in this case of playing video games.

But have we given a thought as to how these virtual games completely took control of the lives of the youngsters? While growing up, we loved the outdoors. After homework would be over, we’d rush out to the ground to play games with friends. It could be anything, hop scotch, elastic, paala, langdi taang, cricket, shooting marbles - whatever caught our fancy, that would be the game of the day. Sometimes, we’d get rowdy, there’d be brawls, we’d fall down, we’d have bruises on the knees or scratches on the arms, but none of that deterred anyone from being a part of the game. Never did our parents rush out, fawning over us over a tiny scratch. That was a part and parcel of growing up. In fact, just like Fatty - Frederick Algernon Trotville of the Famous Five, we were proud of our bruises, waiting for it to turn the fancy blue and purple as described by Fatty. We were spoilt for choice - there were open places to choose from for playing games or riding cycles, there were thousands of games to choose from to be the ‘game of the day’, there were scores of friends who’d join in the play.

Sadly, in the present times, all of this is missing. Even as we blame the youngsters for becoming addicted to their gadgets, let us also take an insightful look in the circumstances that have led to this. As cities expanded, and people from neighbouring areas started making inroads into the cities, the need for more housing was felt. The first to be taken over by the various administrative bodies were the green open spaces. Parks, gardens and any open spaces around housing societies where children could play disappeared. Huge societies, without any play areas rose high, adding to the formidable concrete structures already swamping the cities and towns.

Families became nuclear. To make financial ends meet, mothers also stepped out. Children were left alone to fend off for themselves. In such a scenario, it was but natural for the parents to pamper their wards - somewhere the guilt in the psyche only added more fuel and the mollycoddling reached greater heights. Children, smart as they are, started taking advantage of this situation and within no time, as technology developed, the improved gadgets made inroads into a family. And became a permanent family member - in a few instances, replacing even the parents. Grandparents were just visitors - the gadgets assumed more importance in a child’s life. The escalating crime graphs in cities and towns failed to alleviate the situation. Paranoia of the parents, and I would say rightly so, reached frightening levels. Most do not feel that it is safe for their kids to venture out and play. This added fuel to the fire, forcing the child to spend his spare time indoors. Indoors, in other words, meant in front of the TV, with a remote in hand, spewing fire at enemies in the virtual world. Who is to be blamed? All of us - not the children alone. In fact, a bigger chunk of blame falls in the lap of parents and the society for creating such horrendous circumstances from which the child finds it hard to extricate himself. He is deeply entrenched in it and will require a lot of help from all quarters if he wants to disentangle from this mess.

Our children, majority of them, have become addicts - gaming addicts. All their time is spent in front of the TV, playing video games. Today, it is not the TV alone where they can indulge in such activities. The games have gone beyond, to the gadgets that they carry in their hands - the mobiles, the ipads and the tablets. So they do not necessarily have to be present in their homes to play the virtual games. At bus stops, in their vehicles, in the park, even if they are on a move all the time, it does not deter them from using the keys, hoping all the time that they will turn out to be the winner. In fact, it is not the children alone, but elders too, who are hooked to their gadgets.

Slowly but surely we are becoming a world of ‘gadget addicted people’. It may not necessarily be for gaming, but this is a malady that has pervaded all the human race - look around you and what do you see - a sea of people with their heads bent down, looking intently at their phones, engrossed in the screen than in the surroundings. At home too, the situation is no different. Each individual is more attached to his gadget than to his relations by blood. Communication is only through grunts and nods. Wouldn’t they be wasting precious time away from their gadgets if they lift their head up and exchange words with others in the family? This would tantamount to blasphemy, in their world! Sadly, but truly, the situation has become so dire that even the WHO has classified gaming disorder as ‘a new mental health condition’ and included it in the 11th
edition of its International Classification of Diseases.

When the hand-held gadgets offer innumerable adrenaline escalating games, is it any wonder that kids prefer to stay inside their cozy homes? Parents, too, it seems are a happy lot - the child is in front of their eyes - so what if in this process, he is harming his eyes, his brain and his overall health? ‘Where are those happy days, they seem so hard to find’ - the happy days when kids roamed and played freely under open skies with their peers? Digital Heroin has superseded sanity and the overall well-being can only transpire when we let go of the hold that the gadgets have over us!