Am I traitor to the cause of everything outdoors because I like to play video games with my son? At the Outdoor Industry Association breakfast last January I was admonished that video games were some of the biggest competition that outdoor activities faced for kid’s attention. I don’t want my kids be the “last children in the woods.”
But I look at video games as something akin to alcohol. It’s sexy, fun, everybody’s doing it—and I want to make sure my kids establish a good relationship with these vices. That could mean abstaining completely. But if that means parentally mandated abstaining it might mean they go off the deep end as soon as they get some freedom. Beer bongs? Forty-eight hour Warcraft sessions? I knew kids like that in college. Not pretty.
The same weekend that we bought Star Wars: Battlefront II for the PS2 my son and I also went rock climbing at a local crag for the first time. I basically started this magazine so I could have experiences like this. It was the perfect union of athletics and nature. We saw a baby snake, a huge owl, and some wild turkeys. We were able to overcome getting eaten alive by bugs to do a few moves on an amazing cliff face. The excitement my son had at hoisting himself up to the summit of a 100-foot pile of rock was different was then the excitement of putting a new game in the Playstation for the first time. It was an awe-inspiring moment for him—deeply felt and long-lasting.
I can’t make my kids like things, but I can work hard to plant the seed of future interest. Climbing, cycling, camping, kayaking, snowsports and soccer are all great pursuits that will stay with a kid for a lifetime if their initial encounters are positive.
We’re still playing Battlefront II. I’m still wrestling with how to regulate his video game usage and monitor how it affects him. I also think about how it affects me. Why, after a frustrating day at work, does it feel so good to conquer a level? I know that the key for both of us is balance. If I can show him outdoor experiences that are powerful, such as scaling ancient basalt, cathode ray entertainment is going to have a hard time competing.