Before you get too far into your Christmas shopping, I thought I’d pass along some suggestions for parents who want to get something for their children that will keep them occupied for literally hours on end.
Of course, you’re going to tell me that you’ve already bought something that pretty much accomplishes that — namely, video games.
Your first mistake was getting them a PlayStation 4 or 6 or 10 or whatever it is by now. Since then you’ve had to keep them supplied with the latest games, which, according to Forbes, carry such beneficially stimulating titles as “State of Decay,” “God of War” and “Detroit: Become Human.” I bet Detroit residents love that one.
RELATED: Gast: ‘Land of the Lost’ star shocked by enthusiastic reception at Pop Con Milwaukee
RELATED: Gast: Bureau’s marketing effort buoys this aging journalist
I know how addicting these can be. My wife Leslie bought me the first Atari game when “Pong” was the jaw-dropping initial hit. When games were introduced with figures that began to take on the appearance of humanoids, I could sit spellbound just watching these images move around the tiny 19-inch tube in my den.
Then “Space Invaders” came along and with it the underlying pretext that as archaic as these images might appear, an element of human survival had been introduced into the video game. It’s now become so realistic that you’d swear you are in the midst of a real battle.
Debates are being waged over the effects of these games on developing minds, but as disturbing as some appear to be, it’s the addictive elements and the long exposure to them that are most concerning.
So that brings me to my gift suggestions.
First, as I mentioned at the top of this column, there are addictive elements at work in the games I am proposing. I’m pretty certain my older brother Joe knew this when he gave them to me on consecutive years as Christmas presents.
I was about 11 or 12 years old when the first one, called “Labyrinth,” arrived. I unwrapped it to find a wooden box with round knobs on two sides. On top was a board featuring a maze with holes cut into it. The object was simple: move a steel ball through the maze by turning the knobs, which affected the roll of the ball by changing the pitch of the board. At the same time, the player tried to avoid rolling the ball into the holes.
For the next six months, my mother knew exactly where I was: in the family room on the floor trying to successfully navigate the maze. It’s a Swedish game that was developed by BRIO in 1946 to apparently help people get their minds off the recently ended war.
It was introduced to Americans in 1950 and continues to be sold today.
My brother’s son Chris and his family visited a few weeks back, and to entertain them one evening I brought out “Labyrinth” for the first time in years. I was curious to see how the kids would react to it. One’s a sixth-grader and the other is a freshman in high school. For the next two hours, the girls battled over control of the game. Their father was equally possessive of his turns, and it was their mother who, between her turns, eventually announced it was bedtime.
I couldn’t help but think how Joe, who must have delighted in the frustration that game fueled in me, would have loved to see members of his family equally obsessed. Sadly, he passed away three years ago.
But Joe’s penchant for arising one’s competitive ire didn’t end with “Labyrinth.” The following year he presented with me “Shoot the Moon,” another test of hand-and-eye coordination that leaves one unable to relinquish control of the game until hunger or bathroom duties drive you away.
That became evident when my son Greg came over last week and was reintroduced the game. Check it out online because to try and describe it is as difficult as mastering it.
These are just a couple of suggestions for the holidays, but don’t say I didn’t warn you when you are caught in the labyrinth’s grip.
Jon Gast writes a column every other week for Your Key to the Door Weekly. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Share this post if you enjoyed! 🙂