Saved from space

Published 11:16 am Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Perhaps the cadence of those colorful alien creatures descending on my pixelated cannon on Space Invaders did some good after all — if those wily British have the pulse of kids like the latest survey says they do.

The BBC on Monday reported on a study of 5,000 young people aged 10 to 15 years old in which 75 percent told a research team they play video games daily and, as a result, enjoy their lives and have positive social interaction. The group reported having fewer emotional issues and lower levels of hyperactivity, according to the story.

On its face, this bit of info flies in the face of everything those clinicians in the states tell us about the effect of technology on children, and, by extension, people in general. Too much escapism with those video games, we hear. Kids don’t play outside as much as they should because of the lineage of game systems that began with my Atari so many years ago.

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The study seems to have something of a bell-curve of “time spent” here, if that makes sense. The results said the youngsters who spent more than three hours playing video games were the least well-adjusted of the lot. Dr. Andrew Przybylski, who the story says analyzed the surveys, said factors such as the strength of family relationships play a larger role. Ah, so that backs up my tried-and-true theory of moderation being the key to life. I exhale here, and thank goodness my impatience with all things tech probably saved my attention span from a life spent distracted.

My collection of games on the bulky Atari system is long gone, but I had some tapes (it was 1982; it was all about some tapes) that qualify as classics. In that collection I had the chase for pellets and power known as Pac-Man, the simple yet serious battle of tanks called Combat, a football game where only the quarterback and middle linebacker were able to move, and the aforementioned Space Invaders. Football brought out the little grump in me, because sometimes a forward pass would literally go through the faded-out receiver on the screen. Incomplete. Game over. Off went the rubber piece that fit over the joystick from my or one of my equally hard-losing cousins throwing it across the room. I learned to walk away from such faulty technical equipment. I “didn’t have time for dat” long before 2012 Internet sensation Kimberly “Sweet Brown” Wilkins uttered that line.

Modern-day games don’t move me much because there’s less of a “game” quality to it. Mortal Kombat and the endless Grand Theft Auto versions haven’t ever crossed a TV screen of mine. Promos for each always tricked me into thinking it was some cheesy action flick and not a game. Farmville? That was way too creepy a mix of subliminal messages without a competitive angle for me. Candy Crush was a short-term obsession, with that infernal music lasting all of five minutes before I started turning the volume down on my phone to play it. Once I hit a wall on those “levels”, I just quit.

Recently, a loved one got me interested in giving Pogo a try. The site has been around a while, and the basis for the games is basic enough for my old soul — solitaire, word scrambles, 21, shooting things coming after me from the top of a screen à la Space Invaders. Of course, I’m not the first one to criticize the phone app for being a buggy mess with all the pop-over advertising. It was kidney pain all over again just to log in.

The connectivity thing brings to mind another difference between games of yesteryear and today. When I was seven, it was just me, the game and the old console TV. Mano-a-mano. Now, you can play people you can’t see. What fun is a tantrum if you have to do it all by yourself?

Danny Barrett is a reporter and can be reached by email at or by phone at 601-636-4545.