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xbox nation

I haven’t been writing as frequently because, as I’ve mentioned in my last few posts, I’ve been busy surviving my kids’ winter break. They’re back in school now. The alternating bouts of ennui and frenzied activity that made up the past three weeks have died down into something more regular, more sane.

But before it disappeared completely, this winter break left something pungent in its wake. The afternoon of the roller-skating debacle, we drove home from the rink around 2:00 in the afternoon, with a car full of family and nothing to fill the time until the inevitable Chipotle run at 5:00. I looked over at Tom in the passenger’s seat, and saw desperation in his eyes equal to mine. “Let’s do it,” I said. “Let’s get the Xbox.”

We’d been arguing about getting a video game system for months. Tom grew up on a country road with few neighbors, and no game system at home. The way he describes it, it is an absolute miracle that he did not grow up to be an ax murderer given this deprivation. When he got to college, he apparently suffered severe sociological consequences when his frat brothers wouldn’t let him play video games. “They’d never let me play because they said I didn’t know how,” he’ll tell you, in a tragic and aggrieved tone that is totally at odds with the ridiculousness of the statement.

As silly as Tom’s fear-mongering was, it worked. I started to worry that if I never let my boys play video games, I would be inhibiting their social development.

So we got an Xbox Kinect. Waiting in line at GameStop, I tried not to touch any surfaces and watched as the cashier hollered at a woman standing in line. “Ma’am? You alright with your child playing ‘Call of Duty,’ rated M??” “You bet,” she hollered back, while cracking her gum. I clutched my Xbox tightly to my chest and promised myself that my kids would only play sports games, and that this was the only time I would ever need to be physically present inside a GameStop.

We bought a few games with the system, but really all anyone has been doing is playing FIFA 2013. The first time Tom played the game, he stood in front of the TV and stated without irony that the game was “the best thing that has ever happened to me.” I waited for him to look back at me with his sheepish grin, adding on the usual caveat (“except for you and the boys!”), but I waited in vain. He never looked back at me at all. Because I’d already lost him to FIFA.


That first session, Tom and Cuz played for like 90 minutes and scored not a single goal between the two of them, even with several rounds of penalty kicks. A penalty kick is when you kick on the goal with no one in front of you but the goalie, who in this case, is not even a real goalie, but a computer generated figure that moves with all the grace and agility of Frankenstein.


But they’re better now, because they play almost every night after the kids are in bed. They’ve taught Finn and even my Mom, although it’s unclear whether either Finn or my Mom know how to work the controllers. Last weekend, Finn played with his friend and neighbor Owen, and Owen beat him 8-1. “At least Finn got one goal,” I whispered to Cuz. “No,” Cuz whispered back, shaking her head. “Owen accidentally scored on himself.” I thought that simply buying the Xbox would be enough to assure my sons’ future social ascendancy. Watching Finn and Owen, I realized that I would now have to worry about my boys being good at video games. I stood up abruptly. “Owen, it’s time to go home,” I said.


At least Finn is learning sportsmanship, even if he sucks at FIFA 2013. I overheard Cuz and Finn talking to one another in the car last week. “You’re not good at FIFA, Aunt Bora,” said Finn. “What are you even talking about? I scored on you the last game,” Cuz retorted.

“Yeah, but it was a cheap goal,” Finn muttered from the backseat.

Ah, long live Xbox.

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Santa brought the kids a Wii for Christmas but my husband and I are guilty of staying up late and engaging in some fiercely competitive Just Dance 4. For the record: he cheats. He doesn’t keep up with the foot work. We also practice Mario Brothers so we don’t suck in front of the kids. According to my 4 year old son, I am the star of the family because I defeated the monster in level one. Just wait until some wise-ass kid tells him otherwise.

    January 10, 2013
    • i’m desperate for hero points because my kids think tom hung the moon even though i am the one who birthed them and notices when they don’t eat. ingrates! we bought Dance Central 3 and Cuz and I tried it a couple times. I just really need to get curtains for the side of the house before I invest more time in that game

      January 10, 2013
  2. Frank #

    I’ve thought long and hard about social development for my hypothetical future kids and here are my findings:

    1. Some TV is necessary. The basis of humor is knowledge, and oftentimes it’s pop culture knowledge.

    2. Some videogame skills are necessary. Heavy bragging rights involved, which leads to confidence. Ed scored 100 points on me on Madden once and he still holds it over me to this day (I swear it was Sunwoo who scored 100 but maybe this is just my coping mechanism to try and muddy the waters).

    3. Athletic abilities are absolutely critical. Masculinity is judged by sports skills. Soccer is a great first step since footwork is involved in all sports. The skill involved in throwing a baseball is different from throwing a football. Sang threw a baseball like a girl, clearly he never played Little League. Teamwork and sportsmanship are also good qualities to understand.

    4. I think music is underrated. Piano is a good foundation because you learn music theory, including how to read treble and bass clef. But then the next step is the guitar to pick up the ladies. 😉 Performing in front of others also boosts self-esteem. In any case, music rocks.

    5. Some overlooked skills that I hope to indoctrinate, I mean, encourage as a Tiger-Dad:

    – Cooking: You can instill the love of food as well as develop a sous-chef (i.e., vegetable chopper/dishwasher) all at once.
    – Bilingualism: Based on my experience, one year of immersion language learning at age 7 is equal to five years of language classes later in life. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that Saturday Korean classes will have any effect. Our parents were fluent and we turned out speaking Konglish gibberish, which means our children will speak what? What is a greater gift than the power of communication?
    – Breakdancing and salsa dancing: OK, I guess this is going overboard.

    Now, I just need to find some kids to mold.

    January 9, 2013
    • i’d suggest you mold ed’s and sang’s, but your manifesto for child-rearing seems like it applies more to boy children. which leads me to suggest my kids. i can ship them to you for the summer and pay for food and lodging.

      i have so much to say in response. first of all, why would you sit there and let someone score 100 points on you? why not quit at 25, or 50? that says more about you than it does about ed (or sunwoo), i fear. second of all, i totally agree on your list, although the bilinguilism freaks me out because the only places my kids can learn korean in portland are at churches, and i’m not yet that desperate.

      i’d add only one thing to your list. that they have some disadvantage in their lives that forces them to develop a personality. maybe that means they’re geeks, or short, or bad at sports, or bad at video games…whatever. it seems like it’s the kids who coast through their youth that turn out to be the dullest adults

      January 9, 2013
  3. I like the time lapse photos of Tom and Cuz. So much truth to that.

    January 9, 2013
    • i think it’s a good visual representation of the process in which we will eventually be eaten up by our technology

      January 9, 2013

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