In our house, there is a love/hate relationship with most video games and Fortnite in particular.
I constantly have to remind myself that laughing maniacally, intermittent yelps, and one-way trash-talking are normal things coming from my son’s bedroom.
It’s as if he has an imaginary friend who he both loves to fight with to the death and loves to cheer on when they’re doing good. I know he’s alone in there, but you would think his headphones were a connection to the universe.
One Saturday morning as the Comcast guy was in our living room fixing our cable box, I nearly crawled under the kitchen table with embarrassment while my teen son screamed out obscenities from his bedroom.
While I know clearly that he is having a heated, boy-level exchange with one of his friends, I fear the cable guy is judging my worth as a parent.
Hopefully, the cable guy also has a teen son screaming and fighting with imaginary enemies. In reality, he probably couldn’t care less, but I always look for my parenting reflection in other people’s eyes.
I still get frustrated when my son is called for dinner, and the answer inevitably is, “Mom, I’m in a game. I’ll be out when I die.”
Fine, eat cold food, what do I care. Although, I do care and it bugs me.
In the grand scheme of things, I try to remind myself that he is home, his homework is done, and he’s happy and engaged. He’s the full package of a great son, so he comes late and eats cold food for dinner, is it really that bad?
I get regularly upset when I’m so busy in my own world, doing things for my family, and then I look up and realize he has been at it for hours.
How does a person spend hours upon hours playing a video game on a monitor with headphones yelling at their friends? It’s weird. I don’t get it. It’s not my thing, and I could never do it. I just don’t like video games and screens and virtual crap. I could easily get lost in a good book or binge-watch Netflix for hours and hours.
So how is me watching Netflix for hours acceptable while his playing Fortnite isn’t because I don’t get it?
I don’t know. My way feels normal and right, but I guess if I am honest his way probably feels the same to him.
The flip side of my argument against video games, and Fortnite in particular, comes from my son’s perspective.
When I have pressed him for an explanation to help me understand his side, he clearly knows why video games make him happy:
He’s interacting with his friends, whether they’re all in his room or on headphones.
To me that’s ludicrous, but to him, it is virtually the same. His world is different from mine. This is one of the ways he interacts and communicates with his friends and he’s comfortable with it. Their social back and forth may look different from mine, but their whole world looks different from mine did.
He claims that video games calm him down.
This I totally don’t get, because how can screaming and yelling calm someone down? But after a long day at school or in the middle of studying, it’s a healthy break for him. It helps him to quiet his mind and eases the struggle of adolescent stress for a while. He can focus on something else, and relax.
Let’s be honest-Fortnight is not meditation as I know it. But for him, it works. For me screaming into headphones and shooting things on a screen would significantly raise my stress levels. But what works for me doesn’t work for me.
He is pretty darn good at it.
He feels like Fortnite is something he excels in, it gives him confidence and he has a feeling of mastery. When he plays he’s a leader. Listening to him with his friends, and he’s definitely filling that role and barking directions and orders. I know it gives him a sense of pride when he does well, and with the high levels of stress and the pressures to succeed in our adolescents’ world today, having something you are truly good at has to feel like a boost. It is always soul-building to do something truly well.
He loves to dive in deeper and expand his knowledge and skills in the game.
Watching YouTube videos, following gamers, and learning new tactics; He’s actually doing valid research into something that interests him and striving to excel at a craft. Those skills will be of value to him throughout high school, and actually for the rest of his life.
When I look at his arguments, I can almost see his side of things.
I just have to remind myself over and over about what’s really important at this point in his life.
When I hear him yelling into his headphones, I have to remember that he is a good kid. Not perfect, but good and on the right track towards being an adult. His grades are still good, He’s social and goes out and hangs with his friends. And, he’s pretty good about following through with his responsibilities at home.
He’s a work in progress, just like I am, and he has found something that works for him. It relaxes him, it helps him calm his nerves, it gives him a forum where he can excel and it allows him to interact in the currency of adolescents today. Maybe Fortnite is not all bad.