Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Suburban Man: Video Game Labels

By Rick Kaempfer

Santa and I are not speaking right now. I know he looks like a jolly old fat man, but I’m telling you—this guy is weak and destructive. I can’t pretend to get into his mind to find out exactly what he was thinking when he gave my two oldest boys Nintendo DS Gameboys for Christmas, but I’m betting he finally buckled after years of whining and nagging. He probably looked at the boys’ friends and saw that all of them had Gameboys, and thought to himself; “What the heck. How bad can it be?”

Real Bad.

Someone tell Santa that these games no longer belong to my sons; they now belong to dear old Dad. Dad didn’t confiscate these machines so he could play video games himself. Dad confiscated these machines because they turn normal children into monsters.

I wish I was exaggerating.

Let me describe the process in a little more detail, and you can judge for yourself. The child turns on the Gameboy. A sing-songy music begins, lulling the child and everyone around him into a false sense of security. However, as soon as the adult leaves the room, the child is sucked into the machine by an atomic vacuum. His brain waves are altered by the beasts within the machine, and by the time he is permitted to jump back into society, he has learned to breathe fire.

When the adult returns to the room to tell the child to turn off the machine, the monster emerges. The signs are obvious. The dead glowing eyes. The scaly green skin. The screeching fingernails-on-the-chalkboard voice. But most of all, the fire shooting out of the mouth. That’s hard to miss.

You may find this hard to believe, but at first I wasn’t too worried about this, because after only a few hours, the monster would disappear and the child would return. That made me think that this beast could be managed or tamed. I thought that if I closely monitored their usage I could control it.

I now know the beast only exists to eat my young. Any amount of time at all, from five minutes to an hour, will allow the monster to completely rewire the brains of my boys. When it’s time to turn off the Nintendo Gameboy DS, the fire will emerge, and there isn’t a darn thing that can be done to stop or control it. I can wear protective gear, and it won’t help. The heat of this beastly fire is enough to melt lead.

So, the Gameboys are mine. I still allow the boys to play with them in cases of supreme or impossible achievement (like being nice to their little brother for a whole day), but that’s only because this sort of unattainable behavior must be rewarded in some way. On these rare days, I know I’ll have to pay the price. The skin grafts over 70% of my body are still not fully healed, and I suspect they never will be.

That’s why I’ve started my quest to get warning labels placed on all hand-held videogames. I appreciate that the current rating system is a start (Rated “T”, or “M,” etc.) but that’s only for the games themselves. What about the machine that houses the beast? Why doesn’t that have a warning label for parents and children?

I’m open to suggestions about the exact wording, but I’m partial to the following...

“WARNING: The Surgeon General has determined that turning this machine on or off will release the hounds of hell upon you. DO NOT turn on this machine unless you are willing and able to bathe in a bubbling cauldron of acid and fire.”

There, I feel better.

Now somebody get me some moisturizing cream for my burns. I see that one of the boys has cleaned up his room without being asked.