What Happened to Personal Accountability? - ADAMMWOOLLEY Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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What Happened to Personal Accountability?

Personal accountability isn't something that comes naturally. It's a learned behavior. From the time of our infancy, dependence on others for survival made a lack of culpability for our misdeeds not only acceptable, but predictable. As we grow older, it's up to our caregivers (whether they be parents, teachers, legal guardians, etc.) to instill in us this concept of taking responsibility for our own actions. Inherently, we are susceptible to wanting nothing to do with owning our own fault. Children will instinctually be upset at anyone, or even anything, when something goes wrong and never consider their own liability for the consequences of their actions. For example, my son used to get angry at his toys if he tripped and fell on them when he wasn't paying attention to what he was doing. Surely the toys must be to blame for his new found discomfort and pain. They were guilty of drawing tears from his eyes. This reaction used to cause me a great deal of pain, because biting my tongue to avoid laughing at such a response isn't pleasant.

At almost six years old, my son has a better understanding of his own role his inevitable "owies."  The reason for this is simple; I have taken painstaking measures to explain to my son that playing the blame game won't solve anything. Instead, he needs to understand that a basic rule in physics applies to daily life as well. You don't have to be interested in that particular field to have heard some version of Newton's third law of motion. Simply put, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Teaching your child about accountability isn't easy, and I can understand why some parents have a hard time with it. Although reasoning with young children can easily be compared to slamming one's own head in the wall repeatedly, it's no reason not to make this a priority in their development. I've seen the results of lazy parenting. When children are not taught to take responsibility for their actions, it's quite abysmal. Worse yet, they grow into irresponsible adults. This lack of personal accountability affects gamers, both directly and indirectly, every day. The inherent inclination to point the finger is very prevalent in our society. Sadly, our toys are still seen as a culprit of a great many iniquities. This is why I will never buy into any argument claiming gaming as a problem.

Videogames are not babysitters. They're a medium in which we can find a great deal of joy, but not capable of any actions on their own. Yet, for whatever reason, consoles and PCs around the world have been commissioned to undertake the task of watching over children when they become too much of a hassle. This isn't a new concept; television has been used as a babysitter for decades. The difference here is that videogames are much more interactive. It's easier to sit and play videogames for hours on end than it is to watch TV for the same amount of time. When parents enlist the aid of digital entertainment for the purpose of minding our youth, it can have less than desirable effects.

As I said before, children and accountability are like oil and water. Putting the onus of using better judgment and observance of any degree of moderation on kids is foolish and careless. Speaking from experience, if given the opportunity to play videogames without restriction, most children will take advantage of it. In my adolescence, I can assure you the words "wow, I play videogames way too much" never once moved past my lips. Even as I grew older, those words were used about as often as hippies say "I could really stand to practice better hygiene." Still, I was never discouraged or given limitations.

My mother has been obese as long as I can remember. She also has lupus. To a certain extent, I could understand why she couldn't (or didn't want to) summon the energy to keep up with my brother and me all day.  We were just two of a set of four total, after all, and splitting your attention and effort amongst many children is taxing. Add in the fact that we weren't exactly angels (that's a watered down way of putting it) and you have the line of reasoning that led to our Nintendo becoming our live in nanny.

 Truth be told, even though my mother was a stay at home mom, I spent far more time with my consoles than I ever did with either parent. In fact, I spent more time in front of consoles than almost any other activity I've ever participated in. When I became a teenager, my parents couldn't understand why I spent so much time gaming, burning through hard earned cash on a hobby that felt more like an obsession. Really? This is exactly the response I'm talking about here. How on earth do you sit a child in front of a game console for hours upon hours a day, and then question why he/she continues to do so? Since it never bothered them before, they felt as though they were in no position to let it bother them then either. I spiraled out of control, and they stood by.

 My parents have since expressed their regret, but the damage had already been done. Both direct and indirect results had already run their course. While I certainly can't fault my parents for every negative aspect of my life as a result of their parenting (or lack thereof), the 20/20 vision that hindsight possesses once had me running my fingers over scars from the past in pensive fashion. What could have been different about my life if I wasn't raised by games? It's not ritual I still practice, but for the longest time it was such a natural occurrence that it would sometimes even replace sleep.

I've since met many other gamers who have gone through similar child rearing techniques. An airman of mine (who shall remain nameless out of respect for his privacy) years ago was a gaming savant. Seriously, if you played him you accepted the fact that your doom was eminent, otherwise you would not have any fun. I can remember playing Halo 3 with him and six others roughly 5 years ago. It was a deathmatch. Usually, he wasted little time slaughtering the unfortunate lambs that dared to take up the challenge, but he was uncharacteristically dormant for about half the match. "Is Snuffy (not his real name) ok? Snuffy, you there buddy? Dude, should we call the cops?" This banter went on for about fourteen and a half of the thirty minutes the match was set to go to. Snuffy was not dead, he went to make a sandwich. A sandwich. We were fervently trying to take him down, and he didn't even bother to stop the game. He was confident he had plenty of time to topple us once again. He was right.

Though a confident (and sometimes cocky) gamer, he was a shy soul, and rarely spoke to anyone without the aid of his headset. He almost never left his apartment. Pulling teeth would have been easier than what it took for us to finally get him to come out and have a beer with us (and at a real bar instead of his suggestion of Azeroth). Years ago, while he and I were waiting for an airdrop, we started talking. Gaming is a very mutual aspect of our lives, so the topic was an obvious choice. He shared with me why he was so good at just about any game he plays. He, too, was left to be tended to by videogames. Only his story really made me very sad for him, and put my own complaints in perspective. While I still did other things that kids normally do (go outside, camp in the backyard, etc.), he almost never went outside. He never owned a bike. He'd never been in a tent until he deployed to Iraq.

Instead of a childhood that involved a whole lot of gaming but also included the activities all kids are familiar with, he was literally told to go to his room and stay there, ensuring he would not be a bother. A videogame became more than just his caretaker, it became the only friend he would have until high school. He had mastered the art of gaming because it was the only thing he would get to experience, his only escape from his room. I was honestly not prepared for those words. I didn't even know what to say. Do you offer condolences in this situation? My heart hurt for him, but I couldn't find the words. We sat there in silence after his revelation for what seemed like eternity. In reality it was probably closer to a minute or two, but until that silence was broken the air felt heavy.

None of this can be blamed on videogames or the consoles they're played on. People that claim videogames are inherently evil are using the same unsound logic my son subscribed to. Lazy parents are to blame in the case of the electronic babysitter. Yet you will read countless articles on why videogames are the real danger. "Videogames are addictive. They will make your kids violent. Your children will be anti-social heliophobes if they play them." On and on the outcry goes, and no one stops and takes a good hard look in the mirror. Society goes bonkers at the very thought of our children being put at risk, and yet we're still just tripping over toys and yelling at them instead of trying to look inward at how our own actions (or inactions) might actually be more directly to blame.

Let me be as clear as I can; if you put limitations on your children, if you draw clear and definitive boundaries, what is there to be concerned about? Anyone in an uproar over the violence in videogames or how much time kids spend gaming is missing the broader picture here. Children don't make the rules. They certainly don't buy the controversial games that cause the rabble rousing and protest. I think you know where I'm going with this.

Parents are the ones who need to step back and reassess what's really the issue here. My son, no matter how much he begs, does not get to play videogames whenever he chooses. It's a privilege, a reward if you will, for living up to the academic and behavioral standards I've laid out for him. And even when it is time to play, he's not afforded carte blanche access to videogames. Why, as a gamer, would I put such restrictions on the future generation of this hobby? Simple, I want it to remain just that, a hobby. Children have a tendency to become obsessed, leading to long lasting effects on their life as they develop and grow. I can attest to this fact. I want my son to cultivate a sense of self control, and limitations are the best way I have found to do so.

I'm not here to tell people how to raise their offspring. Everyone has different beliefs and moral compasses. However, I do implore anyone who would rush to judgment regarding the good or evil of any activity to take a deep breath and take the opportunity to reflect. Is tripping on toys reason to get upset at anyone but you? Can we honestly blame something with no inherent worth in and of itself for mistakes we make? What's worse is this is more of an example of reflecting on the past instead of looking at the present. There are a multitude of reasons why people take any course of action, and pointing to the past as a reason is the easy thing to do, and quite cowardly. It absolves personal accountability from the situation. "I'm not culpable, look what I had to deal with."

After all, we preach to children that once they become adults, they must face the now daunting challenge of being completely responsible for their lives. Blaming others no will longer cut it. Could I look back in anger at situations where I felt I was wronged? Sure, but it won't solve anything; it'll just make me bitter. I'm an adult now, and it's no longer anyone's job to console me when I trip and fall. The same applies to everyone. Criminals are to blame for their crimes. Upbringing might have had a hand in the decisions they made, but no one else made said decision for them. We all fail at some point. The obligation we have as a society is not to assume responsibility for others, but rather hold each other accountable for our own actions. It's why we have laws.

Ratings on movies and games are a great example of this. What it means is this; this game has content that may not be suitable for kids, so please use your better judgment. I can empathize with how easy it is to fall into the trap of blaming the world around you for your problems. The only problem is that the real source of the concern goes ignored when we do this. We can all benefit from personal reflection and evaluation. Pay attention to the direction you're heading. Be accountable for the situation you're in. Most importantly, when you trip and fall (and everyone eventually does) try not to blame the obstacles you didn't see coming. From the outside looking in, it may sound as silly as yelling at your toys for being in your way.

 

 

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