I’m So Glad My Parents Were Squares

gamepicFriends, I just lost a day of my life.

It wasn’t an amnesia-inducing camel accident, but something altogether more insidious: an iPhone game. Since yesterday morning, I have played Ticket to Ride over forty times. Y’all, it seemed harmless enough! It’s a simple concept: players build train lines across the US, connecting routes they’ve randomly drawn, before everyone else finishes. The game caters to people who’ve clamored for a Thomas the Tank Engine edition of Risk. Strategy is more quaint with trains!

Turns out, I’m fucking awesome at it. Want to get from Vancouver to Miami? Done. That dreaded route from Calgary to New York? On it. Being born in the 1980s really screwed me over, because my true calling is railroad barony. Or, perhaps, I am just too easily enthralled by things. That is a distinct possibility. Last year, I spent all summer chucking enraged birds at porcine criminals. Right now, I’m engaged in eight games of Words with My Mother.

All of this has clarified one thing: my parents were really, really smart to outlaw video games in our house. Sure, they claimed we couldn’t have a Nintendo, because of my sister’s epilepsy, but my siblings and I knew the truth. They were totally lame. Along with processed foods and backward baseball hats, video games seemed another arbitrary enemy our parents waged war against.

“Play outside,” they insisted. “Read a book!” Nary a Wii nor a PlayStation would enter their house. My brother snuck systems in from his friends’ houses, but they were too soon ferreted out. As such, my practical video game skills are sadly lacking. I’m the one who spends all of Halo running into walls, until I’m shot in the head by my exasperated compatriots. My Mario-kart always comes in last. A blind-folded lemur would be better at FIFA than I am. Though, to be fair, the lemur would also probably know more about soccer…

As a kid, though? I would have played those games, until I reigned supreme…or died from dehydration. I am unable to start something, without wanting to conquer it. Only, since my parents banned ALL THE FUN from our house, wee Grace instead conquered things like reading all the Amelia Peabody mysteries and sewing. I can cook a mean pot roast, change my own headlights, and paint impressionist blobs that vaguely resemble people. Had we been allowed to play video games, I’m pretty sure I would not do any of these things nearly so well. Graduating high school may also have been questionable.

It’s not that I think video games are bad. To be honest, I think they’re a really interesting and vital part of modern culture. Plenty of people I know play them well and often, without going down the rabbit hole. Moderation, however, has never been my strong suit. It’s probably best that my teenage obsessions were books and dresses – things with an end in sight – rather than World of Warcraft.

While I still think a girl should be able to eat Oreos without worrying about hydrogenated oils, I’m glad my parents were eccentric. Mom and Dad, thanks for being such squares. My Assassin’s Creed skills may suck, but I make pretty killer (hydrogenated oil free!) brownies…which you might never eat again, now that I’m marrying a guy who owns an Xbox.

– Grace

25 thoughts on “I’m So Glad My Parents Were Squares

  1. I love Ticket to Ride (and also rock at it!) I came from a video game free home. What a great way to grow up. My hubby was the opposite so we will see what we can settle on for our kiddos someday…

    • Hooray for Ticket to Ride love! I’m so glad someone else understands the obsession, Lauren. I really didn’t think a game about trains would be this entertaining, but it’s so well done.

      Also, you bring up a really great point about raising children with/without video games. I haven’t actually talked to Professor McGregor about his views on the subject, but he definitely grew up in a pro-game household. More and more, I’m beginning to think being raised without them isn’t so much a deprivation but an advantage in the world.

  2. I’ve often found myself wondering what my life would be like right now if I hadn’t spent my sixth grade summer perfecting Metal Gear Solid. I probably would have gotten into running, stayed in sports, and generally been happier with my life. As it stands, I’ve made the best out of the fat, bearded ball of pop-culture that video games have made me.

    • If it makes you feel better, Troy, I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn’t spent the summer before my sophomore year reading romance novels. If I hadn’t been an unactive hermit that year, what could I have done? Things seemed to have turned out pretty well for both of us, though, despite our mutually blank summers. Hermits unite!

  3. While I’ve never really be into video games, other than Mario Kart, I have zero moderation when it comes to TV shows and YouTube videos. So I totally get it, hours of my life… just gone.

    • Oh, Liz. You and me both! My sister and I have watched the entirety of the WB catalog…twice. I’ve spent more time watching the show Roswell than actually in New Mexico.

      I’m not even going to start talking about Buffy. Whole years, I swear…

  4. I LOVE Ticket to Ride! But I haven’t played the iPhone app yet. i’m pretty sure I would also get addicted! Have you ever played Settlers of Catan? Great strategy game šŸ™‚

    Growing up as one of 5 siblings with only one TV you can imagine the fights about whose turn it was to play Nintendo/Sega/Dreamcast etc etc. Although I did have a good run of California Games I was never that good at gaming. My parents combated our love for TV and the fighting it caused by issuing us with ‘TV cards’ every week that we used to spend on 30 minute slots to either watch TV or play video games. It actually worked and we managed to share successfully! šŸ™‚

    • Oh my God, SETTLERS OF CATAN! Professor McGregor and his friends introduced it to me not that long ago and I’m obsessed. It is so, so much fun. You will love the Ticket to Ride app. It is just as fun as playing in real life, somehow. Totally addictive.

      Also, your parents are brilliant! The fights in our household about the TV were bad with only three kids. I can’t imagine the chaos with five! I may be stealing that idea from your parents…

  5. I remember my cousin and I always heading off to the local corner shop to play video games on the sly. Our parents too, were great believers off getting fresh air or reading a book. Growing up in the 80’s was awesome.

    • It totally was! Geez, if we had had an arcade or anything similar nearby, it would have been all over. I would have been one of those zombie kids questing for a high score.

  6. You got to love square parents. I thought my parents were kinda square, but looking back at my childhood there was always some sort of games console – Atari, Megadrive, Amiga and eventually PC for gaming. Though there were strict rules – only after homework, never on weekdays, 1 hour, etc etc. That I am grateful for.

    I am itching to play the board game version of Ticket to Ride!

    • Jaina, the board game version of Ticket to Ride is similarly so fun! However, there are definitely lots of tiny train cars involved, which can lead to somewhat hilarious/infuriating issues. Wil Wheaton & co. did a great video review of this and one of those issues definitely happened: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHmf1bau9xQ.

      Also, I think your parents definitely struck a happy balance. I can’t imagine having children and not putting some sort of limit on their TV/game time. It’s so important to know how to balance work and play, before becoming an adult.

  7. Too too funny, Grace! I can rival that – my husband and I went to an internet cafe whilst on our honeymoon in Airlie Beach, Queensland, Australia, to water our crops on our games of Farmville (or whatever it was called – I forget now). Not long after that I realised what a pathetically stupid waste of time that was and we actually really ought be spending time with one another, not some stupid computer!

    And yes, my parents were a bit… old fashioned, I suppose. Yes, we had a computer (Commodore 64, actually) but I did not find out about contemporary music until I was about 12 or 13 – given that all mum and dad listened to was classical or jazz….

    • Ha! Oh my god. That is totally something I can see happening to Professor McGregor and I, only sub out Farmville for funny videos or the rabbit hole of e-mail. We may have to institute a no-web rule on our honeymoon!

      Also, it’s funny how some of the most interesting people I know come from “old-fashioned” backgrounds. So many of my friends have random knowledge about things like jazz or vintage cinema, because it’s all they were exposed to growing up. I think teenagers, especially, will develop a working knowledge of modern pop culture, so the idea of investing them with older, more esoteric before them seems so prescient.

  8. My parents also refused to acquire video games for us. Same “play outdoors! read a book! use your imagination, for chrisakes!” mantra. And videogames? I don’t ‘get’ them. I’ve tried playing halo, with similar results to you, but frankly, I don’t feel the remotest need to excel at it. My sisters both grew up with access to the computer, and are now thoroughly addicted to computer games – the one with all the blocky people and square-corners, and the one with the arrow to the knee meme, to vaguely-identify a few. I spend my time outdoors, or reading (or watching far too much tv) instead.

    • Lexy, I’m in a very similar boat to you. Beyond my current obsession with a phone game, it never even occurs to me to play a real video game. I’m always reading or watching too much TV or sewing instead…those other interests have such a hold that there’s really not room for video games. My brother, however? Definitely developed the post-parents obsession. They still seem forbidden to him, so he can’t get enough of them!

  9. “Iā€™m the one who spends all of Halo running into walls, until Iā€™m shot in the head by my exasperated compatriots.”

    Oh, so true, so true. I grew up in a moderate video-game household, in that Mom pretty much outlawed them but then one of her boyfriends bought my brother a Sega Genesis. The first all-nighter I ever pulled was in elementary school to beat Ecco Jr.

    We never had any other consoles, though, so I’m aware of gaming without being much good at it. Your reference to Halo cracked me up because the only time I’ve ever played it was with a very game-talented friend of mine who eventually just kept reviving me so he could figure out the most inventive ways the game would let him kill me again. It was a long evening.

  10. I am like this with facebook games. i cannot keep up. i am wasting so much time, it’s not even funny. Every day i’ve resorted to not looking at the games for at least 3 hours. As a kid, I played so much tetris I even saw those dang little squares and patterns even while trying to fall asleep! Thank you for the perspective!

  11. Ticket to ride is one of my favorite games! My parents also encouraged me and my sister to spend time outside and read books. In result I’m also lousy at video games, but instead I enjoy reading and crafts more. I’m glad my parents were lame too! šŸ™‚

  12. Pingback: 4 Things That Video Games Have Taught Me « Kamikazedy

  13. You’re really funny, great read! I totally agree. My siblings and I weren’t allowed play station growing up either, its definitely a good thing, however I wouldn’t have a clue about all these games, sometimes I truly feel like I’ve been living in a cave. I did play with my brothers game boy to such an extent I was called gameboy girl for years..

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