Living Outside The Box Born-Again Techo-Geek Renaissance Man


The Prodigal Son Gamer

Recently, in one of their Netflix binge-watching marathons, my kids discovered a show called Video Game High School. Most of what they watch is aimed at younger teens, mostly Disney (teenage soap opera) drama and comedy. This looked pretty promising at first, but as the series ran on, I started not liking what I saw.

The show centers around a kid who unintentionally ends up at an elite high school for competitive video gamers. It's filled with the usual action and drama, but I guess I was expecting more of the traditional cheesy comedy. I ended up pulling the plug when the show's main antagonist started dropping 4-letter words (cause my pre-teen kids were watching it too).

The problem is, in typical drama show fashion, VGHS shows unrealistic caricatures of what real gamers are like. If you didn't know better and only went off of what the show presents, you'd think all skilled gamers are egotistical jerks, they all have some weird accent/slang dialect, and run in weird cliques. But from my experience, the people that have the dedication to drag a computer setup to a hotel ballroom somewhere just to play video games for fun and prizes are much, much nicer than that.

Twenty years ago, I used to be pretty big into gaming. I had a dedicated LAN party rig, and I went to competitions a few times a year. I gave that up to be able to raise a family shortly thereafter, and for the most part, I never really got back into it. Here's a shot of my last custom LAN rig:

Helix Nebula

We used to have some pretty heated matches, even against teams that were organized and actually very good. There was plenty of good-natured taunting, but it was understood that it was a part of the game, and it never extended beyond the player's skill in the game. You didn't make remarks about people: only their lack of playing skill, because that's all that mattered. And even that was usually taken pretty well, considering that nobody there had huge egos to start with.


© Creative Commons under GFDL by

Fast forward two decades, and now my 13-year-old son wants to learn how to play FPS games. To be sure, there are lessons you can learn from competitive gaming. Most specifically, it develops teamwork, critical decision-making under pressure, and memorizing maps, among other things. It's like learning speed chess strategy with armed, ticking grenades. Adrenaline is pumping, there's sounds and graphics and virtual bullets flying at you, and you have to remember the correct sequence of turns to get back to the armor spawn point while predicting the other players' moves and avoiding incoming fire.

Gaming can be a lot of fun, but only if you don't tie your ego and self-worth into it. Just like any other sport, (and it is considered a sport) the possibilities to learn are there if you play as a team and go into it with the correct attitude. Sportsmanship is expected, no matter what the game.

So now, I have to decide if bringing my son into gaming will be something I can use to teach him about sportsmanship and critical thinking. The potential is there, but I'm not sure how easy it will be to get him there. For now, I'm teaching him the basics of how to play the games, and how to control and aim.

But really, I might just use it as an excuse to build a new gaming rig... 🙂 I'm pretty sure I can get most of my favorite FPS games to run in Linux!

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

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