Sugar, spice and a SCAR-H combat rifle

June 26, 2013 

Is it bad that my 7-year-old daughter spends hours of her summer vacation parked in front of a flat-screen monitor playing “Black Ops II” with her older siblings?

The video game by Activision Publishing is one in a line of “Call of Duty” titles. It’s a warfare game complete with guns, explosions and death. Lots and lots of death.

None of that seems to bother Emily. She sleeps well. She shows affection for the family pets. She only occasionally points the family Ruger at her brother.

If the screen images are damaging to her, I’ll let her court-appointed psychologist sort it out in about 20 years. In the meantime, however, I’ll let her keep playing. Her fascination with the game is anything but damaging to me.

In April and May, I viewed the impending summer vacation with increasing dread. Entertaining Emily is never easy. Less so for an old man such as myself. In a previous column I used the word indefatigueable to describe her. It still fits.

She is wide open from the time she wakes until the time she drops -- usually about 18 hours later (and long after I turn in). The prospect of planning three quarters of each vacation day with fun (and cheap) activities seemed daunting.

In that respect, “Black Ops II” has been an absolute blessing. During Emily’s trance-like sessions before the screen, there’s time for household chores, trips to the grocer and even a little bit of writing.

But beyond fitting the blueprint of my personal mantra (“If it’s good for me, then it’s good.”), Emily’s participation in these gaming sessions has ushered in a new phase in her relationship with her siblings, the closest in age of which is a rising high school junior. Essentially, she’s relating to them on their level.

Not that she wins. She doesn’t. Emily’s video skill set doesn’t yet include the adept transfer of weaponry from carbine to rocket launcher. But her running commentary of the game action is as hip and biting as the other kids -- even those whose voices are piped in via Internet connection.

There’s comfort in that. I envision a time in the kids’ relationships when age difference won’t be as signficant. They’ll enjoy lives and families of their own, but they’ll also lean on each other when times are tough.

Soon, Emily will cease to be a tagalong. Instead, her input will be sought and valued on major family decisions. Like what to do with Dad. When that day comes, and she votes to put me out to pasture, at least I’ll know the source of her ruthlessness.

Contact Chris Deighan at cdeighan@cox.net.

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