Thursday, April 18, 2013

Boston Strong - A Spectator's Perspective

It's my blog and I can go off topic if I want to . . .

I am a spectator.  When it comes to sports, I am not a fan, not an athlete, just a watcher, a member of the audience.  I grew up about 60 miles north of NYC, attended college at UMass Amherst during the reign of Coach Cal, and eventually married and settled in the metro west Boston area.  I have been to baseball, basketball, and hockey games.  I have sat in Yankee Stadium, the Meadowlands, the Boston Garden, Fenway Park, and "raged in the cage" at UMass. Each time it was fun, exciting, and I cheered for the home team.  However, for me it was not about the game, not about who scored or who won.  It was about the experience of being a spectator, the smell of peanuts and popcorn and hot dogs.  It was about being part of a community of people all cheering or jeering for a particular team/player. It was celebrating or commiserating together at the end of the game as we exited the arena.  

 . . . on September 11, 2001, evil people attacked NYC, my city, and I was a spectator watching on TV . . .  

About 9 years ago, my husband started running.  It took some time for me to figure out how to be a spectator at a marathon.  It is not the same as attending a sporting event at a field or stadium.  It is not a large group of people all cheering for the same team.  Instead, it is friends and family, one person or small groups, cheering on and supporting their individual athlete.  Over the years I have learned not only how to be a marathon spectator, but to love it.  Marathon spectators are a very special and dedicated breed.  We plan in advance, figuring out how to see our runner at multiple points during the race.  We walk, drive and take public transportation so we can cheer at the start, the 1/2 way point, and again at the finish line.  We carry extra water, Gatorade, energy gels, and bandages, never knowing exactly what our runner might need when we see them along the marathon route.

I have experienced a sense of camaraderie at marathons like at no other sporting event.  There is no rivalry, we don't care who wins.  No discussions about teams or coaches.  While we may be present to cheer on a specific friend, or spouse, or sibling, or parent; ultimately all race spectators are rooting for every runner to make it across the finish line.  We stand there clapping, yelling, ringing cow bells at every runner that passes as we wait for our one special runner.  We cheer for everyone, "You can do it green shorts", "Go blue sneakers, Go", "Woohoo, keep running!"

 . . . on April 15, 2013, evil people attacked Boston, my city, and again I was a spectator watching on TV . . .

I think of all the times and places I have been a marathon spectator, cheering on my husband (J's dad) in Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and our 'hometown city' of Boston!  It meant so much to my husband to run in the Boston Marathon in 2006 and 2007.  He is part of the running community, a member of a local running club; and by proxy, J & I are part of this club, this community, for we are the spectators.

And so, following the tragic attack at the Boston Marathon, I mourn the lives that were lost.  I am relieved and grateful that my husband and his immediate running community are all safe.  My sympathy goes out to all the runners who trained so hard and were unable to finish.  However it is the injured spectators for whom my heart aches.  I can not even put words to the pain and sadness I feel for my fellow spectators.  I have stood beside them, and now many of them have lost the limbs on which they stood.  

 . . . We have all become spectators, witnesses to extreme acts of violence and terror, in Oklahoma City, and Columbine, and NYC, and Blacksburg, and Newtown, and Boston . . and now every city is my city, every city is OUR city . . .

It is time for us to join together as a community of spectators.  We must do our job, we must cheer on the people who are facing the toughest marathon of their lives . . .recovery from tragic, violent injuries.  We must find ways to line the routes of their recovery with hope, prayers, faith, spirit, and energy.  Just as we do for the runners, we must cheer words of encouragement -  "You can do it!"  and "You're doing great!" and "Keep going!"  I am a spectator who can also take action and will contribute to the recovery of  all who were hurt in any way I can!

Boston is strong!  The running community is strong.  I believe that one year from now, at the 2014 Boston Marathon, there will be many, many runners and with them an influx of new spectators mixed in with the veterans.  We will stand together, dedicated individuals who refuse to let an act of terrorism scare us away from cheering along the marathon route!  We will no longer be just spectators, but participants standing together strong and proud!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Video game violence = violent kids = mass murder? I don't think so!!!!!

Over the past few days, several FB friends have shared an article by Peter Brown Hoffmeister titled "On School Shooters" (, in which he hypothesizes that playing violent video games has made it easier for people to commit violent acts in real life.  He talks about how boys who play video games are not "tied in socially", "struggle in classes and with peers", and are "capable of incredible and sudden violence on screen."  In his own adolescent years, he admits to having had violent thoughts and carrying weapons.  Yet, he states the significant difference between himself and these other young men is that his mother told him "video games were evil" and that "there was something very, very wrong with pretending on a video screen."

I consider myself fortunate that the video games of interest to my son are primarily Super Mario Brothers and Kirby.  Games that are very clearly based in a fictional world with fictional characters. However, I know that many of his 12 year old peers are playing games like "Call of Duty" and "Halo."  Even Minecraft, which J does play, has a certain level of violence what with killing animals and crafting weapons and the need to defend yourself against 'creepers' (zombie like villains). Should I be worried that J is going to go out and start slaughtering farm animals? Should I be worried that the cardboard sword he made for his Halloween costume is going to someday lead to his carrying a real one?  Should I be worried that his peers who today are recreating war and video game scenarios with Nerf guns will eventually bring real ones to school?

I must respond emphatically that video games do not create violent people!!!  There is no easy answer to what leads people to commit such atrocities as Columbine or Sandy Hook, but to blame violence in video games is a cop out.   Mass shootings have a long history, way before video games or TV [].  Even Mr. Hoffmeister admits that although he did not agree with his mother, it was her opinion about video games that influenced him.  Therefore, it is my humble opinion that lack of parental interest and involvement (combined with a variety of other factors) is what leads these young people to feel isolated and with the inability to know the difference between the virtual world and the real one!

I have so much more to say on this subject, so many thoughts and responses that I must take the time to organize before I can blog about them coherently.  But the take away for today is a strong message to all the parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles/guardians - PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR KIDS!!!  Let them play video games, but be aware of what they are playing.  Discuss the video games, the TV shows, the you tube videos - make sure your children understand what they are seeing and hearing.  Play video games with them once in awhile.  After all, that is the goal of this blog - to encourage parents to co-exist with their gamer children.  This means even if you are not a gamer, suck it up and become part of that world every once in a while (like spending a day dressed as a blue Pikmin at a video game convention) -  for it will make all the difference!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Am I a gamer?

Over the past week, as I've pondered and compiled lists of future topics for this blog, I keep coming back to the same question -"Am I a gamer?"  I suppose the answer depends on what your definition of a 'gamer' is.  Urban Dictionary divides gamers in to 2 categories, Casual Gamers and Hardcore Gamers (see the full definitions here:  While keeps it quite simple, stating:

     gam·er  [gey-mer]
     a person who plays games, especially computer or video games.

By the most basic of definitions, yes I am a gamer. But I think I fall more in to the "casual gamer" subset. Yes, I have a membership to a site that allows me to download games.  Yes, when the newest incarnation of Diner Dash is released I will download and play it obssessively until I complete all the levels.  I play Farmville on Facebook, as well as other games that my FB peers are currently playing. At the moment, Candy Crush is all the rage among many of my FB friends. Yes, I play Angry Birds on my iPad and really want to get 3 stars on all levels to unlock that damn golden egg!!!

My Farm @ Level 142

OK, so as I'm writing this, I am coming to the conclusion that I am indeed a "gamer."  I am also realizing that my gaming habits have more than likely influenced my son's.  So not only do I have to admit to being a gamer, but I need to take reponsibility for creating a "hardcore gamer."  For that is indeed what my son is, no question about it!  But I still think of myself as the "mom of a gamer" rather than a "gamer mom."  Do I have my definitions mixed up?  Have I simply not found my particular niche of "gamer mommies"?  Or is it just a generation gap that separates the degree of gamer between me and my son? What do you think - do I have this blog all wrong?  Am I "gamer mommy" or "mommy of a gamer"?

Monday, April 8, 2013

What generation are you?

My son, J, tends to define people by what generation they are, not baby boomers or generation x, but what video game system they played when they were growing up!  As a child of the 80's, I am of the Atari generation.  Considered by J as the first generation of gamers; I grew up on a steady diet of Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, Pac Man, Pitfall, Kaboom, etc (insert your favorite classic Atari game here).  I owned a handheld video game, to use the term loosely, called Comp IV (  About the size of cordless telephone and twice as heavy, it ran on D batteries and you tried to guess a pattern of numbers that was radomly generated by the 'computer'.  I also remember when there were video game arcades in shopping malls.  Each game cost only a quarter and an actual human being walked around the arcade making change.   While I enjoyed wasting time on these games, I hardly considered myself a serious gamer as I rarely managed a score high enough to warrant inputting my initials.

In the early 90's came Nintendo and all the Super Mario games - J's main video game passion.  And so he defines this decade of games as the NES generation, despite the fact that Sega and Playstation entered the market.  One of my college housemates had a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), with which I must admit to having a short lived love affair.  J often asks me which Mario game I played and if I found all the hidden items.  Of course, all I remember is spending hours playing the game while avoiding homework; and something about a magic flute.

As we head into the new millenium and J's birth year of 2001, video game consoles are getting smaller and more affordable. J will tell you he is the Wii Generation.  Where the Atari generation simply played pixelated, one dimesional games; the graphics and dimensionality of the Wii Generation are all encompassing.  Where the Atari generation used a clumsy joystick that would detach from the game console if you moved too much; the Wii generation controls their games with no wires and no restrictions. Their game controllers move with them and are so responsive to their game play they are like an extra appendage.  Handheld games now easily fit in a purse or pocket and can interact with each other even when a person isn't playing with it!

And so like any family, we have a generation gap.  Only ours is about our level of video game comprehension.  J is fully versed on the different types of video games available on the different game consoles and what they each have to offer. He talks in bits, bytes, interactivity, RPG's, and platforms.  I nod and smile and look forward to our trips to a retro arcade where I can plunk a token in to a machine, hear the familiar strains of Pac Man, and be chased by a pixelated ghost.  And J, he humors me by waiting his turn in an old fashioned, 2-player game of Q-bert.

What video game generation are you? Atari or Coleco? Gamecube or Playstation? Wii or XBox?  Check out this time line and comment below.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Are you the parent of a gamer, but not a gamer parent?

I attended PAX East with my 12 year old son a few weeks ago.  My son, is a true gamer - he knows more about video games than any other 12 year old I have ever met.  He knows about games that he has never even played, games from before he was born!  He can tell you the entire history of Mario.  I fully support my son's gaming interests, as you can see from my profile picture (We cosplayed as characters from the Nintendo game series Pikmin, I'm a Blue Pikmin and my son was Captain Olimar).

Something I've noticed since PAX is that there are lots of website, blogs, and pages about the video game industry.  You can find reviews and information about any game on any platform.  And I think it's great that there is so much support for the gaming community.  But where is the support for the parents of gamers?  For the naive mom who didn't even know dressing up as a Blue Pikmin was called cosplay?  For the parent's who's only definition of a platform is "a raised level surface on which people or things can stand"?  For the parent who can't tell the difference between Mario and Luigi, Princess Peach and Princess Daisy?

On a whim and a prayer, I decided to start a blog to support the parents of gamers.  Does your kid drive you crazy humming theme songs to their favorite video game?  Do they torture you to play Minecraft with them and then get impatient when you can't keep up with them?  Do you get motion sickness watching your kid play Super Mario Galaxy?  Is your idea of gaming playing Scrabble or Bejeweled Blitz on your smart phone? If the answer to any of these questions is YES, then this is the blog for you!

I hope you will follow me as I explore and learn more about the extremely large world of gaming in an effort to cross the boundaries between gamer and non-gamer, novice and expert; and create a better understanding of how these two worlds can co-exist in the same family!