Temperance Denied

I’m quite familiar with mindless obsession, especially when it comes to video games. I spent a large chunk of my child- and young-adulthood with a Nintendo controller in my hand and a keyboard at my fingertips.

I remember when Super Mario Bros. 3 was first released. Reviews from Nintendo Power whetted my appetite, and the local bowling alley had an arcade version. My friend and I spent several afternoons (and quarters) tempering our desire for the game, next to the pool tables and cigarette machines. This game had such a powerful draw that it featured prominantly in a best-forgotten movie called, The Wizard, starring Fred Savage.

I used to dream about this game. Night after night, the bright-yellow box would drift through my mind. It called to me, just within my grasp. Percival had more restful sleep.

Jose has a similar problem. He wants a PSP, PlayStation’s answer to the GameBoy. He wants it badly:

My friend Jose Luis Junior, age 9, wants a PSP so palpably…he has a folder full of stock photos that he has clipped from Target and Toys R Us flyers. He has clipped photos of the PSP backside so that he has source material to correctly render the battery door. You see, Junior draws PSPs to scale, cuts them out and sells them to his friends!

Somehow, my experience pales in comparison.

Mister Jalopey, concerned only for his friend’s happiness, sends a digital plea to the Internet, asking for donations so that he can make Jose’s wish come true. The fine folks at Boing Boing heard of Jose’s plight, and its readers answered the call. The money has been raised, and, presumably, Jose will soon have his innermost desire in his hands.

Let’s forget, for the moment, that a nine-year-old boy will soon be given a $250 toy on a whim. Forget, also, that one of the games he is most excited to play is Grand Theft Auto. Or that Jose will most likely no longer produce his wonderful drawings. All of this is irrelevant.

I am not Jose’s father. Though the above may be reason enough for me to refuse my son a PSP, I can’t make that decision for others. And yet, this is exactly what Mister Jalopey, Boing Boing, and its readers have done. In altruistic spirit, they have superseded parental prerogative, and have taken it upon themselves to make a not insignificant gift to a child for whom they have no responsibility.

Of course, I don’t know the whole story. Maybe Jose’s parents approve of the enterprise. Maybe he has no parents, and Mister Jalopey fulfills that role. Or maybe Mister Jalopey fulfills that role regardless of Jose’s biological parents. In the grand scheme of parenting and childhood, a nine-year-old boy being given a PSP won’t make any headlines. Well, except this one.

What disturbs me is how quick we can be to satisfy a child’s every wish, if only to see him happy. And with how little thought.

One Response

  1. Phil
    Phil at | | Reply

    My 7-year-old son recently visited with a cousin who had one of those Game Boy Advance things, complete with a Star Wars game. My son spent hours with this thing, killing sith lords and whatnot. I just knew that after we got home he’d be pleading for one of those games for weeks and months. But to my surprise he hasn’t even mentioned it again. Not a peep about video games.

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