My son likes to play video games a lot. Besides school, he doesn’t do much else. I have yet to let him have a video game console in his room so right now he has to play in the living room, and for better or worse, this allows me to keep an eye on the types of games he plays. I know how influential video games can be on the minds of teenagers.
The past few weeks, he’s been playing a strange one. It’s called Katamari. From what I’ve seen, the game is rather simple—the player acts as this little alien who rolls up objects in a ball according to their size. The bigger your ball gets, the bigger objects you can pick up. At a certain point you can roll up people. At another point you can roll up entire buildings. I don’t really see the appeal in this but it’s all my son has played recently.
And I’ve seen him get excited before, standing rather than sitting with the controller in his hand, bouncing on the balls of his feet, but I’ve never seen him like this. Sometimes, from the other room, I’ll hear him say things like, “Yes, finally! The whole city is mine!” and, “Remember how you treated me when I first started? Don’t run away, now. It’s too late for you.”
What concerns me now is that I’m not only hearing these things from the living room anymore. I’m hearing him say these sorts of things in his bedroom.
The first time I heard it, it seemed innocent enough—as if he was speaking to a stuffed animal he’d imbued with a personality, like he did when he was younger. But as I continued to listen, something didn’t add up. “You’re small now, but everything starts off small. I did. Soon enough, you’ll start to possess your own gravity. Helga will never know what hit her.”
Helga is his older sister.
I tried to dismiss what I’d heard as just another manifestation of the curious but forgivable ramblings of a teenage boy when I noticed that all our stores of Gorilla glue were missing. He asked me for some one day—said he needed it for a “school project”—but when I looked in the closet where I usually kept it, I couldn’t find any. And after telling him that, he looked down at the carpet and shrugged and said, “I guess you’ll have to get some more then. Probably today I guess. The project’s due tomorrow.”
To test my theory, I purchased several bottles of Gorilla glue. Far more than would be needed in the house and/or for any school project.
In a week we were out again.
And one morning before school Helga and him got into a fight because he wouldn’t give her her hairbrush back. He said he needed it to brush his hair on the way to school—something he’d never done. Finally, relenting, he went into his room, and five minutes later came out holding the hairbrush with gloves on. It was over 90-degrees outside that day.
I think he got Gorilla glue on his hands. I think the hairbrush was stuck.
Could all of this happen because of a video game? Or is my teenage son just sort of, well, not that bright?
I’d had patience until then but when I heard him scream at our dog Sparky, I decided enough was enough. I suppose the dog had found the ball and had dragged it out of its hiding place, maybe even chewed on it a little. My son screamed at Sparky until Sparky fled the bedroom, and from my room, which is adjacent to his, I heard my son say under his breath, “Once it’s big enough, you’ll be the first to go. You will answer for your crimes against Katamari, Sparky.”
The next day, while he was at school, I snooped around his bedroom. The ball wasn’t hard to find. It was in his closet under a bunch of old computer wires and dirty clothes. And sure enough, it was comprised of random objects (and one not so random object—I’d wondered where my passport went) all stuck together by Gorilla glue.
Obviously the ball will never get that big. Furthermore, it’ll never possess its own gravity. But most importantly, regardless of whether or not it’s in the realm of possibility, it is not okay to roll up your sister. Not with Gorilla glue or anything else.
What confuses me the most to some extent is, why this game? I let him play Grand Theft Auto (under supervision) and Call of Duty and all those types of games. He didn’t obsess over them like this.
Maybe different video games affect different teenagers differently. Or maybe my son just isn’t that bright.
If I’m being honest, I’d really rather blame video games.