Obama Advises Fathers to "Turn Off the Videogames"

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Obama Advises Fathers to "Turn Off the Videogames"

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The President of the United States wrote an open letter to American fathers encouraging them to spend time with kids.

This Sunday in the United States was Father's Day, that annual time of year we feel guilted into calling our dads and wishing them well. Barack Obama is a father of two girls himself, and he made a point this weekend of posting a letter on the White House blog (yes, there is one) about what being a father means to him. The piece is written in Obama's characteristic style, and signals the start of his administration's program to help fathers in need spend more time with their children. Called the Year of Strong Fathers, Strong Families, Obama has negotiated cheaper ticket prices and coupons for activities for dads and kids. The gesture came from noble intentions, but there was one line in Obama's letter that stuck in the craw of gamers across the nation.

"We know that every father has a personal responsibility to do right by their kids - to encourage them to turn off the videogames and pick up a book; to teach them the difference between right and wrong; to show them through our own example the value in treating one another as we wish to be treated. And most of all, to play an active and engaged role in their lives," Obama wrote, with the emphasis mine.

Now, Obama doesn't have a history of being an ignorant hater of electronic entertainment, but he has cautioned against videogames and other technology distracting students from education in the past. The tone the President uses, however, when discussing games is far from inflammatory, he just advises fathers to take an active part in their kid's lives. Whether that comes with the games on, or off, is up to the father in question.

And being a lover of books, I can't fault Obama for advising kids to pick up a Tolkien or Isaac Asimov or George R. R. Martin novel instead of playing the 57th round of Black Ops or watching the 5000th annoyingly long cutscene.

On second thought, maybe Martin is a little too racy for those under ten. Wait until you're 13, kid, before you pick up A Game of Thrones. Then it will blow your freaking mind!

Source: White House.gov

Thanks vento 231 for posting this story in our forums.

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Hey, why not Orson Scott Card? Enders Game (Enders Shadow was good as well) remains to be among my most favorite books, and hell it has games in it too!

He does make a good point though. Regardless of the debate on what is good and bad for children regarding what they do on their free time.

I think it is too easy to stare at a screen (hell I do that most of the day myself) all day.

This is America we're talking about. Some kids are better off with the games raising them. Ever hear the people that call in to talk radio, those are the ones I'm talking about but they probably don't listen to Obama anyway.
I don't think it's anything gamers should take personally though. If it were the 70s, he would be talking about the TV, if it were the 40s, he would be saying they should turn off the radio.
I think parents do need to help their kids manage their free time during the summer. Even the kids who are pretty good with it on their own need some direction sometimes.

He's encouraging responsibility parenting!? How unamerican. Jack Thompson's entire carrier was based on parents not being accountable for anything, he's going to put generations of lawyers, news writers, and mouthpieces out of business. That's not capitalism. He cares about the fate of other generations, he must be a communist.

cursedseishi:
Hey, why not Orson Scott Card? Enders Game (Enders Shadow was good as well) remains to be among my most favorite books, and hell it has games in it too!

I second this, those books were amazing.

And I see his point here, family time is important, if only to give kids the drive to do better in life.

gotta agree about the game of thrones comment. I bought it last week and while I play gaames i find myself wanting to quit and go back to reading.....

gaming is a good bonding tool on the other hand....

unacomn:
He's encouraging responsibility parenting!? How unamerican. Jack Thompson's entire carrier was based on parents not being accountable for anything, he's going to put generations of lawyers, news writers, and mouthpieces out of business. That's not capitalism. He cares about the fate of other generations, he must be a communist.

And thus will be assassinated within the week.

OT: I have to agree with Mr Obama on this one. Fathers need to spend the time raising their kids.

LOL, Games distracting studends? You mean parties distracting students. :P

To quote Kent Brockman: "This barley qualifies as news."

He said a throw away line about video games, a perfectly acceptable one, and nobody cares. Slow news day?

My six-year-old son enjoys Minecraft and various flash games, and is trying to get into Portal but he gets very concerned about the turrets. (As if turrets weren't adorable enough already.)

His kindergarten followed a literacy program called 100 Book Challenge this year, and the goal was to read four hundred books by the end of the year (we're not talking novels here, at his age level books are pretty short).

He finished the year having read 1092 books, with probably half of them having been read with me following along to fix any mistakes. I'd guess he's doing well with his reading and time spent with me.

These comments aside I think it's worthwhile to discuss the importance of reading and of putting down games, there are a lot of kids who do too much of the former and not enough of the latter.

Playing video games together WAS the quality time I spent with my dad--although he read books to me, too. We read through a big long series on mythology, ghost stories, Arthurian legend, fairy tales, and that shit SCARRED ME FOR LIFE. Eight years old and here I'm reading about people getting their toes cut off and intestines pulled out and being forced to dance to death in red-hot shoes or rolled through town in a barrel with nails pounded through it. With lovely illustrations, too. At least the graphics in my video games were so bad that when enemies died, a bunch of boxes with big red skulls popped up over them.

I kid, I kid, I loved those stories. I credit them with my successful career in hacking up dead people with a bandsaw. I need a new job like that.

No, Mr. President, I don't think I will. My little girl has a blast watching me play through JRPGs (she likes the big, flashy spell effects). We enjoy our gaming time together, so we'll keep having fun together. M'kay?

When I was a kid, I wished that my father could play some games with me, even for 5 minutes... [/foreveralone]

Hungry Donner:

These comments aside I think it's worthwhile to discuss the importance of reading and of putting down games, there are a lot of kids who do too much of the former and not enough of the latter.

I'd rather people encouraged their kids to build/make/create/work with all sorts of projects rather than just passively absorbing entertainment or information, personally. The people I know who are successful in life spent their childhood camping, fishing, riding horses, exploding bottles in the woods, riding bikes, fighting with friends, scraping paint off the garage door, erecting sheds, planting corn, rewiring the house, fixing the plumbing, raising sheep, building model trains, shooting hoops, changing the oil . . .

You get the picture.

Hmm... I'm not against Obama or his encouragement for people to interact, and I don't really hold this comment against him, but I still resent the comment.

I guess it's just more evidence of the unfair antagonisation of video games. It's still okay to use them as a scapegoat for people not interacting and such. Books shouldn't be seen as automatically a better medium than video games. If he's trying to get fathers and sons to spend more time together then getting kids to read books isn't going to do anything. You will just make them move from one solitary pastime to another.

SupahGamuh:
When I was a kid, I wished that my father could play some games with me, even for 5 minutes... [/foreveralone]

My dad and I used to play video games together all the time. He particularly loved super Mario brothers and the whole family would play duckhunt. As a matter of fact, if you give him an old-fashioned 2D Mario Brothers game today he will still play it. Good memories. You have my condolences.

As for the president, I see nothing wrong with what he's saying at all. My parents used to read to me all the time and it fostered a love of reading for enjoyment in me that I'm frankly grateful for. And if he's talking about doing your school work then all the more so important is it for kids to learn to put away their distractions. Now, if my folks had urged me to work a little harder and a little more often I might be a lot better off.

How about advising to play a videogame together, Obama?
That's your first dose of parental guidance right there!

TheEnglishman:
Slow news day?

Sorry, but whenever I see someone utter this phrase I can't help but imagine them with a huge troll grin, and can no longer take their comment seriously.

I would say 13 might be abit to young i mean some of those scenes are downright disturbing

So, Mr. President, can I take it that this comment means you actually see parents as having a choice in what their kids play, and therefor do not need to treat every M/bordering AO game as a sinister device being marketed directly to children by virtue of it being a game. After all, you just affirmed your confidence that Fathers (and by extension, parents in general) are actually capable of making wise gaming decisions on their own.

He just made one comment about about fathers needing to take responsibility for their kids. He isn't launching a vendetta against videogames or anything.

Hey, USA, nice president you've got there.
Seriously, not kidding. Said it nicely, not anything rage-inducing or whatnot.
Fathers, spend time with your kids, don't take the easy way out, aka plugging in the TV and console/PC :P

And i think 13 is a bit young to read Game of Thrones. But that's just my opinion.
Also, the old captcha's back. And i dislike it. The old one was nicer, cleaner.

Hungry Donner:
My six-year-old son enjoys Minecraft and various flash games, and is trying to get into Portal but he gets very concerned about the turrets. (As if turrets weren't adorable enough already.)

His kindergarten followed a literacy program called 100 Book Challenge this year, and the goal was to read four hundred books by the end of the year (we're not talking novels here, at his age level books are pretty short).

He finished the year having read 1092 books, with probably half of them having been read with me following along to fix any mistakes. I'd guess he's doing well with his reading and time spent with me.

These comments aside I think it's worthwhile to discuss the importance of reading and of putting down games, there are a lot of kids who do too much of the former and not enough of the latter.

If I wasn't 28 I would be sending you adoption papers!

Good to see a thread and specific post where it isn't people taking it as a personal slight that a) Obama uses 'games' as a general term and people therefore complain that Valve/Bethesda produce a pure as the driven snow high culture where as activision produce child abuse imagery and b) A politician possibly removed from "gaming culture" isn't placating the mythic "Fox audience" with "boo games rhetoric".

Pinstar:
So, Mr. President, can I take it that this comment means you actually see parents as having a choice in what their kids play,

Oh, heavens, no. To burn a woman, you have to kill the cop first. No parent can just play the game and know everything in it.

(Hehe.)

Calamity, advising parents to regulate the amount of games their children play and have some family time!
Gosh, being more attached to your parents than your xbox must be hell

I love video games. I really, really do. I have been playing them non-stop as my primary form of entertainment for over 20 years now.

That being said, I think the President is right. The vast majority of American kids need to put down the god damn controller and pick up a book. The inability of most people to effectively communicate themselves, or understand written or spoken language runs rampant in our society. It inhibits the ability of individuals to work together, to collaborate on complex issues and to reason.

I say this as a scientist, a software developer, and an avid gamer - language is our most valuable tool as human beings and it forms the basis of all human achievement. Reading fosters language in a way that no other format currently does. It promotes understanding, reasoning, problem solving and expands vocabulary (and the ideas/concepts attached to the new words).

In any case, people get enjoyment from reading as well as education. It's a fantastic medium for growing your mind, learning new concepts and ideas and broadening your perception of the world - far beyond what modern video games are capable of. I fully support telling kids to read more and game less. Hell, I wish kids could get as much fun out of doing math as they do reading... then we might really start getting somewhere.

I don't know, maybe it's just me, but my favorite quality time I remember was when my dad and I would play perfect dark together, or he'd help me with Mario 64!

If his suggestion help lessen the whole "blaming games for their child actions" then I'm ok with it.

I do got to admit he does raise a point since I play games more then I have ever reading books at the moment.

I have no problems with this; surely it's a good thing; although I do read plenty anyway, so maybe I'm a little biased... Meh. Still a good thing.

You see if Obama were a good father he'd have learned that sitting down with your kids and playing games WITH them instead of commanding them to sit cloistered with a book by themselves might improve their learning experiences. It might also teach them to appreciate time with their father instead of learning he's an aloof stick in the mud with no interest in children.

As much as I agree with Obama about parents spending time with kids, as well as reading (very much the reading; my bookcase that is warping the floating wood floor will tell you how much I advocate reading), there's no reason you can't spend time with your kids while playing video games. Aside from the fact that there are a lot of kid-friendly games for Wii and Kinect (mostly Wii, of course), plus some great kid-friendly co-op games like LBP2, just the fact that both kids and adults can play video games provides great common ground that didn't really exist before this generation, where the parents are the people who grew up with Odyssey, NES, Genesis, SNES, Atari 2600, Dreamcast, Saturn, and PlayStation, in addition to knowing how great a social experience it can be from having lived through the era of the video arcade.

This article, in between the jokes about the writer's son playing M-rated games and teabagging on WoW, brings up some interesting points about how well the author relates to his kids who play just as many video games as he does. This episode of the Ben Heck show also shows how parents can even turn normally 1-player games into a shared experience with their kids. (Figuring out how to build the set yourself alongside your kid would probably also be a good shared experience, as well as teaching a lot about electronics, which is becoming an increasingly important skill in today's society, even before you consider jobs in the field.)

You know, I'm no Obama fan at all(Let's not get into this). And yet I kind of agree with what he is saying.

He's not so much saying that video games are bad, but that he wants fathers to spend time with their children. This can be done many ways. Books are one. Others go fishing. What's important is that you spend time together.

I can remember my fondest memories with my father, watching him play a N64 while going through kemo. He would always talk with me about something durring those times.

So in short, despite me not liking your other policies, good move, Mr. President.

SupahGamuh:
When I was a kid, I wished that my father could play some games with me, even for 5 minutes... [/foreveralone]

I know what you mean, my parents don't necessarily hate video games, but won't really touch them either. The one time they actually tried to play a video game was at a New Year's party with Guitar Hero, and they were terrible at it (albeit being a bit drunk). From this they decided not to play any other games at all. This is sad because even though they still generally get at least a few hours of free time a day, they would usually spend it watching mediocre TV shows, declining any invitations from my siblings and I on joining us with some multi-player games.

"to encourage them to turn off the videogames and pick up a book; to teach them the difference between right and wrong; to show them through our own example the value in treating one another as we wish to be treated. And most of all, to play an active and engaged role in their lives," Obama wrote, with the emphasis mine.

I have a couple of problems with the way it is phrased.

1. The way it is written subtly equates video games with being wrong. I think that is a fairly narrow-minded statement. Now personally I don't think that he meant it as a bash on video games as much of an urge to read books, but it comes across as such.

2. The irony about the whole thing makes me laugh. He encourages being active and engaged in a child's life but video games can be a social interaction between parent and child. I remember my dad playing Pac-Man with me, taking turns, teaching me strategies. The ironic thing about his statement is that he is encouraging a solitary activity over the social one.

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