Thursday, December 14, 2006

Whee, Not Wii

This year, parents are rushing from store to store looking for the latest game system. Some "have to have" the PlayStation 3, while others are jonesin' for the Nintendo Wii. In all of the racing around and trying to grab the last one on the shelf, do you think the parents ever stopped to remember what Christmases were like when their children were far younger or when they themselves were kids?

Back when I was a boy, we didn't really have much along the lines of a gaming system. The first home gaming system I remember we had was Pong, and that got old after a while. We even had some of the old Mattel handheld games like Football and Basketball. And they were fun.

But nothing compared to my TinkerToys. I would sit in my parents' basement for hours building robots or airplanes or rocket ships. I didn't need a joystick or a wireless controller to do anything. All I needed were my hands and my imagination. Ditto with my Lincoln Logs or my Hot Wheels cars or my Star Wars action figures.

As I grew older, the toys became more sophisticated and more electroic, but they weren't as much fun as my toys. What they had in technology and lights and sounds they lacked in another important area: the power to inspire. When I played with my TinkerToys, I could build just about anything I wanted if I had the right parts in the right number. What exactly do you build with a Wii? Nothing. And if try to take a Wii apart, you'll get a bunch of microchips that may not work again if you try to put them back together and aren't an electrical engineer.

While we find more and more gadgets to fill our houses, we're missing out on the greatest gadget of all, one that we all have. The human brain. Try as it might, a PS3 can't turn a stick into a sword or a used wrapping paper roll into a lightsaber. The human mind can and still does. Ever see a baby or a toddler on Christmas morning playing with a box instead of the toy it came in? That in a nutshell is the awesome power of the human brain, and it's something we lose when we plug in, turn on, and plop down with a PS3.

Look at it this way. A PlayStation 3 or Wii will eventually stop working or will fall out of favor when the next "must have" video game system comes out, which speaks volumes about its impact on a child's life. Fire a child's imagination, and he or she will have a gift that never breaks, never gets boring, and will always be remembered.

Given that, the PS3s and Wiis don't stand a chance.

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