'Wii Dad' Columnist Pens Response To Kotaku Commenters

"It's clear most of these commenters can't seem to conceive of a world where everyone doesn't play video games all day long," writes Chris O'Brien, whose column about returning a Christmas-gift Wii summoned a tempest of gamer fury .

To recap: O'Brien, a columnist for the San Jose Mercury News, thought he was penning "a pretty innocent tale" of a family decision. The O'Briens were a little put off by hidden costs (namely, batteries), but more concerned they'd be introducing a games console to their children and throwing their lifestyles, attention spans and study habits out of balance.

Totilo picked it up on Wednesday with a pretty straight recap, but the comments it provoked were not as even-handed. O'Brien was stunned by the response on Kotaku in particular, and has written a response. Its tone is a respectful reminder that there are some families out there not headed by hardcore gamers, so parenting decisions are sometimes made without that community's values foremost in mind.

The tone of the [Kotaku]post is pretty neutral. The comments are not, most of which are from folks who naturally didn't bother to read the column itself (surprise!).

JazzNeurotic writes: "This is a useless article by a moron, not to put too fine a point on it. There is no reason at all to make this sort of complaint unless one has been living away from all sorts of technology with the Amish, or in a coma, for the past 25 years."

RockyRan writes: "If you read the column you'll see that his problem was beyond the hidden costs. He didn't know how to establish "rules" for the Wii, and that the other gifts would be "overshadowed" by the Wii. In short, it was going to require regulation and parenting, and rather than let the kids have a fantastic Christmas with an awesome Wii they returned the whole thing to save themselves the trouble. Laziness is what I'm reading between the lines here."

So to recap: I'm a cheap, lazy, stupid parent because I won't fork over $US300 for a present and because I don't let the kids do whatever they want, when they want. Okay.

I was outed by Blore07, who discovered my "hidden agenda": "I think a lot of people are ignoring the fact that this guy probably knows nothing nor cares about videogames, he just wrote the story to stirr up and divide the masses and get some attention."

Yes, I was hoping to start an online riot. Exactly.

My reaction? I'm with O'Brien. I'm also a little curious about the response here. We post no shortage of articles about gamer kids gone off the rails, and the reaction to those also is swift and uncompromising - and usually sanctions unilateral heavy-handed parenting to get unruly children in line. I've seen scads of knee-jerk "just unplug the console" remarks when a child's gaming habit becomes disproportionate and unhealthy. How is this father's rational, if pre-emptive, decision really any different? Game consoles are in fact a luxury. And it's his house, his kids, his rules.

Crecente earlier this week mentioned his son is only permitted to play games on the weekends, and then in limited amounts. If he wasn't the editor-in-chief of this site, and was instead a newspaper reporter or a columnist (as he has been in real life) writing about that decision, would he have faced the same kind of outrage?

How My Wii Column Drove Gamers Crazy [San Jose Mercury News]


    I have a 360 (well, 2 of the things), a PS3 and a number of DS's. I nabbed a Wii for my kids for Christmas and settings 'rules' for its use is pretty straightforward. The kids get an allocated amount of time to play the Wii, but then have to spend the same amount of time outside playing, riding their bikes etc etc

    It's not rocket science and not really something that should bring on a 'panic attack' to a mature grown, adult male. Not saying the author isn't mature, but let's put forward the idea that 'panic attack' was probably a poor choice of words. Grab a paper bag and breathe in and out mate.

    There's two issues with this story, a pretty lame story written to meet a weekly word count and overzealous fanboys that should keep their mouths shut.

    I'm with the columnist. The shit on the wii is way 2 much. A nunchuck and a wiimote cost 100 bucks or more. But i also had no fun with the wii. Thats why I got a 360.

      seen the price of a Local Ds3 controller for ps3 ?

      not much better at rrp.

    I think the most important point was that his reason for returning the console was written as "all the hidden costs" which to be honest were pretty obvious from the start, but its understandable for someone not very technologically minded. Then to go onto say he should never have bothered with the wii in the first place, because it would overshadow all the other presents, throws into question what his real motivation was.

    If the console had have been everything he needed, at the price he originally expected to pay would he have returned it? At the start of the article the answer appear to be no. By the end of the article it reads like a hindsight justification of withholding the present from his kids. This begs the question. If he kept the console for the kids, and monitored it use correctly, he would have seen the fun and enjoyment the kids got from this console and he would have used backward reasoning to justify keeping all the same.

    Either way thats what this article is. He's used backward reasoning to justify his own actions past that of a simple "it cost to much". Saying the console would overshadow all other presents is a little bit hard to swallow. It means he knows the console would be better received than anything else, thus how much it would be valued by the kids. He feels guilty he has robbed them of it for another year and this article is his way of coming to turns with that.

      I agree, and couple that with a slow news week.....

    Whats he want though a gold medal for being a parent who even started to concieve a way of monitoring his kids?
    I work in a sector where Im constantly having to deal with parents who are so incompentant at parenting they dont know their kids in any real way.

    What hes admitted to is that he is unable to adjust, or understan a generation that communicates and gains enjoyment through interactive media in stead of old days style of interaction.

    If he cant control or give his kids guidance on something as trivial and simple as a gaming consle how will he deal with the ensuing teen years and the intricate web of issues that will arrive at that point?

    Put them in the attic and stop them witnessing any of it? Guess what, it doesnt work.

    What I would love is if parents stopped trying to blame everything except themselves for parenting techniques that simply dont work anymore.

    In response to his original article, all I can say is do your homework with regards to what you purchase. Spending a few hundred dollars on a system, controller and games surely isn't a small purchase for most families (especially this guy who isn't game oriented in the first place) If i'm dropping $500 on something i'd be making sure it's the right thing for my family and I. I think the main problem with the article was that it, albeit unintentionally, made gaming and the Wii look bad when in fact it was the writers own fault for not taking the time to fully understand what he was getting himself into.

    No Different in my house hold really, Except replace Dad with Wife and kids with Baby.

    My game time is dictated by these 2 factors and any chance i get to play i cherish :)

    I did read his article and still believe his argument is flawed and that 5 minutes of research could have saved him a lot of hassle.

    My son is only 8 months old but thankfully he has a Geek for a dad - (Shirt to prove it),
    As he grows up he will have access to all my stuff however RULES will apply on usage and i dare say the wife will enforce them on BOTH of us :)

    When I was younger I received a Mega Drive II for Christmas, it didn't overshadow other gifts, it was the gift for both my sister and I, short of a few other things like socks and jocks which let's face it aren't hard to overshadow.

    Around that console I played with friends I still have to this day, we are all gainfully employed, still enjoy gaming even happily married.

    That withstanding we had good parents who set boundaries, we played backyard cricket with sonic the hedgehog. We learned to play together and share, we learned working together and overcoming obstacles. We learned we had to work and earn pocket money if we wanted to hire/buy new games.

    As far as hidden costs go, which was meant to be the meat of his article, he better get used to a brave new world. Value add, or rip the money out of your pockets, is the new business model. DLC, Subscriptions, peripherals, add-ons, upsizing, and different models with better features all exist outside video games. Buyer beware. Hope he factors in the costs for any other gifts that require batteries.

    I also think its kind of offensive how he talks about shut ins and obsessed kids, I grew up in the desert, 40 degree heat and all of about 300 other kids in the entire city.

    Should I still have had to go running around outside doing 'normal kids things'? If not for games a lot of kids would go without, and are obsessed in the same way people from the 1800's obsessed with books or other media.

    Is the fact not everyone thinks or enjoys the same things as him completely off limits? Does technology just immediately rot your brain?

    Of course not, I agree with one of the other commentors, someone had to write a piece, decided to do it on a product that would get him hits, then wondered why the people who know better tsk'd at him.

    You may agree with O'Brien, Owen, but are you actually surprised by the responses? There is a mindset among gamers (myself, I admit, completely included) of being embattled by people who wish to act to the detriment of our hobby.

    Is this mindset accurate? Probably not, no more than the 'the world is going to corrupt our children' attitudes of the right-wing conservatives who usually stand on the opposite side of the mental battlefield are.

    The problem is, the conservatives have Fox News, and we have... you guys, in the gaming media in general. The embattled mindset may be flawed, but ideas like that are always stoked by a media who plays the laughing third party and stokes controvercy for the inevitable swell in readership that accompanies it.

    And if you don't think you're playing that kind of game, then ask yourself ... what kind of response had you hoped to get with your opening paragraph?

    The only thing i thought was stupid was the hidden costs he put out. Batteries, a 2nd Controller for a house hold with 2 kids and Games (Which dont have to be Rock Band packs) are not hidden costs...

    As a child I got a snes when I was about 10. My brother and I were never given restrictions on how long we could play or on what days.
    My parent's raised us well enough to understand the difference between movies/games and real life. Sometimes with high action or horror films, we had to watch the making of specials just so we could see how it was done to understand it all better.
    My parents were quick to understand with our gaming, like everything else as a child, we get bored of it and move on to something else after a couple of hours.
    Play Mario Kart for a an hour or so, get bored, go outside and recreate the track in the back yard on our bikes.
    I kinda figured most kids would behave in a similar fashion. Holding their attention is near impossible, be it video games, movies, outdoor sports.

    To be honest, the whole playing during the week thing is reasonable. I'm in school and I have no restrictions but i put them on myself so i can't get distracted during the school week. Really any reasonable thoughtful child should be able to see this and accept that, my brothers and sisters as young as 6 and 8 even understand this.

      Sorry, the point I was trying to make here is that you can set down the rules, and if you had raised your kids properly they will accept them.

    He just had buyers remorse.
    It happens all the time.
    He was given all the information in the shop and wasn't forced to buy it in the first place.
    He is just lucky the shop took it back.
    If it was my shop he would get store credit at the most.

    Hey at the end of the day, his kids, his family and his house sure, but when you write an article and open it up for discussion you can’t expect people not to be honest! Surely a real journalist would know or anticipate perceived good comments as well as bad in an open IT forum?! Although personally I believe there’s no right or wrong answer, I do believe a lot of the comments were a knee jerk reaction to some vague (how should I put this, perceived ignorance?) towards something so many people see as harmless and happily integrated as part of their daily lives.

    Now I don’t know if a lot of aussies commented but really in this country at least, we have something to be concerned about when it comes to treating gaming related issues as almost a potential poison. Just look at our R18+ debacle! I can only imagine the reason we’re in this mess as a nation is because there are still people that just haven’t accepted or fathomed a form of technology you interact with as something that’s okay and perhaps worthwhile.

    His house , his rules. He has rules and his own standards and he is commiting to them. Thats what a good parent does.

    I agree though, i reckon i would be a better person if videogames hadnt beena big part of my childhood. MY neighbours kids dont play games, they play sports and do heaps creative stuff all the time i wish i had done.

    Kudos to him.

      lcb, i'm curious why you feel that way? I was a computer game kid but i also played heaps of sport on weekends/at school as well as climbing trees and doing all the outdoor kids stuff. Looking back on my childhood i dont regret either. I only play a few hours of gaming a week now, combination of being an adult and just not being as interested as much as i was as a kid.

      Why do you feel games made you a lesser person? What do you feel you didn't learn that those activities would have taught you? Did you learn anything playing computer games (like quick thinking, money mangement etc) that you wouldn't otherwise know?

        I agree with you. Games taught me a number of skills that I still use in everyday life. I played a lot of FPS and RPG games as a kid. FPS gave me great reflexes and attentiveness. And from RPG I gathered a whole range of skills. As you mention controlling money and funds is one of them, attentive to detail, awareness of environments, etc. Gaming provided me some amazing skills and I cherish that. If I hadn't have been a gaming child I don't think I would have been able to make it to where I am today.

    his problem was only one of ignorance really. he expected civilised and mature responses from children hiding behind their keyboards.

      I enjoy this comment and I want to give it a big ol' hug.

    Look, the guys got some control issues. With his money, with his kids, and with his writing.

    This isn't journalism. This is a mid-40yo's live journal. It's pathetic and amusing.

    He said it best himself, "not doing my research. Bad columnist. Bad."

    This seems like such a pointless story to put up. Do we really care about a 40 odd year old parent with parenting issues that only slightly touch on the game industry? If this guy believes it was a waste of money and whatever else his justifications were then by all means let him do it and not involve the Kotaku.


    I admit im new to kotaku and i did read the article and the comments when it first came out.

    at that time i brushed it off as mob mentality, where a few bashed the writer and the rest followed. Now i'm reading these comments here and apart from the ones that did not stray way off topic, well...

    lets just say, im ignoring any competitions that reward readers that post the most comments...

    Firstly, I have to say: don't get angry when people disagree with you, however harshly, when you decide to make your opinion public.

    Secondly... Those aren't hidden costs. Games for a games system? Batteries for a controller with no plugs, thus no possible way of recieving energy from the system? A second control for a family with two kids, when the Wii packs sport only one controller (and say so on the box)? There aren't hidden costs for the Wii, at all. Do research before spending hundreds of dollars, and barr that, read the box.

    I don't have a problem with you personally, but I find that the article seemed to be a bit harsh on the Wii, especially when the whole thing could all have been prevented with a bit of research on your part. I'm sorry if I come across as rude, but I'm just putting my opinion out there. Like you did yours.

    I have to say, the wii does have a lot of hidden costs. Nunchuck? What the fuck nintendo? Who gives /half/ a controller for free?

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