Mac Young: Summertime in Nevada County: Go Build a Fortnite | TheUnion.com

Mac Young: Summertime in Nevada County: Go Build a Fortnite

Mac Young
Columnist

Mac Young

With the dog days of summer fast approaching, adolescents around Nevada County have settled into a familiar routine.

Many choose to fill their days by exploring the river, biking and hiking on local nature trails, or enrolling in one of our many summer camps. These experiences, free from the demands of school, often lead to the formation of friendships and memories that can last a lifetime.

Then there are the others that will spend their summer days doing what I did when I was a youth.

It involves very little sunlight, a decent internet connection, and plenty of disposable free time. Fingers will get blistered, eyes will become strained, and chores will be left undone. You know who you are, and you are not alone — I too am a recovering video game addict.

You know who you are, and you are not alone

— I too am a recovering video game addict.

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This week the World Health Organization created a new mental health classification named "Gaming Disorder" defined as an addiction to playing video games. The behaviors that the organization lists as characteristic of gaming disorder include:

Impaired control over the onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, or context of gaming

Increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities

The continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences

Sound familiar? It does for me, at least when I was a younger person free from real responsibility. In my defense, I was exposed to gaming at a very young age. I do remember playing Pong shortly after it arrived on the store shelves at Sears (and thinking it was cool), I envied my neighbor's Atari 2600 to the point my parents felt inclined to buy me an Intellivision to keep up with the Joneses, and I was the first kid on my block to have an Apple IIe that I gave a name and loved dearly. I'm a nerd and I'm proud of it!

The gaming industry, including PC, console, and mobile platforms, now exceed $105 billion in global revenues as of 2016. In comparison, the music and box office industry totals came in at roughly half that amount. Any time an industry gets this large, it is ripe for disruption. The most powerful new games being offered today, much to the chagrin of established industry players, are being offered for free.

When I was a kid I didn't have any money, so I had to wait for a birthday or Christmas to get the games I wanted to play. They were simple, yet expensive, 8-bit games with blocky graphics living on floppy disks that some millennial high school programming hot shot could code in an afternoon. They were nothing like today's new releases that are lifelike, interactive, and ingenious in design and functionality.

This generation needs simply to download these titles to their smartphone, tablet, or gaming console and they are off to the races. To unlock the extra features to these games a subscription is offered to reveal new features that are unavailable in the free version.

A friend of mine recently chaperoned her son on their Magnolia Intermediate 8th grade trip to Washington, DC. I was a bit disheartened when I saw a picture of him and his friends (on Facebook) playing a game called "Fortnite" on their smartphones while sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Naturally, I wanted to see what the allure of Fortnite was all about, so I downloaded it to my computer.

What I found was a delicious world of complete and utter post-apocalyptic mayhem reminiscent of the Hunger Games, where characters run around shooting guns and other explosives attempting to be the last person standing against 99 other online competitors. Many players, in my estimation, were well under the age of 12, the minimum recommended age.

They are too young to play this game and they are still way better at it than me.

School campuses are banning this game (and others — Candy Crush you are not immune), workplaces are bleeding productivity, and quality family time is being sacrificed. The World Health Organization might have valid concerns. While these games are great fun for all, they should be played in moderation.

Point being is this: Young people of Nevada County, don't make my same mistake. We live in a beautiful place. Trees and nature surround us in every direction for miles. Our abundant natural amenities are the envy of California and there is no shortage of activities.

Leave the house and go out and enjoy it, while you can!

Mac Young, who lives in Nevada County, is a member of The Union Editorial Board. His views are his own and do not represent the views of The Union or its editorial board members. Contact him at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.