I don't play a lot of video games these days. I think back to the hundreds of hours I poured into games like Oblivion and Knights of the Old Republic. I enjoyed all of those hours; in spite of evidence to the contrary, I really do enjoy playing video games.
Earlier this week I carved out a little time to play video games before going to bed. The Death Star DLC had been released for Star Wars Battlefront and I couldn’t wait to assault the Empire’s ultimate weapon or protect it from the Rebel scum. However, once I turned on my Xbox, I discovered that the console itself needed to be updated. So I started the update, hoping that it would only take a few minutes. Those minutes dragged on, though, as I wandered around the house waiting for the update to download and install. Alycia was in bed reading and when I came in she knew I wasn’t there just to see her, but that I was just killing time. I took Elphie potty and even after walking around a little with her, the update still wasn’t finished.
After 20 minutes or so, my Xbox finally updated and I was ready to play Battlefront but Battlefront wasn’t ready for me. After my Xbox updated Battlefront also needed to update. So I sat in front of my TV for another 10 minutes, anxiously waiting for the downloadable content to download. Eventually I was able to play Battlefront, but the 45 minutes I’d set aside to play was shaved down to about 15 minutes. While all of these updates were taking a place I took a picture of my TV, which showed the update’s progress, and posted it to Instagram with the caption, “I always hated when my Sega Genesis had to download updates from the Internet.”
I love technology and how it has impacted our lives. Obviously my Sega Genesis never had to download updates from the Internet over a 56K modem, but it also never gave me immersive gaming experiences like my Xbox One can. And while there are a lot of dangers inherent in high speed Internet, the ability to instantaneously connect with people around the world is utterly amazing. I often wake up in the morning to see my cousin, who is a missionary in Thailand, posting pictures of the day she and her family just completed.
So while there are an inestimable number of benefits that come from advances in technology, we also need to be aware of their drawbacks. One such drawback is what I experienced the other night waiting to play Battlefront. Instead of engaging in an experience, I waited a half hour for the ability to have that experience. Technology can create a lot of experiences in our lives, but it can also take from them.
Alycia and I had been waiting to get married for almost a year. We got engaged on my birthday in September and then got married the following August. We were excited for our wedding but, more than anything, we were excited to begin our lives together. The first part of that journey was our honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta. It was hot and humid in that part of Mexico, but it was also an amazing week to simply get away with my new wife. We had been waiting for that experience for so long and I didn’t want anything to take away from it. So I told Alycia that I would leave my phone in our car at the airport. I knew that my phone would be a distraction, especially if our hotel had wifi. So instead of allowing technology to take away from our first experience as husband and wife, I simply removed it.
Now I can pat myself on the back for being so great and forward thinking, but more often than not I have allowed technology to pull me out of the moment. Whether I’ve been spending time with Alycia, family or friends, I have lost experiences because I was too focused on my phone or the TV or my computer. Nothing tells my nieces and nephew that they matter to me like reading Twitter instead of playing with them. Already Clara is interested in my phone, probably because she always sees daddy holding it.
The experience of playing a video game used to be pretty simple: blow in the cartridge and hope the game would start up. Now, however, that experience had been complicated by advancements in technology. Our life experiences have also been complicated in a similar manner. While I don’t want to back to a period where the only options for entertainment were watching a candle burn down until we were left in complete darkness, we have lost something in all the technology we’ve gained.
I want to be able to reclaim those moments with family and friends that aren’t interrupted by texts, tweets and notifications. Why didn’t I just go and sit with Alycia while she was reading just to do it, and not as a last resort because my Xbox was updating? How can I teach Clara to be present in a moment if I can’t be present in a moment with her? The answer for these and similar questions is pretty simple: put the technology down. We don’t always have to be connected and we don’t always have to have a controller in our hands. There’s more to see in our lives than what’s on a screen. And there are experiences to be had that will be augmented by a lack of technology instead of its ubiquitous presence.
How do you keep technology from negatively impacting your experiences?