was getting my hair cut this weekend, and no sooner had I sat down then the barber asked me if I had pre-ordered the Xbox 360. “You’ll never get one if you didn’t pre-order! My cousin will be at Best Buy at midnight to pick his up, then he’s coming over so we can play it all night long!” I didn’t pre-order one, because my wife has already disowned my best man for buying us a Playstation 2 as a wedding gift, and holds my brother in contempt for buying us an Xbox the following Christmas. That doesn’t mean I don’t WANT one desperately, as well as the 52″ high-definition plasma screen television and 7.1 channel surround sound system I would need to truly enjoy the experience.

I loves me the video games, I admit it. I fondly remember the old coin-operated games like Star Castle, Robotron, and Battle Zone, and my brother and I would beg our parents to take us out for pizza so we could commandeer the Missile Command game at the parlor. As I got older my nerd friends and I would gather in our basement and huddle around our Commodore 64 to play Summer Games, Archon, and Ultima III. I don’t know how many hours I put into Civilization in my late 20s, but I guarantee I was late for work at least a dozen times because I went to bed at 5 AM. Now that I’m a workin’ man with a daughter to take care of and a wife that HATES the games (although she’s beaten the crap out of me every time I’ve conned her into playing Soul Caliber) I have to squeeze in my thumb-twitching after everyone is in bed or during some gently encouraged mother-daughter time. If there is a ready-made addiction for my y-chromosome, this is it.

Granted, games are hardly as benign as they used to be. There’s a lot of exploding zombies with giblets of flesh hitting the screen, gorgons beheaded by the twist of the neck, and hookers beaten with baseball bats for their money (coooooool). I don’t really want my daughter exposed to that (“Now honey, just because Daddy shot the policeman doesn’t mean it’s right.”) But there’s been some discussion lately of how video games can actually be good for you, developing cognitive problem-solving skills while simultaneously immersing and entertaining. Personally, I’m all for this theory, partially because it’s self-serving but also because I think it’s true. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with kids having controlled exposure to video games, as long as the content is screened and it’s balanced with activities that involve lower-body mobility and sunlight. They can be challenging and rewarding, and give you a much better mental work-out than watching Power Rangers or MTV, with the added benefit of learning to wield a battle-axe or light-saber.

What do you think?