Picture two young brothers camped out in front of the family’s television, their hands and fingers feverishly flipping back and forth over a plastic box with a stick out the top.
There were verbal jabs traded back and forth, the occasional punch in the arm and some chores swapped out for another shot at the champ in Alien Invaders. That was the life of the Miller brothers as we were introduced to the world of video games when our parents bought a Magnavox Odyssey system.
We played that thing non-stop until our mom shouted, “Get off that blasted video game and get to work in the greenhouses.”
Had I known then the direction of video games today, now more commonly known as Esports, I would have asked my mother for just five more minutes.
Instead, we marched out into the heat and under countless numbers of flower benches to pull out weeds - all the time thinking how quick we could get the job done and get back to gaming.
Rest easy critics, we still got outside and had fun riding motorcycles and playing organized sports like baseball, football and golf. Yet we always found that extra time for some video games and still do today.
Which brings me to the point of this column - it may be time we start rethinking this age-old stereotype that electronic gaming is some evil which is eroding away the fabric of our society.
I recently attended DreamHack 2019 in Dallas my with son, Andrew.
Like my brother growing up, Andrew and I have enjoyed gaming for years so this was a logical way for us to spend some quality time together.
Neither of us had heard of the event, which had been held previously in Austin as well as stops across the world. Once we walked into the doors it was evident that this was not just some run of the mill gaming convention. It was wall-to-wall gaming on every format you could think of, from personal computers, cell phones, X-Box, Playstation and even hands-on board games.
If you wanted to play it or see it played from some of the best gamers in the world, you were in the right place.
The big draw was the Corsair DreamHack Masters who brought 16 of the best teams in the world to Dallas to play a large-scale arena tournament in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. They were aiming, pun intended, for a share of $250,000 in prize money.
Teams were center stage divided by a large video screen which broadcast the play to the crowd packed into the main area. The play was also live-streamed and broken down by analysts sitting behind professional stage sets.
DreamHack also brought professional players looking to grab part of the $2 million prize money in Esport games like Madden NFL 2019, Rocket League, Apex Legends, Smash Ultimate, Soul Caliber and many others.
The Rocket League battle paid about a cool $100,000 in prize money.
The event also teamed up with the American Video Game League and High School Esports League to bring in high school and college matches. Universities taking part in the event included the University of North Texas, University of Texas at Austin, UT San Antonio, UT Arlington, Texas A&M, Louisiana State University, University of Oklahoma, Baylor University and Texas Christian University.
There were also sections where players, like my son, could sign up and compete against other gamers in a fighting game championship with a pool of $25,000 in prize money.
Even the Average Joes were taking it seriously in games like Brawlhalla, Mortal Combat, Soul Caliber, Street Fighter, Super Smash Brothers and Tekken.
Best part of the day was seeing a girl dressed in a Sailor Moon outfit for the adjoining Cosplay convention beat out a brawny man who looked like he could still play linebacker in college.
Then there was the stuff for the onlookers like myself. The arcade game section, Expo and the free play venues where one could sit down and emerge yourself in just about any PC game on the market – which we did.
We walked into the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center at 1:45 p.m. and reluctantly left sometime after 10:30 p.m. I left impressed and with a new attitude toward gaming.
I'm still an advocate for team sports but I pose this question to parents. Knowing the small percentage of high schoolers who go on to college to play traditional sports, if you have a child who might be marginal in physical talent, why not let them explore all types of sporting events.
We can no longer dismiss the popularity of Esports as a passing fad or even a “blasted video game.”