When I was a kid I was glued to my 14″ black & white RCA TV on Saturday mornings to watch a bevy of cowboy shows. What childhood fun! After that I’d strap on my 6-shooter cap-gun, don my felt cowboy hat, and go after the bad guys (who were other kids my age and who were the good guys the Saturday before.) Complicated stuff, but it all worked out in the end.
Of course not every kid had a REAL cap-gun. Some had sticks but in the ‘game’ they became real. Naturally we’d argue about whether our imaginary bullets hit the ‘bad’ guys, but in the end, miraculously no one died. We easily moved from murder into a baseball game until our mothers called us in for lunch.
Ah, childhood. Freedom. Few responsibilities. Little angst. Yet, as the lyrics say, “Dragons live forever but not so little boys. Painted wings and giant strings make way for other toys.”
Not many adolescent boys play with cap-guns any longer. Cellphones with apps help him with fantasy and vicarious conquests. Yet I wonder if theoretical fantasy is a proper substitute for theatrical fantasy. We acted it out: dirt, sweat and grime. Is this more satisfying than digital imaginings?
All throughout history, stories are told of the developing boy mimicking the warriors of the clan, learning essential life skills through play. Im concerned that few boys ‘play’ any longer, preferring their digital device rather than the outdoors. What social skills are lost in the process? What opportunities for give-and-take are lost? How will this new phenomenon impact these boys as they grow into manhood?