Yesterday we went out for pizza with our friend, Tara, and her kids, and after ordering at the counter we noticed a room off to the right marked “Arcade.” Reilly, Georgie, and Annie squealed and ran inside, so, trying to be a good guy, I told Heather and Tara that I would supervise them. I might not have said that, though, if I knew just what I was getting myself into.

The arcade room was probably no larger than a two-man jail cell and clogged with a dozen hyper kids under the age of six who were climbing on the machines, fighting over whose turn was next, and generally acting like a bunch of little nutcases. Against the wall a haggard looking Dad nodded at me as if to say, “Welcome to Hell.”

I was briefly unsettled until I spotted Annie. She was standing at a game with Reilly, and when Reilly pointed at the screen and said, “Look at that, Annie!” Annie nodded and yelled, “Whoa! Cool, Reilly!”

I had to laugh. Annie tries so darn hard to act like a big girl around Reilly, and it is really stinkin’ cute. If only she were that motivated to act like a big girl when it came to potty training.

Soon Annie asked to play a game, so I said, “Go ahead, Sweetie! Push the buttons! Play!” I’d imagined that, since she’s only two, she wouldn’t know the difference between actually playing and simply pushing the buttons, but she did.

“No, Dada, Play!”

I shook my head. “You’re two. I’m not paying for you to play a video game.”

Eventually, though, after a series of increasingly adorable utterances of “Pwease?” (yes, I’m a pushover), I dropped a quarter into “The Simpsons” game. Annie, as expected, didn’t know how to play, but was more than happy to let me play for her.

“Get him!” she hollered as Lisa used her jump rope to dispose of the bad guys. “Get him!” Eventually “Game Over” flashed, and Annie gasped, “Oh no! We died!” I have no idea where she learned to say that. We’ve never played an arcade game before, and we don’t have a video game system at home. It was a little unsettling, actually. Thankfully, after that she was happy just to sit at one of the cars.

video game land
Eat your heart out, Danica Patrick

As Annie turned the wheel I looked around and realized that most of the little kids were playing violent games, including two little girls (one of whom was in diapers) who were firing the guns from one of those shooting games.

“Wow,” Heather said as she came back to get us. “It’s like they’re training for the Hunger Games back here.”

I laughed, but it was a little disturbing. Now that Annie is old enough to be interested in arcades I’m going to have to think a little about which games I do and don’t want her to play. While I know from my own childhood that arcades are generally a bunch of harmless fun, there are some games – like the shooter games – that I don’t want her playing at least until she is much older.

Luckily, I didn’t have to figure it all out last night because the pizza came and we were able to coax the kids out of the arcade. On the way out I sent  the other dad a little wave, and he peered at me as if to say, “Don’t leave me here!” Poor guy.