I KNOW WHAT you're thinking because I used to think it too.
Do I really want to buy a $600 PlayStation 3 for my 11-year-old for Christmas? Do I really want him sitting there 24/7, killing aliens and brain cells and the springs in my Barcalounger?
And the answer is: Damn straight, you do!
You do because you want a snappy new Cadillac like the one the world's most famous video gamer, Fatal1ty, bought his dad.
You do because you want your son to get a $250,000 endorsement contract, the kind that 19-year-old Tsquared inked with a gaming league.
You do because you want your kid to make enough to pay for his college education before he hits middle school, like eight-year-old LiL Poison is doing.
You'd know all this if you'd been at the World Series of Video Games finals last weekend at Chelsea Piers in New York City. Gamers from all over the world were flown in, put up in a Hilton, fed like Trumps and given chances to win $20,000, Rolexes and gaming computers. And you, too, would've said, in the words of Phil Mickelson, "What an idiot I am!"
All those years I was yelling at my kids, "Get off the damn computer games and clean your room!" What I should've been yelling was, "Get back on the computer games! I'll clean your damn room!"
Take Fatal1ty (Johnathan Wendel), who was the runner-up in Quake 4. A 25-year-old college dropout, he grosses almost $1 million a year. He has groupies. He has his own line of gaming hardware and apparel. He's the Michael Jordan of the twitchy-thumb set.
In fact, the more you hang out with "e-athletes," as video gamers are called, the more you see how they're like the "me-athletes" you're used to. Like them, gamers are self-obsessed workout freaks who eat right. Like them, gamers use performance enhancers, such as coffee and Red Bull. (Some, it's widely suspected, use the ADHD drug Adderall.) Like them, gamers talk trash. During the wild Halo 2 match between XiT Woundz and Shook On3 Gaming, there were shouts of "Dude, you're hellaweak!" (That's an insult.) And "Damn, I am so sick!" (That's a boast.)
Oh, and like them, gamers love blowing off reporters.
"Uh, Fatal1ty doesn't like to talk on game days," his publicist told me. "Maybe you could submit your questions?"
O.K. Question 1: Could he byte me?
Anyway, the main reason to get your kids off the geometry and onto the joystick might be this one: The better they get at video games, the more you get to hang out with them.
Take LoSt-CaUzE (Rafik Bryant). "It's definitely brought us even closer," says his dad, Harold, who's working less as the president of his own mortgage brokerage company and more as LoSt-CaUzE's business manager. And this is a guy who once hid his son's computer in the closet to get him to do his homework.
"My mom wasn't really that cool with [video games] at first," says Tsquared (Tom Taylor), a high school dropout whose Str8 Rippin team won Halo 2. "But then I came home one day from a tournament when I was 15 and slapped a $500 check down on the kitchen counter and said, 'Well, Mom? Whaddya think now?'"
Now he's got an online business with 13 employees, including 10 who teach people how to play Halo 2. (For $115 an hour, Tsquared will teach you himself.) Now he pays his mom rent to stay in her house in Jupiter, Fla., while he decides where to buy his own crib.
"Our living room usually has 10 TVs going at all times and kids lying all over," says Chris Howard, team manager of XiT Woundz and dad of two of the team's stars. Sounds like hell? O.K., when's the last time your 17-year-old brought home a limited edition Scion xB?
At least these guys aren't out in the streets. And they aren't boozebags or recreational drug users. Video games are their drugs. And, besides, what's the point of fighting them? Like you're going to stop them anyway?
"My dad and I had a huge falling out over it," says gaming star moto (Dave Geffon), 24. "He'd yell, 'You're ruining your life!' ... And it wasn't until he was dying [of cancer] that I finally started talking to him again.... But me, I just decided life's too short to spend it doing something that doesn't make you happy."
And me, I decided the next time the kids get out the controllers, I'm going to dust off my sick Atari skills and jump in.
After all, why be the wackness (insult) when you can be the pimp sheezy (boast)?