The other day I wrote about how Husband and the boys all play “together” in an online virtual world. They’re talking to one another as they play–“do you have the paradox coins?” “no but I found more imagination points,” “how do you get to the maelstrom?”– it’s as if my apartment has suddenly become the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, which I think may make me a white Uhura, but without the great haircut.

(And yes, Husband, I realize that you’re playing Lego Universe and it’s totally not Star Trek, but just allow me some blogetic license here, okay? I’m making a point.)

The boys love it–and by “boys” here, I include Husband, too. Poor thing seems to have married a woman who finds computer games…well, dull. My time-wasting mechanisms involve flipping through the tabloids, scrolling Perez Hilton, trolling the blog czarinas, or compulsively checking my twitter feed, so it’s not like I want everyone to Be Productive All The Time. But this picture, of each of them staring into a screen and not at each other bothers me. I know they’re interacting–they’re talking to one another, they’re frequently on missions or excursions or battles together, out there in the virtual universe–but it’s not quite the same as  flinging the dice at someone during a game of Risk.  That’s how you play a family game, people.

How do you learn, while you’re gazing into a screen, that functioning in the world requires compromise and negotiation and the ability to put up with people who are idiots?  In the game world you can eventually just blow up people you disagree with (the Quaddafi method, we might call it).

Caleb loves Lego Universe and another game, called Age of Empires, which is a game based on actual historic figures–you have to decide when and where to attack, how to build a fortress, gather supplies, protect your townspeople. Tonight Caleb was playing with an army being led by “some guy, Nah Plee Own, who is that?”

Napoleon, that would be. Famous French general, now a character in a computer game. Vive la France.

Caleb can play this game now, ironically, because he can read–all the commands and options and various strategies come up on the screen in little blurbs, so if you can’t read fast enough, you can’t figure out who the hell Nah Plee Own is going to attack next, or who is going to attack him.

So bravo for the reading skills, right? And of course, Liam used to play Age of Empire all the time, so Caleb feels very grown up, hunched in front of his screen like his brother and father (and yeah, okay, like his mother, who writes this post sitting on the couch with her laptop perched on her lap).  Screens are inevitable in his life, just as they are inevitable in the lives of all the kids growing up in this day and age and demographic.

Caleb’s legos–actual legos, not virtual legos–come out less frequently now. And even though my desk resides in lego central, I realized the other day that I miss that hellacious pile of nubbly plastic bits.  I’d rather have this:

or even this:

But I think as Caleb gets older, I’m going to see more and more of this: