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Stay away from my Xbox, Mr. President

POSTED September 11, 2009 10:09 p.m.
How dare you, Mr. Obama?
Just because Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Master Chief are not registered voters, that does not give you the authority to lambast them at every turn, good sir.
When, in a June 15 American Medical Association speech, you advocated, “raising our children to step away from the video games and spend more time playing outside,” I first became concerned with your anti-gaming policy.
Shortly after that speech, however, I foolishly wrote the line off as something attributable to a lackey speechwriter. Something to pander to the exercise lobbyists and to appease the silly doctors who seem to think that moving more than one’s thumbs might be good for one’s health.
Your foul comment had been all but stricken from my mind, leaving me relatively unconcerned in the run-up to what many expected to be an “Obamunist” back-to-school speech delivered to the nation’s students on Sept. 8.
But then, Mr. Obama, you dropped this bombshell on American youth.
“I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.”
Heresy! Lies! Destructive, anti-American sentiment!
I, for one, will no longer stand for this blatant attempt to destroy the treasured American institution of sitting on one’s rear and staring at a television for hours on end.
The Xbox 360 is as American as apple pie and ice cream.
More than 18 million American homes — 31 million worldwide — proudly and patriotically feature an Xbox 360, the only home console developed and distributed by a U.S. company. Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices Division, the makers of the Xbox 360, generated $169 million and a whole lot of tax dollars for our economy over the past 12 months.
If your speech had featured the word, “Playstation,” or “Nintendo,” instead of Xbox, I would have chalked the comment up to a sneaky endorsement of our red, white, and blue console, but to blatantly call out the American console?
The importance of gaming to America’s economy is no joking matter, Mr. Obama. Console gaming industry analysts The NPD Group announced that $21.33 billion in gaming-related expenditures passed through retailers’ hands in 2008.
And, in my informed opinion, gaming is a far better use of one’s leisure time than throwing a ball through a hoop. Yes, this is a dig at your beloved sport of basketball, Mr. Baller-In-Chief.
I fully admit that playing “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” will do nothing for one’s musculature. It will not enable improved abilities in running, jumping, or attracting women.
It will, however, cultivate the brain.
Videogames have been clinically proven to improve cognitive abilities.
A landmark study by University of California, Irvine, Professor of Psychology Richard Haier found that playing the videogame “Tetris” increased the efficiency of one’s brain. Fordham University psychologist Fran C. Blumberg, Ph.D, and Sabrina S. Ismailer, MSED, also found that playing video games can “improve cognitive and perceptual skills” among middle schoolers.
Research by Iowa State University psychologist Douglas Gentile, Ph.D, and William Stone, BS, points to the benefits of improved hand-eye coordination from gaming. Laparoscopic surgeons who also play video games were shown to be, “27 percent faster at advanced surgical procedures, and made 37 percent fewer errors compared to those who did not play video games.”
And, while I have no research to back my claim, I can cite my own experience to tell you that gaming has improved my teamwork skills, my abilities to problem-solve, and — most importantly to me — has bolstered my vocabulary. You wouldn’t believe the amount of SAT words and mythological references that find their way into the names of magical spells.
I know, Mr. Obama, that in your heart of hearts, you must harbor some secret respect for video gaming.
After all, was it Jolly Old Saint Nick or was it you, Mr. Obama, who purchased a Nintendo Wii for your daughters last December? The same Wii you once credited for improving your bowling game?
The next time you find yourself staring down 10 pins, thinking, “Okay, now, just like on Wii Sports,” I ask that you consider the harmful effects your anti-gaming rhetoric may have on tomorrow’s professional bowlers.
Perhaps more importantly, I ask that you consider the future of America’s youth. If our country wants to make it in the next century, we need a populace that can think, not one that can drop three-pointers from well beyond the arc.
To contact Alex Cantatore, add him as a friend on Xbox Live.

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