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Wimbledon Grumble

September 2018

I was lucky enough to spend a fabulous day at Wimbledon this year (Centre Court tickets, no less) and I had expected the day to be blessedly free of Digital Life.  I should have known better, I suppose. 

Most of the people around us were genuinely interested in the tennis (at £120 per ticket, you’d hope so) but dotted about were some who were much more interested in their phones.  A lady sitting in front of me was actually watching a match through her phone; she was filming the whole thing and watching the screen, not the real players who were almost under her nose

There were also the messengers and posters; people exchanging Tweets, WhatsApp’s, Facebook or whatever else with others; eyes on the screen, not the tennis.

I don’t mention this to complain as they didn’t disturb me, but it is twenty years or more since I was last there and the change was striking, when so much else was the same.  The phone-people made little noise and created no nuisance. In fact, for twenty minutes during a very hot afternoon, the gentle snores of the chap next to me were louder.

What did irritate me was the sight of a couple of lads, perhaps ten or twelve years old, obviously on a day out with their grandparents, who were immersed in playing games on their phones, rather than watching the tennis.  A special day out, you might have thought, certainly an expensive one; and yet the drug of playing computer games had dragged them away from the world’s greatest tennis tournament and into the shady, unreal world of whatever game it was had absorbed them.

I wonder about these games. Playing them is so far removed from playing actual, running around, games that they should have a different name, in my view.  Perhaps Sirens would be a better term.

For myself, I have never seen their allure.  I used to think this was because I am old, but on reflection I didn’t enjoy them when they started appearing in pubs forty years ago.  Perhaps you recall the arrival of games like Space Invaders and Asteroids; suddenly the bar billiards table vanished and these electronic wonders replaced it.  I was no good at them then, so I gave up, and I’ve never wanted to try again.

Back to the boys at Wimbledon.  It would not surprise me at all to discover that they were playing a game called Fortnite, which is currently sweeping the adolescent (and older) world. As with so many such games, it involves shooting zombie creatures intent of destroying humanity and it makes money by selling the player improved weaponry, extra lives and so on.

So how did these boys become sucked in?  I’m afraid I don’t blame the games themselves. No, and at the risk of sounding like a grumpy old codger, I blame the parents.  If their Grandparents have been kind enough to organise this special day, I don’t see why the boys needed their phones with them at all; their behaviour looked rude, and they looked badly brought up.  And we can guess who probably brought them up.

In my view, screen time (as it is known) should be rationed, like sugar and pizza.

Perhaps it’s too easy for me to say this, with my youngest child being 28, but I am concerned.  If youngsters are allowed games consoles and tablets in their bedrooms, especially those on which their parents’ credit cards are stored, and the problem is compounded by not enforcing any time limits or arranging any real exercise, it is the parents who are to blame when their children become withdrawn, tired and start failing their exams. 

And they will certainly never get to Wimbledon as competitors.


To watch people playing Fornite and understand a little what it’s all about (you’ll have to put up with the adverts and irritating players): Click here

Remind yourself how primitive Space Invaders was: Click here

Meanwhile, here are some tennis players playing croquet.  It is the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, after all.  Click here