By Casey Lynn
Contributing Writer, [GAS]
Some of the gadget blogs were reporting on the “game doctor” before it was released in June, but now that the mainstream media has picked up the story, you can be sure that more moms will be hearing about this device and thinking, “Oh, that’s brilliant!”
This isn’t the first video game timer out there (and of course there’s even one built into the Xbox 360), but it seems to be getting a lot of attention. The 79-year-old retired businessman who invented it “figures there’s large, pent-up demand for his inexpensive and easy-to-use device.”
So what does the GameDr do besides having a confusing and rather silly name? It’s just a clamp-on lock for the power cord to a game console, equipped with at timer. It’s locked with a four-digit combination, and without that combination, the power shuts off when time is up. To its credit, it at least give a 10-minute and 1-minute beeping warning so that the kids in theory have a chance to save their game before the system goes black.
Wired Gadgets, who gave the device Gadget Lab “Fail” award, pointed out that even if the device is “tamper proof” as advertised (i.e., you’d have to break it to get the cord out without the combination), you could just buy a new cord for $20 bucks. After all, for most game systems, you could easily just replace the locked-up cord with another one and put it back when you’re done, and assuming that mom’s not around (which I guess she wouldn’t be, because why else would she need a timer as opposed to just telling the kid to stop playing games?), she’d never know. I foresee secret stashes of power cords underneath mattresses along with dirty magazines.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with wanting to make sure that a kid isn’t playing video games when they should be doing their homework, sleeping, eating, etc. After all, we don’t want kids collapsing from exhaustion. But it seems to me that a parent who cares enough to want to encourage healthy moderation wouldn’t need a device like this to do it. I suppose the exception might be for a teenage latchkey kid, though if you’re loosening the leash enough to let a kid stay home by himself, the GameDr could be a little insulting. It seems more likely to me that the GameDr will be popular among those who aren’t so much concerned about moderation, as control. “Sorry, your half hour a day of video game time is up! Don’t look at me, the game doctor says so. Now go update your color-coded wheel-of-chores.”
Of course, as noted above, for kids unlucky enough to have a visit from the GameDr, the smart ones shouldn’t have much trouble getting around it. As Wired also pointed out, if your mom set the thing up, then you could probably just try your siblings’ birthdays and be able to crack the code pretty quickly.
Though I have to say, I’m still dubious of that big smile on the kid’s face on the packaging.