Last December, my husband, Jon, and I decided to break holiday tradition and together buy ourselves one gift for Christmas. Now, as most couples know, it’s not easy deciding on a gift that both halves will agree upon. Luckily for us, we didn’t have to debate over romantic comedy versus action-adventure DVDs or a different color to put on the bedroom walls and linens.

We knew exactly what we wanted: an Xbox game console.

For weeks, we went to the store to drool over the one of latest video games, “Soul Caliber II.” As our children (then ages 5 and 1) sat in the cart and pointed at all the things they wanted Santa to bring, Jon and I would pick up the joysticks and play the demo version of the game that the store had on display. We were like kids in a candy store, which would be fine except that I’m 33 and he’s 35 – but you’re only as old as you feel, right?

A veteran player

I’ve been playing video games since the Atari 2600 came out in the early ’80s. Games like “Adventure,” “Pitfall” and “Space Invaders” filled many childhood hours. Then, I got the ultimate Christmas present – a Colecovision video game system. The graphics were incredible and I got to play “Donkey Kong” until my fingers almost fell off. My friends and I would gather around the television for tournaments and to just hang out together. Great times of my childhood!

Yes, video games are fun. However, since it is the holiday season and Santa knows who is naughty and who is nice, I’m going to make a confession here: I love the competition. It doesn’t matter what kind of game it is: trivia, strategy or a knock-down, drag-out fight simulation video game, I play to win.

It’s important to note that I’m not ruthless when I play games. I know people who are (I won’t divulge names; these people know who they are). A better description of my style of play is “determined.” However, you put me across from a ruthless player and I can step it up a bit. A bit of healthy competition is good for the soul. It gets the blood pumping, the brain cells firing and the adrenaline flowing.

Fortunately, Jon understands this facet of my personality. I’m guessing that since he wanted to buy the video game console, too, he doesn’t seem to mind it much at all, really. At least a couple of times a week, after the kids go down to sleep, we break out our newest toy and play for a while. Most times, we still play that first game we bought, “Soul Caliber II.”

Choose your weapons

Here, we get to take out the frustrations of the day by wielding weapons of destruction that in our ordinary lives we probably couldn’t even pick up or hold on to properly.

For at least 30 minutes, we’re removed from our world of jobs, kids, bills and chores. It is a cheap and easy escape from responsibility. It’s part of what we call our “quality” time together. No one else is involved.

In this respect, we’re very much like kids: We don’t like to share our toys with other kids. The video game is off-limits to our children. First, as responsible parents, we figure that they’re too young to be exposed to video games. Second, and more importantly, when the time comes that they want a video game, they’re going to have to ask Santa for their own; we’re not giving up ours!

So, does playing games make us immature? I believe that embracing this playful side makes us well-rounded adults. Adults who have a sense of play and enjoy recreation have an outlet for the stresses of everyday life and are probably happier. Besides, in today’s society, who couldn’t use a little more fun?

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