Steven Rinella’s Video Game Contract for Kids

I hate video games. My radicalization started years ago when I saw a friend of mine, who was eight months pregnant, physically straining to cook dinner and set the table while her husband was sitting on her living room couch playing golf. Just as seeing a junkie might lead you to hate the heroin more than the addict himself, that was all he needed. Things got worse years later when I took my kids to my friend Jimmy Doran’s pizzeria. They would stand and stare, mouths agape, at the Big Buck Hunter console that occupied one wall between the men’s and women’s restrooms. I’d warn them to stay away, arguing that Big Buck Hunter promotes everything that’s wrong with hunting: shitty marksmanship, half-hearted target selection, and a grotesque ambivalence toward the limits of the bag. My complaints did me little good. Jimmy Doran just laughed and handed them a roll of quarters.

I have turned down all opportunities to involve MeatEater in video games. I refuse to lend my name or likeness to a video game and I refuse to let our company fall for offers that promise generous earnings in exchange for minimal amounts of work in the field of video games. What I can no longer avoid, however, is my own 12-year-old son’s constant pleas for an Xbox. After years of ignoring his requests, things have gotten to the point where I feel like a fatherly version of one of those sadistic jailers you see in the movies. I’d take things too far one day, and the inmates would rise up and burn the whole place to the ground with me locked inside one of the cells.

Instead of simply giving in, I have followed an approach similar to Nixon’s “Peace with Honor” campaign that he used to end the Vietnam War without simply coming out and saying America had lost. For me, the honor comes from the fact that I got my son’s signature on a contract that MeatEater’s legal counsel prepared for us. I read sections of this contract on a recent episode of The MeatEater Podcast, “Getting Skunked at the Navel.” Many people wrote, hoping to get their hands on a copy so that they could reach a similar agreement with their own children. Here is a free downloadable version.

And if you want more information on how to get your kids outside and away from the scourge of flickering screens, you should read my new book, “Outdoor Kids in an Indoor World.” It is available wherever books are sold.

Click here to download your own copy of our video game agreement.