Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Boys are Back

Not mine, merely related.

My good dear friend Mr Big Bear Butt enjoys regaling his readers with tales of his son in The Cub Report (latest episode can be found here.) My son has recently returned to the game: this is his Death Knight. He's twelve, and in his first year of Grammar School, and that's pretty much all the information I'm happy giving about him. We're a private family, and its always been this way, and I work on the theory that if he wants to tell anyone that he plays Warcraft, that's his job at his age and not mine. I wanted to use him as a basis of a quite specific blog post, and as a result if you're reading this it will be because he's said he's okay with me highlighting him an as example of the type of player Warcraft could do with right now.

Yes, I said the game needs more twelve year olds, with some very specific caveats.

Our son's watched a lot of game-time in eight years, in one form or another. He understands the basic mechanics of Warcraft not simply by playing himself, but often by osmosis. He has had impressed upon him the need for a mature outlook when communicating with other people. Most importantly of all, he grasps that this is a game, and not a badge of honour or a means to impress. Entitlement is a non-starter too: he knew he'd have to earn the money for Epic Flying, that we wouldn't help him by giving him the cash he craved [*]. There are basic principles in game that reflect life lessons I am perfectly happy for my son to learn in Azeroth. I feel however that there are some key differences between his game time and many other children of his age, and that these are as much an issue in fostering mature gameplay as understanding the way things work.

Our computers in the house are all in one place. Neither of our children have a TV or computer in their room (though occasionally a handheld device or tablet sneaks in at bedtime and is removed unless permission for it has been asked.) This is how it has been since both my kids began to play, and although supervision becomes less and less of an issue as time goes on, I want to try and impress on both kids the 'social' side of gaming isn't just about how they play, but what happens when they're not. Gaming NEVER comes at the expense of doing more important activities: being outside, drawing, playing games and NEVER HOMEWORK (yeah, sorry about that.) Interacting with the Real World is vastly more important, but I cannot escape that the Future, at least in some part, happens on screen. My son has a healthy interest in Minecraft (he loves to mod), most strategy and puzzle games, and I know that his future could well wrap itself around the computing industry. For that reason alone I want to encourage him to not discount anything, but to learn the value of knowing when to stop and walk away.

When my son does play, I feel it is VITAL to teach him what is acceptable by having him in the same room for at least some of the time. There is is of course, an undoubted need for him to explore and learn on his own, but this I think should be tempered with a responsible adult available to him should he need one. Consequences and actions are often discussed, and I like to try and make him think about the people on the other side of the screen as just that, people who can be just as friendly or devious as the classmates he has to deal with every day. He's building his own experiences of LFD (and has no problems doing randoms because he sees them simply as a way to earn points for gear) and the fact he's not accompanied by eight years of baggage like I am makes for an interesting counter-perspective on a lot of issues. It is easy to forget that having played something for so long can have its pitfalls as well as advantages.

What has become obvious in the time since he restarted playing is that the lessons he has learnt in life all contribute to making him a better player. There are areas to work on (getting him to say hello to people, remembering to say goodbye when he logs needs work) and I hope fostering more social time as a family 'playing together' will help with those shortcomings. I hope those parents/carers who are happy to leave kids alone late at night on consoles or computers realise there are consequences for these actions, that the only way to ensure your children get the best chance in life they can is to be involved at every step of their journey. No, I'm not expecting you to wrap your kids in cotton wool, neither am I advocating the opportunity for them to be left to their own devices. Every child has a different balance point, just as every adult does. If you're lucky, you might hit that once a day.

You should never let just one time be enough.

I hope, if you're playing on the EU realms and you run into my son on your travels, you are as proud of him as I am. He is living proof that age on a computer is no guarantee of what you'll get, for all the good and bad connotations that entails. I'd like to think he can stand as an example to players far older than himself too, that being a decent person is far more important than the dps you bring or the utility you provide. As it stands he's got that covered too, but you get the point. Judge the person fairly and objectively, and treat everyone you meet with the respect they deserve.

He is a lesson to me in that regard, and I will always be grateful.

[*] Once he'd done it I refunded him the money plus a bonus for hard work. Incentives work, people.

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