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Is Battling Over Video Games Worth the Wounds?


[by Scott Swain]
 
"My child won't learn valuable social skills if he spends his free time playing Minecraft :-("

Your child may not learn the social skills you deem to be valuable or at the pace you deem to be valuable. As of June 25, 2014, nearly 54 million copies of Minecraft have been sold across all platforms and approximately 10 thousand people buy it every 24 hours. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minecraft. These numbers do not prove the game is healthy or "good" but they prove that a significant number of people know the game and the odds are your child will be better at communicating with those people than a non-player will. And that is just one game within the general genre of "Massively Multiplayer". For example:
 
Over 65 million people have played World of Warcraft, with an estimated current population of around 8 million.
Star Wars the Old Republic has over 2 million subscribers.
Eve (space exploration & more) has an estimated 48 thousand players on line at any given moment.
and the list goes on...

By playing Minecraft, your child might actually be learning valuable social skills and a whole lot more! Increasingly, the average person your child will encounter in life is a person who has played or is consistently playing an online multiplayer game. With each passing day, more people are spending more time in virtual worlds. Knowing how to navigate, socialize, increase hand-eye coordination, build, organize, manage resources, lead, and otherwise interact in those worlds are becoming valuable skills and the value of these skills is increasing over time. Whether we like it or not, computers are playing an ever greater role in almost every aspect of the world. Playing in computerized worlds may actually increase your child's chances of navigating the known and unknown social, educational, and business opportunities of the future.

Speaking of business: Do you know how much money the average game designer or game programmer gets paid? You might be surprised. Playing/building within virtual worlds often stimulates a desire to actually build those worlds. Can you say you would not be proud to have your son some day say to you, "Hey Mom, Blizzard just hired me for $200K to help create the world of their next big game!" Look at the progression of how the general population interprets the word "nerd". Do you notice how that word is losing negative connotation while gaining positive? 


"...Games, it seems, can motivate kids to read - and to read way above their level..." How Videogames Like Minecraft Actually Help Kids Learn to Read - article at Wired.com


You could even choose to look at their gaming obsession in this way: it is a tool for creativity. Would you be as afraid for your child if their obsession was piano, fashion, sports, or gardening? Would you discourage them? Would you see a child's artistic genius using Photoshop as lesser than if they used a paint brush and canvas? We grew up in a different time with different values, different toys, and different tools. Does it do our children good to impose our values on them? 
 
What if, instead of making their intense interest a point of contention, you choose to make it a point of connection? What if you spent 30 minutes a day playing the game along side your child or watching, letting them show you around, meeting their friends, helping them build, even making your own "character" and chatting with them through the game from a different computer?


"...Some kids say they play video games at least partly as a means of escape, and some say they do so because it is the only realm of activity in which they feel free. In an age in which children are often not allowed to play freely outdoors, and in which they are more or less constantly directed by adults, the virtual world of video games is for some the only realm where they are allowed to roam free and explore. If they were allowed more autonomy in the real world, many of them would spend less time at video games..." 


Recommendation: If you are not able to fully let go of controlling your child's interests, perhaps an experiment? Try thirty days with no restrictions and see what happens. Your child could have worse habits, trust me.

Prediction: Eventually, the child realizes that he's spending a lot of time on something and not spending time on a lot of other things. He either gets bored or realizes that there are other things he wants to do. Especially if the rest of the family is doing fun stuff and really engaged in life without giving him guilt trips that he's not participating, or otherwise sending him signals that he's not able to make his own decisions. Putting limitations on things no only creates conflict but it adds a mystique to the thing that is forbidden.

Finally, if you absolutely do not want to shift your perception on the issue, then perhaps you can find a solution by looking deeper, to the needs that get fulfilled when your child plays the game. Is it a need for connection? Freedom? Play? Power? Meaning? One of the reasons these games can be so captivating is because they meet these needs. 

What some parents are saying:

"My son loves Minecraft. We took him to the convention in Las Vegas. He volunteered as staff. As long as homework is done I am fine with Minecraft. It is great game. I actually hesitate to call it that. He learned a lot and met some amazing friends. My son connected with a programming group at a local university, thanks to Minecraft and now once a week he goes and listens to lectures on topics such as AI. IT also encourage my son to study programming languages. He built his own website. He is developing a game of his own. He also now earn money by offering tech support in the neighborhood."
 
"All three of my kids play minecraft. (9,9, & 6). I can see why they like it-- it's all about using their imagination. I think there are some subtle math skills in there, too, especially for my 6 yo."
 
"I find that my son binges on any game when it's new. Eventually the attraction fades, especially once the community pool opens for the summer. He loves Minecraft but now is fixated on some Facebook game that's based on Naruto."
 
"I have learned with my 10yo son to let it ride. When my son was 8 he started playing WoW with my hubby. He was obsessed to say the least. I bit my tongue. It was amazing what he was learning from playing. He learned how to read fast and comprehend, how to budget his money, how to take the lead with a group of people and organize and much much more. There is so much learning going on with gaming. Minecraft is just the same. My 10yo and my 6yo LOVE it!! Especially my 6yo. He plays on the creative side. He is a multi-dimensional thinker. Playing this game is helping him learn so much more than anything else I've seen him do."
 
Nonviolent Communication Punished by Rewards
Parent Effectiveness Training The Most Dangerious Superstition
The Giver The Five Love Languages
The Four Agreements Mastery of Love
Freedom Liberated Parents Liberated Children
Economics in One Lesson Conceived in Liberty
Daemon Influx
The Skinner Stranger in a Strange Land
WWW Wake Hominids
Anthem Atlas Shrugged
Virtue of Selfishness The Law
 Contact Scott Swain for mediation and Emotional Intelligence Tools training for business, love, and parenting.