I wanted to take a moment and discuss a personal story.
As many who read here may know, my son, who is 11, plays games with us (my wife and myself) on a regular basis. Mainly MMO's, but we have also played games like Baldurs Gate and Marvel Ultimate Alliance.
Today an article was posted here ( Babble.com), a site for Mom's. I read it through and found instead of it being a hate piece, it actually was informed and written by a person who was not so strict as to make Catholic School look like playland.
I wanted to share the story of my son, who sounds like this writers child. Since the whole family plays games together, his case proves to be an interesting outlook on gaming and kids.
My son started to be interested in games when he was about 8. We started on the Xbox, playing the games where we could all sit on the couch and control characters (like X-Men, Marvel Heroes based games and Baldurs Gate). He got an Xbox 360 for Christmas the next year, and started playing online.
Needless to say, the language started and the attacks began. He had a mic, and what was amusing was how many believed he was either a girl, or was gay.
We discussed these things with him when they happened, and realized that he took it well. He noted these were just words that people used to hurt someones feelings. The old "sticks and stones" adage certainly applied in his case. Swearing became commonplace of course online, but he refused to use these words. It was an interesting view of someone who could possibly take everything the wrong way, due to his age, but did not.
As he progressed, he showed interest in gaming with his parents. The wife and myself of course being avid MMO players for years (think we are going on 7 years now playing together), thought it would be great to have another on board, but would allow us to talk with him about the games more.
We let him start simple. He played World of Warcraft for example. But, he really took an interest in our last venture...Age of Conan.
Now, I can hear the screams of many an adult who would be like "WTF???". I kept thinking that he could pretty much see the same violence on TV or Movies, thus why would the game hurt.
Naked women? Heads flying off? How could we as responsible parents allow him to see these things?
I think it has to do with the fact that if WE are there, we are present for these things, that we as parents can explain these things to him.
As time progressed and we played together, the questions started. But, it is not what you think. He started discussing strategy. He broke out pencil and paper, and started taking notes. If a naked girl ran by, he covered his eyes....lol. YES, he was timid and realized he did not really want to see that.
We felt he became responsible.
He started 5th grade this year, and the work he is doing in school has me even doing double takes on how hard it is. But, his persistence in doing the work has already claimed him two rewards.
He is part of an advanced mathematics group who, due to passing grades in that class, is going to Space Camp in Alabama in April. As well, his regular teacher has been so impressed by his "maturity", that she elected him to be one of seven children who are "Young Scholars". Many a time my son has supposedly broken up fights, discussed issues about other children who talk hate (he has heard kids discuss things like how "Jews are evil" and "Obama is black and it is the only reason he won"...ah, gotta love the Bible Belt Southern States), that she felt he showed a maturity well beyond the usual childish antics of most kids his age.
Anyways, the "Young Scholars" is a special program where the child is in a special summer camp for a week at Wake Forest University in Winston Salem, NC. While there he will get to choose to be a Movie Director, Crime Scene Investigator or Architect. They will act out these parts as if they were adults and doing the work to solve a crime or build a new business.
So, could this be because we treated him with respect and helped him learn...all because of video games? We like to think so.
So, what does my son think of hate, violence and sex? He really is outspoken about equal rights, discusses racial profiling, talks about religion and of course talks about War. He also says he wants to meet the right person someday to marry...but girls are icky right now...(lol).
Basically he may have grown up sooner than most parents would like. Yet, yesterday, he was in the hallway, playing with his toy Halo Warthog and action figures, defeating The Flood...just like a kid.
Did we do the right thing? Can we be the parents that either say "Don't do that or you will go blind" or should we be the parents who discuss things with their child, especially as they grow older and are looking to other avenues of entertainment, like drugs and sex. I know I was rotten when I was a teen. But, I also had the sheltered life, that we are NOT doing with our son.
Every indication so far says we may be doing it right. Not only is he our child, but we can treat him with respect and maturity in the hopes that WE will be the ones he will talk to when it comes time for peer pressure.
So, to our gaming family, let us hope that as time goes on, he does not want to part from discussing these things with us, and will be in that next big MMO with us...or at least meeting a nice girl he can bring home.
Hey, we can only hope SHE is a gamer chick too!!