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I have two teenage boys.
Like most teenagers, they spend a lot of time using computers and they spend quite a bit of time playing online games. Some of these games are multiplayer games, which they play with their friends. And sometimes they play games with people that they do not know in real life.
Of course I worry (it’s a Mum thing I suppose). I guess that you worry about things that you don’t understand, and I have to admit I don’t get the appeal of online gaming.
So I asked them. They were delighted to tell me – once I got them started they wouldn’t stop! So here are the ten things they wanted me to understand about online gaming.
This is the first thing both my kids said when I asked them if there was something they wished I knew. If you’re in the middle of a multiplayer game, apparently you can’t just drop out because Mum called to say that dinner is ready. You’ll be letting your team down and you will be knocked right out of the game. OK, I didn’t know that.
My kids told me to say that. Well, what they really mean is that it is no more of a ‘waste of time’ than the things I did as a kid, like obsessively listening to music, or watching movies.
They are fans of a game the way I was a fan of bands in my teens. They put posters on their walls and read articles about them when they are not playing.
Yes they really, really want to win, so the “time for bed, you have school tomorrow” thing does not go down well if you are playing a team game.
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Despite the publicity it gets, cyberbullying is not really much of a thing in the online gaming world. There is a LOT of teasing - especially when you are playing with your school friends - it’s just part of the game.
There is no more bullying online than in other aspects of life. That is not to say that it is right, but it is no more likely to happen than in the offline world.
Related: Safer Internet Day
This is one thing I really wanted to know about, having heard a lot of publicity about it. Again not much of a thing apparently; the view is that if a player is good, they don’t care about gender, age or nationality – they will want them on the team!
They REALLY hate it when people think that all online games are just violent shoot-‘em-ups. Yes, those types of games exist but there is so much more to gaming. There are city building games, historical re-enactment games, strategy games and role-playing games.
The battle type games are more often done in a non-realistic way, with fantasy magical characters, not two humans fighting with realistic weapons.
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You can end up playing with people from all over the world, united in their love of a game, all equals. You can find out the lives of kids like yourself in different countries. And be amazed at how well many of them speak English.
You can learn about history, geography (this is true, my elder son knows where pretty much every country in the world is, just from playing military strategy games), ancient mythology and you can give your brain a workout with games that develop strategic thinking and creativity.
Now this was one that I didn’t get; why would you watch a YouTube video and not just play the game yourself? How is that interesting? Well my kids compare it to watching a sport rather than playing it yourself. You can enjoy watching how other people approach games, and learn from them.
Maybe it is a game you can’t run on your own computer. It may also be that the gamer’s commentary is very entertaining, a bit like a good sports commentator. Some gamers release videos of games as a sequence, so it is similar to watching episodes of a TV series.
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Yes really! You can no longer tell your kid that “you can’t get paid for playing games all day” I’m afraid. There are professional tournaments with big money prizes, and there are professional gamers who play in them.
They are a big thing in the US and they are starting to take off in the UK too.
This was a really fascinating thing to do. My kids LOVED the fact that I asked them what they thought about gaming. They loved telling me how they felt about playing online games, and having the chance to dispel a few myths along the way.
We ended up having a really long, interesting discussion. So if you are concerned about what your kids do online, ask them. Ask them what they would like YOU to understand.
About eParenting: eParenting was started by Jacqui O'Brien in 2004. At the time her kids were 1 and 4 and kept her nice and busy. Now they are teenagers and still keeping her pretty busy!