As a parent, one of the decisions you have to make at some point is the degree to which you allow your child to play online games. Oops, let's rewind and try again: .. the degree to which you guide your child when it comes to playing online games. I suspect that the default stand-offish attitude to games prevalent in my generation is a left-over from earlier generations and I am not sure it is the best position from which to help our children develop a harmonious relationship with games.
The "default stand-offish attitude" usually promulgated by mass media goes something like this:
- Playing outside with other children: Good
- Reading books: Good
- Watching television: Ok in limited doses
- Playing online games: Bad (as in leading to anti-social behaviour, speech impediments and obesity)
I would like to see a bit more nuance in the latter three categories which are all about media experience, my point of view lumps the three types of media together to focus on the content:
- Reading books, watching television and playing online games that are not appropriate for the child's age: Bad
- Reading books, watching television and playing online games that are appropriate for the child's age: Good
A proper discussion of the topic would examine many more aspects of the argument: learning, impact on behaviour, content ratings and censorship etc. I don't yet know enough to form firm conclusions. As a parent I need to understand the topic better in order to be able to guide my child and increase the likelihood that they have good experiences with games.
That is why it is a pleasure to be able to dip into well-informed and inspiring viewpoints in order to inform my own. Two thought provoking pieces that I have enjoyed are:
- The recent talk given by Jane McGonigal at TED where she argues that attitudes formed in games can be productively applied to real life.
- "If gamers ran the world" by Tom Armitage, my former colleague, who outlines some of the useful things that games teach us: dealing with complexity and making smart, informed decisions.
I look forward to explore different viewpoints in future. I think a danger for the next generation is parents who don't understand games. If games can give our children meaningful experiences - or provide new ways for parents and children to interact - that would qualify as an epic win.