Can’t Beat ‘Em? Join ‘Em!

Online gaming tends to be one of those polarising topics. Angst and frustration surround it, particularly for non-gaming parents. Gamers, on the other hand, are enthusiastic about the benefits and fun they experience online.

Gaming in Australia is huge. Whether the burgeoning gaming culture will match Australia’s perennial sporting fixation is anyone’s guess, but the future is bright for this industry. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports 78% of adolescent boys who access the internet participate in online games. For girls, the rate is 60%. QUT reported that in game households, 70% of parents play computer and video games.

The last statistic is particularly interesting. Is it a case of one or both parents modelling a lifestyle that embraces gaming, or is it a case of “can’t beat ’em, might as well join ’em?” Either way, a family that shares interests is bound to have better outcomes than one where an interest isolates or alienates members.

A teacher who games told me her kids’ online gaming used to frustrate her. “When I called them for dinner, they’d say, ‘But Mum! I just started a raid!’ I didn’t care what they’d started; our dinner was getting cold.”

I asked her what changed. “I didn’t understand the culture until I played the game. When I realised that some games require a significant chunk of time–not a little thirty-minute block, but two to three hours–I was able to be more flexible.”

Dinner disputes and homework hassles were mitigated. She continued, “I realised I had to limit the complex games like WOW* on weeknights and allow bigger blocks of time to play them on the weekend. Not doing so led to frustration on both sides.” She now regularly engages in gaming, which allows her to model a healthy balance and to engage with her kids on a mutual interest.

“Can’t beat ’em, might as well join ’em” isn’t losing the battle, and it isn’t caving in–if you do it right. When adopting this stance, make it about exploring your son or daughter’s world. Seek to understand rather than just dictate rules. As the teacher’s example shows, taking an interest allows you to set meaningful rules and avoid arbitary–and frustrating–edicts.

She recommends watching an ABC3 show, Good Games: Spawn Points, sister show of Good Games. Spawn Points is geared to Aussie preteens, so the language is cleaner and the games they review have more appropriate ratings than those covered by Good Games. In addition to reviewing games, SP offers segments about gaming culture and competitions. Check out the Good Games: Spawn Points website here. The show airs on Saturday evenings at 7:25 PM.

* World of Warcraft