The Gaming Parent – Pre-teen Years
In the past I have written about being a gaming parent of young children, in fact, this very site got its name from one of those previous articles. I have spoken of the joy of having a young prodigy following my steps into the gaming world, an eagerness to play two player games together and of course the dreaded Minecraft years. But now, as my eldest approaches his 11th birthday, I am starting to run into a veritable minefield of problems and to be honest most of the time I am completely lost.
As any parent out there knows the most annoying statement to come from any child is “but my friends can.” This is usually uttered when my wife or I make a judgement on what is appropriate for my son, be it a movie, TV show or more often than not a video game. This statement leads me to a couple of conclusions. Either there is a host of parents out there that are allowing children to play R18+ games or kids in the playgrounds are just lying to each other to sound cool. The reality is probably a bit of both, however, that doesn’t change the fact that I have had more arguments thanks to this little statement then I have had trying to get him to do his homework.
I also feel that I am not a particularly harsh parent when it comes to these games either. On more than a few occasions I have allowed him to play MA15+ games, games that I have played myself and am aware of the content contained within. I have no problem with him playing Just Cause 2 or Red Faction: Guerilla because I know his maturity is able to cope with the concepts presented in the games. However when he comes to me and tells me he wants to play Mortal Kombat X because his “friends” are I have to draw the line. Mortal Kombat was actually the cause of one of my weaker moments as a parent. His desire (aka nagging) to play the game got to such a point where I sat him down and showed him exactly what was in Mortal Kombat. Now before I did this I was well aware of my son’s weak stomach as far as blood and guts are concerned, my reasoning was that one look at the blood hitting the screen and he would be running towards the hills. Guess what? That is exactly what happened when I showed him Blind Kenshi feeding a defeated Scorpion through a razor sharp katana rotating at high speeds. Gone was his desire to play Mortal Kombat but in the process, I quite possibly stepped over the line and I am still not sure how that sits with me.
I feel these sort of sticky situations are only becoming more and more common as my kids grow up. My eldest is, unfortunately, a bit of a guinea pig (as most first children are) when it comes to how I as a parent need to treat these situations. I am learning everyday on how to handle my role as guide to this young human and I am bound to make mistakes. Am I too strict? Am I too lenient? Do I have any idea what I am doing? I ask myself these questions every single day and I am yet to be able to answer them.
Another recent development in the technology space for my son is a desire to record everything. His love (and seemingly love of his classmates) at the moment is to watch a few different YouTubers. Of an afternoon it is no longer a desire to play games, but to watch people play games. This has lead to his love of videoing everything he does. Using one of my old phones he records gameplay, himself presenting gameplay and even re-enacts scenes from games with his younger brother. This is something I love and adore but there is a big sticking point and that is having his own Youtube channel. He is desperate to upload all of his videos to his own channel and the fact that I don’t let him, especially when I do it myself for Player 2, is a constant problem. On one hand, I would love for him to develop some video editing skills, that would be awesome. On the other hand, I am very apprehensive about him showing himself so publicly at a young age. Am I being over protective or am I just being reasonably cautious?
The final big hurdle I am facing at the moment is the “I played it at my friend’s house” dilemma. How do I approach this? Do I tell my son that he is not allowed to play these games when he is visiting a friend or do I trust that the parent overseeing the mayhem shares the same opinion as I do? So far I have basically let it go, letting my eldest play some games I am not ok with (Call of Duty) at a friends house on the condition that he tells me about it afterwards and we talk about any issues he may have with the content. I honestly can’t think of a better solution to this problem, if you have one I am all ears.
I guess what the whole point of this article is to say that while I enjoy gaming immensely and love that my son shares my passion it does create problems that I have to tackle, problems I am sure all parents face. Will my son be exposed to content I think is too old for him? Probably. Will he beg me to play games that are not appropriate? Certainly. Will I endeavour to make choices that I feel are for his benefit? Always. All I can hope is at the end of the day I have raised a son who is a good human. A human who will one day face the same problems with his own children. A human who still has time to play Halo with his dear old Dad. That, my friends, is all this gaming parent could ever ask for.