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Sep 15, 2005



My daughter is almost 3 and understands that daddy plays a game and that it's not real. We've established the concept of "pretend" about four months ago. So she's scared of real-life thunder, but not Molten Core ("that dog is biting you!"). Just in case, I avoid conflict when she's around and instead show her emotes and flying around the scenery. Mostly she gets a kick out of seeing people on the screen waving at her or saying "Hi, Mia!" on voice through my speakers. She knows that if she talks into the mic, people she's met can hear her and say hi back, just like talking on the phone (good luck with that, Telcos!). My guildmates have been happy to oblige, show off, dance, cast spells, and cheer for her. She also digs the mechnical chicken (daddy is a gnome, you see) and the other pets and mounts around Ironforge: "See that cat! And the horse! Let's go see that horse. What is that, dady?" "That's a flying pet snake, sweetheart."

As far as immersion goes, she understands that the character on the screen is controllable, but she has no sense of role play, i.e. it's not her, but is sometimes me. She likes to make him jump by mashing my space bar, but she clearly labels it as "making him do something" rather than her.

I spend maybe 20 minutes a week with her playing some game, split evenly between WoW social calls and Katamari rolling. Being often in the midst of the aggression and gaming debates, I'm perhaps overly aware of her media consumption.


great topic... my 3 year old daughter was already easily absorbed by any cartoon when I first let her in on WoW and from what I can tell this simply fit in with the rest. She has been used to violence that "is just pretend" for some time. This is mostly from picture books though and that damnable Disney.

I limit her TV access to Treehouse and CBC kids - no YTV stuff and she has some access to my old comic book collection. She is quite scared of most combat in WoW (though she is often unable to look away).

She also seems easily bored by the social interaction stuff - even with dancing and hand waving (though voice comm ala Dimitri would change things i'll bet) and instead she prefers to make my Tauren Shaman ("the cow guy") run around, go swimming and jump over things. Sometimes she will sit in my lap and just direct as we run over hill and dale... perhaps she is fledgling explorer type ala Bartle.


My MMOG-family stories start in 1994. My brother and I started a company to make a MMOG, and eventually hired two of our other brothers as artist and producer. Oddly enough, although all four of us were at 3DO after they acquired Archetype, not more than three of us were in the same place at any time -- people started thinking one of us was doing a fast switch or something.

During the M59 alpha and beta (before we sold to 3DO), I was handling customer service, and so pretty soon dragooned my wife and oldest daughter into answering emails (we already had about twenty canned emails for various common issues) or escalating them to me. Given the choice between helping to make dinner or answering raving emails, Samantha chose the latter. ;)

So poor Samantha never really had a chance. She grew up around MMOs, started working around them full time, and eventually sealed the deal by marrying an MMO designer. In addition to Sam, who now works for me as a designer/Sorcerer's Apprentice, one of my brothers is an artist at Online Alchemy, so we're pretty much an MMO family (my other two brothers managed to escape, however, having found real careers).

My kids have all played various MMOs: Sam has been big on UO of course, and now spends a lot of time in WoW. My next two played Asheron's Call, and the younger three continue to play Puzzle Pirates a lot -- but not too much; we keep an eye on how long they're playing and with whom.

My wife, FWIW, has never played any MMO; among other things she has a low tolerance for pointless activity (like grinding). One of my goals is to create a game that even she will play. And to play with my grandkids -- someday. ;)


I was still playing SWG when I got to California for grad school and my aunt's family is also in town. One day, my 12 yr-old cousin comes over and I'm grinding the doctor crafting tree. It all looks like fun to him, so I show him how and what to combine. He then happily grinds away for the next 40 mins until I get enough XP to advance.

That's what children are for ...

But it does put a whole new spin on child labor.


(evil grin)


(BTW, Computer Games Magazine's current issue is an "MMO special." There's a good article in there on people who play MMOs with their kids.)


Old story, my son is almost 9 now:

My 7 year old son has been playing a video game lately and he started telling me about this place he had to get to. According to him, the place was called “Foreskin Fortress”. No kidding, I almost died laughing.

Well, it turns out the place is actually called “Forsaken Fortress”.

Can you even imagine what a Foreskin Fortress would look like?


My 2 year-old niece has been playing the games at sesameworkshop.org for a while now. At first she needed some help, but now that we have slowed the mouse tracking down, she manages fine on her own (and often won't let me touch the mouse if I try). This past week, she has even learned to open the laptop, start up firefox, find the bookmark and click on her favourite game. By the time she's five, I'm sure she'll be giving me lessons... Her ability to grasp the game mechanics is amazing, even when she clearly can't understand the instructions or the first order signifiers (we speak to her in French at home, but she plays the games in English even if she doesn't understand why certain actions work, or what they are "supposed" to mean).

I find her relationship to the characters fascinating, since they are integrated into many aspects of her life, often in different capacities. Elmo, Grover, Bert and Ernie are the primary favourites at this point, and she interacts with them in various media, including books, TV, games, stickers, clothing, etc. She also has doll versions of each of them who follow her everywhere (the car doesn't leave unless either Elmo or Grover are on board). For the most part, I feel she has a pretty good grasp of the difference between real and pretend, but that doesn't prevent endless hours of role-playing, hide-and-seek (she hides Elmo, and then we look for him - usually in the same spot), and extended conversations with the characters. I am not sure her interaction with a "Virtual World" or multiplayer game would be much different at this point, as she probably wouldn't distinguish PCs from NPCs.

Dmitri - do you think Mia understands that there are people behind your guildmates avatars?

PS: Must be kids week... Greg Howson over at the Guardian just posted on Babies and Gaming and he had to give up WoW for games which allow for pausing. He seems to think he'll be giving up MMORPGs for 18 years or so - the experience of folks here would indicate it might not take so long...


oops, that would have been me...


No children, and my four nephews and one niece are too far away for me to corrup-- er, introduce to MMOGs.

But Mike said something that sounded very familiar to me:

Mike Sellers> My wife, FWIW, has never played any MMO; among other things she has a low tolerance for pointless activity (like grinding). One of my goals is to create a game that even she will play.

Likewise. It's become a quest. I don't know if it'll be a MMOG (that would be asking a lot), but to be able to create something that she'd enjoy would be a real coup.

So far I've only ever seen her obsess over two games, one of which is just a version of solitaire. But lately she's been impossible to pull away from a logic game called "Inspector Parker." It's basically a graphical version of the old text logic games, where you're given clues like "Brad, unmarried, likes Italian food and has a brother" and "Janet is married to an only child" and so on, and you have to figure out all the connections between all the elements.

I haven't been able to figure out yet exactly what is so fascinating to her about this process. But when I do....



The WOW guild I play with is comprised mostly of an extended social circle of friends of mine from my college days (~12 years ago). I have two kids of my own, and many of my guildmates have kids (or are about to). It has created quite an interesting social dynamic, where I feel much more comfortable about saying "kid AFK" and having my guildmates understand, even when we're knee deep in the undead of Scholomance. We trade parenting stories in guild chat, and some of my friends even have their parents playing WoW, so I think we are only a few years off from having a full 3-generation family of players in our guild.

While the older of my kids (4 yrs) is a master of about every console game he can get his hands on, he hasn't really yet grokked that Daddy's games on the computer might be interesting someday too. He does, however, like to direct me to fight specific kinds of monsters whenever I'm playing WoW... "fight another rock monster, please". The 18 month old just likes to bang on the keyboard, but I'm sure won't be far off...

In the long term, I intend to set up a LAN area in our house where the whole family can play games like WoW together as a social experience.


It is nice topic to talk. I think 'children and gaming' is wider issue than psychologocal effects of videogames or educational contribution of games. The impact of younger generation on the business itself also get more importance.

In Korea, many children enjoy playing MMOs or MMORPGs with their parents(unfortunately, mostly with their fathers). Playing online games is one of the most popular form of family entertainment. around 3 years ago, a newspaper article said that a father joined an MMORPG to find his run-away son(finallt, the father persuaded his son to come back home).

Children have made unique playing culture of their own. Especially, two MMOGs("Maple Story", "Cart Rider") deserve to pay attention to. These games are provided by Nexon, a Korean online game company. "Maple Story" is called as "Everquest" of children. Its number of users is over 10 million just in Korea. Joining the world is free of charge, but company sells item of game and accomplish about 1 millon dollar revenue per month. Game itself is just 2D graphic-style classical game like "Ghosts ’n Goblins." But, its nature and relationship among players are colser to plain MMORPG. Maybe in Korea, not console games but online games are first comer to younger players.

Sometimes, children users play a key role in sucess of a game. "Cart Rider"(Serviced by NEXON) is on this case. The game also look much like Nintendo's "Mario Cart" series. But, its unique online experiences help the game getting huge attention. At now, "Cart Rider" is game of the folk or all the age in Korea. The first wave of players came from children players. They provided critical mass(or tipping point) to the game.

In Korea, maybe children are key factor in the sucess of online casual games. From child to their parents? I think it is interesting point to look into.


Our kids have always been intrigued by MMOs, mainly because anything that Mom and Dad find so compelling MUST be cool. I've let our daughter (a tweenager) play occasionally, but I find that she's at an age where I'm not comfortable with it -- being able to easily decode the on-screen text now means that she is far too likely to come across something inappropriate, and she is still too naive and impressionable to be able to process things like that properly. Our son is 4 and can't quite read yet, so for him it's still an entirely visual experience. He will crawl onto our laps (unbidden and often unwanted) and beg, plead, and demand to be allowed to "push 2" (which is default primary attack button for both of us). He can immerse, but does understand the fantasy role-play aspects surprisingly well. He waves at "Daddy's friends", and has greeted my friends over Vent while waving at them on screen. He has yelled things like, "Run away, Mommy" before, but I've never seen it as immersion; rather it's an understanding of the in-world representation. (Remember the "press 2" connection?) He's also disturbingly congnizant of the in-game death mechanics. ("Mommy, are you dead? Go get your stuff.") In fact, I'm marginally concerned that because he hasn't been exposed to the fact or consequences of real world death he may not really understand its finality. To an extent, though, that's a function of childhood regardless of media exposure. And he's no more likely to beat up little kids with a stick than he was before he played the game with us. ;P

Favorite story in a similar vein is from my WorldsAway Dreamscape days when I was an editor of a game-related online magazine. I got home with my then 3-year-old daughter one day and she immediately bolted to the den and perched on my chair in front of the computer announcing, "I want to be the Mommy."

I took a big step back from the world for a while after that. Never have I seen a more vivid plea for attention, or a more poignant demonstration of a warped mother image. We have been very careful about our allocation of online entertainment since then, or at least tried to be.


Peter: Dmitri - do you think Mia understands that there are people behind your guildmates avatars?

Not sure. She remembers some of them and calls them by their real-life names when the voice is on. She'll yell "Hi, Becky!" at one female guildmate's avatar, so maybe. Others she doesn't know she treats as background or fictional characters. Probably, she'll intuit avatars and the Internet long before I have to explain it.

BTW, Rob, I share your guild experiences. "Baby's up, on follow on X." It's been great to have people to talk parenting with, and being in a roughly matching generational bracket makes me feel like there's a nice balance of nerdiness and mainstreaming. I graduated college 12 years ago too, but no, we're not in the same guild :)



Can they distinguish between the NPCs and the player avatars? Friend and Foe?



I was playing Ultima when the 6 year old daughter of my girlfriend got interested in the game. So we made a new character according to her wishes and started playing with a mixture of she steering the toon herself and me playing the toon in more complex situations according to her instructions.

I have seen the same behaviour like the original poster .. some small children seem to be very defensive, cautious players ... relying on sneaking or flight. I cant help but think that this mimics their real life ingrained response. Make yourself small and hide or run away from danger. If they fight, they seem to need a large safety margin in hitpoints before they start to withdraw. But loot is VERY important to them once a fight is over.

Children over the age of 10 on the other hand are MUCH more aggressive players from what I have seen, especially around the age of 14ish. They also get really upset when dying. 16 year olds usually shrug of such deaths (except when its PvP). The later observations have been made in cybercafes and during LAN parties.

Have fun



I have also found it surprising how naturally kids seem to grasp the notion of alternate virtual selves. My two-year old is already quite conversant in the multiple mommies phenomenon, to the point that whenever she sees any female videogame avatar she assumes it's me. But what my fellow players probably find most amusing is the occasional 5-minute session of random running, jumping and splashing in water when she decides she wants to 'play', too (I'm not sure who she thinks she's operating, though, me or some version of herself?). Worse yet, when she walks in when I'm in the midst of a battle and demands jumping. I've gotten quite adept at firing in motion, but I'm not really sure what to say in these situations. g2g KOL?


Amusingly many of these comments ring true with me, except in this case I'm the child and it's my mother who's new to MMOs. I'm a grad student; she's over 50, computer literate and a fan of Myst etc (though she always plays games with the walkthrough in front of her so she doesn't get stuck).

Last night I introduced her to WoW, walking her through creating a Night Elf Druid and getting to level 2, and noticed quite a few things. Firstly, she really doesn't get the hang of the interface. She wants to click-to-move but often forgets which mouse button activates it; she hates WASD and refuses to use the keyboard. She ignores and is scared of other players in case they realise she's "rubbish at the game". She doesn't understand combat or health bars, despite my patient explanations, and instead stands next to a mob repeatedly left clicking to attack. She has a great deal of difficulty remembering when to use left and right click, and navigating around (she's just about worked out that it's right-mouse-button to move camera, but she doesn't like holding down mouse buttons and often moves the camera very slowly in this mode). She doesn't read quest text, most of the time, and complains when she can't find things.

It's immensely frustrating, she doesn't really get the point of the alternate reality, and sees other players as a hindrance. Having to explain to her that no, she can't really be a priest if she's never going to team up with others is a trial of patience all in itself. I introduced her to the game because I play it a lot and can help her with pretty much any query, but I think it's all too much for her to take in at once.


Another thing I've noticed in my research with teenagers is tremendous identity fluidity. This is probably a question for Nick, but have you all noticed how comfortable they often are with gender/age bending, for instance? I know it's partly a function of the experimentation we'd expect from teenagers, but I've run across some striking examples of teenagers very comfortably living another persona, crossing boundaries that an old fogey like me finds a bit disconcerting. I have a couple of participants who have invented significant offline personas to accompany their online ones, and they quite regularly maintain the personas even when the relationships reach a point of relative intimacy. I've also run into people who purposefully play at griefing, even though they aren't griefers per se (which leads me to the topic of whether griefers really exist at all as a static personality type, but that's best left for another discussion!). Does this seem extraordinary to anyone? Or par for the course?


I don't let my kids (aged 11 and 15) play any of these virtual worlds. I'd rather they played D&D first.



What's your reasoning, Richard? Is this like a preference for books over TV to encourage the imaginative before the programmed? Would it matter if the world was more alterable or less scripted or more story-like?

Lisa's point about role play among teenagers is well taken. For those who subscribe to Erikkson's Stages of Developement theory, we'd expect teens to be trying on roles as they "find themselves." On the other hand, they may simply be more confortable trying new things out than Gen X or older simply because they have less hardened notions of what behavioral norms are online.


My kids (4&6) have spent about an hour with DAoC, WoW, and CoH. They liked CoH the best, because of the character customization. In all the games, I don't let them do the combat (which is the game, I guess!), so they like to go swimming and jump around. They appreciate the production values, I think. Interestingly, my 6-year old got his major game addiction from kindergarten, playing an online game.

Wizards and Pigs:

When I talk about in-game experiences, though, they sometimes get confused. For instance, Dan got stuck in a wall about a week ago in WoW. I was talking about this, and my son was really curious -- how did he get stuck in a wall? What did he do to get out?

I actually ended up talking about how the world of computers has bugs, where reality doesn't -- is that right? Can there be glitches in reality? The discussion reminded me a bit of the deja vu comment in the Matrix...


Jez, your experience with your mother sounds like a one-woman usability test using a 'casual gamer' in WoW. For example, WASD is the most obvious thing in the world to one set of people, and utterly impenetrable to others (and it's often difficult for the first set to understand how it can be so difficult, given our inability to "unknow" something, and they thus sometimes appear disdainful of, well, noobs).

Lisa, I think the fluidity of identity in kids and young teens isn't all that surprising given the kinds of personification play attached to dolls, trucks, etc.. I think Dmitri's reference of Erikkson's stages is on point too.

OTOH I think this can veer into actual pathology with startling rapidity. I've encountered this a few times (in adults and teens), where individuals maintained not only in-game (or online; this doesn't just apply to MMOGs) but also separate out-of-game personas to the degree that I, at least, would recommend some form of clinical counseling. I don't know of any markers for this (I'm not up on the research in this area), but IME there isn't an age-based commonality; it doesn't appear to be attached to a stage of development. If anything it appears to be primarily a social compensatory mechanism (managing the dissonance between disparate in-game and offline lives?), but I don't want to go out too far out on this thin limb.

It's worth thinking about the potential for this kind of pathology when playing with kids though. To what degree is the game kept identifiable as malleable "make-believe," to what degree does it become an area where ethics and morals otherwise taught are seen not to apply, and to what degree does it spill over into offline life? As pressing as these questions are with adults, they're even more pressing when viewing MMOG play as a parent. Personally I don't think the answer is to not let my kids play online at all (though I play D&D with them too, if not nearly as often as I'd like :) ), but to help them successfully integrate this new medium into their lives rather than letting it bowl them over.


Richard, we've actually talked about getting our daughter into D&D with us, and even bought her a set of dice. Ironically, I think she'd find that even harder to learn than computer games; she's extremely right-brained, and the typical system of tables upon tables upon cross-referenced tables would quickly overwhelm her. I think she'd find the immersiveness of the roleplay in true D&D a bit much, as well. When she sees a mob on screen, she can be "there" and "here" at the same time, and the mob is clearly distinct from her. The minute that mob exists only in her imagination, it becomes something that is always with her. This is the same reason she doesn't read even remotely scary books and will not venture outside of Disney-esque entertainment even at 11. A difference in personality type and processing, most likely. He's only 4, but I doubt our son would have the same issues. She has an extreme aversion to violence of any sort that he doesn't share, due to a major difference in empathy capabilities. (By which I don't mean to imply that our son is violent, just that he doesn't have his sister's extraordinarily high empathy stat. *grins*)


Can there be glitches in reality?

In the RW, isn't this where Science tries to step in and explain these glitches by devising new "rules"...

I think we already see a great deal of this applied in the game worlds sphere - e.g. consider the large amount of energy in variety of forums devoted to 'reverse engineering' the logic of various games AI and statistics. Just one example. No doubt a great deal of those discussions is consumed with explaining away buggy behavior from unknowable but flawed algorithms.

At some point an anomoly in a game becomes too big a glitch... 'blue screen of death' (software crash) is an obvious egregious example. More interesting question lies with not the extreme points, but with the nuanced ones in 'glitch space.'


"So while you're fighting, can someone else come along and attack you?"

That has emerged as the single most-asked question from anyone who's ever watched me play an MMO. I often play during work (lunch+) in my office and sometimes have an audience.

Over time I realized that this question is asked intuitively, not because seeing other people in a game means you should be able to attack them, but because in almost every other online game you are. Even MMO initiates, or those who just have a passing interest, are attuned to enough gaming to know what those other games offer.

So it takes a few seconds for me to explain the dichotomy between their intuition and the market conditions of MMO which have long been trending away from fulltime PvP. If they ask why, then it gets messy. "You mean, people are so addicted to singular achievement in a multiplayer environment they don't want others stopping them?" (or variants thereto, the hazards of what I do and with whom I work :) ).

None of this has anything to do with my family.

My wife has no interest. I almost convinced her to play EQ, and she actually found the Paladin concept appealing (though I wrote the discriptions for each class, conveniently covering over such irrelevances as mid/end game effectiveness, grinds, etc). Then we had our first daughter and that was that. I also shield that daughter from the more aggressive game experiences. She's got a good grasp on pretend, but my wife and I prefer to lean her towards self-directed imaginary roleplay activities. She's got plenty of time to learn games, and it's not like MMOs require any specific competitive-level skill she can bankroll a college education on *big grin*.

It was once tempting to have her visit my 54 Fusion Generators in SWG though... bad daddy!


I played WoW with my 20-month old on my lap for a bit. She was enjoying watching the screen and the scenery... and then we encountered a tiger. I had a quest that required me to kill a bunch of them. At first she laughed delightedly and said "kitty!", but then, as she realized it was attacking me and I was killing the damn thing, she became quite upset...

So I said, okay, we won't do that any more, and just spent time wandering around, which she was fine with.


My two year old just presses the keys!


Two kids, daughter (8) and son (6). When my daughter was a newborn, I took the late-night feeding shift with her, giving her a bottle as she lay in my lap while I was playing EverQuest. Let me just say that I'm a big fan of the "two mouse button makes you move forward" addition to the mouselook controls in MMOs.

Both of my kids have active characters on Toontown, and have played since the game was in beta. They love it. They weren't particularly goal-oriented until just recently. It's been a remarkable tool to help them learn to read, both for communicating with other toons and accomplishing their toon-tasks.

My kids also play WoW regularly, with bit more supervision (my wife or I in the room with them, typically). My daughter doesn't care about leveling -- she loves creating characters and running around the world, often to places far too dangerous for her to be. My son is far more goal-oriented. His favorite character is his elven hunter...he LOVES the pets, even though it's a bit difficult for him to keep them.

Neither my son or daughter gets particular frightened by the violence (nor have they become increasingly more violent as they've played, as much as I've observed). My son got ganked for the first time the other day because he'd attacked a PvP flagged NPC in Ratchet. He now knows what PvP is and how to avoid it. ;) He was a bit frustrated by the experience, mainly because he associated city = safety, and was curious as to why someone in the city suddenly attacked him. My daughter likes to run around the cities or low-level zones and make up stories. I have to occasionally run her out of Goldshire, though, as on Argent Dawn that's become more-or-less the red-light zone for our server. With the language filter worked by character, not by account. :(


Lisa wrote:
have you all noticed how comfortable they often are with gender/age bending, for instance? I know it's partly a function of the experimentation we'd expect from teenagers, but I've run across some striking examples of teenagers very comfortably living another persona, crossing boundaries that an old fogey like me finds a bit disconcerting.

I've definitely noticed this as well, however the extent to which this is practiced depends on the specific context and etiquette that has developed for specific communities. In a virtual world where role playing is an important part of the experience teens will take the opportunity to explore many different identities, and yes they'll often go out of their way to cross those boundaries and delight in shocking us old fogeys ;) But in worlds where the focus is more on socializing, teens' primary activities are joining social cliques and flirting with potential romantic interests. In this context the expectation is that avatars are idealized extensions of a real-world bodies and identities, and even shock-loving teens will feel annoyed, betrayed or creeped out by someone whose online persona is discovered to differ greatly from that person's real age or gender.


Dmitri>What's your reasoning, Richard? Is this like a preference for books over TV to encourage the imaginative before the programmed?

No, it's not like that.

I grew up in East Yorkshire, which, for those who don't know much about the geography of England, is not exactly metropolitan. I was 9 before I left the county (for 2 minutes - my dad drove over the Lincolnshire border because we were nearby and I asked), and 11 before I left again.

The first time I went to London, I was 18. I can remember right now the thrill of walking up the Mall towards Buckingham Palace, marvelling at how close it was to Downing Street. All these sights I'd heard about and seen on TV, and I was there right among them. It was an amazing experience.

My daughters have already been to London. It's not special to them. If they go again when they're 18, they're not going to get that sense of wonder.

Your first virtual world stays with you for always. It's something to be experienced when you can appreciate the experience. If I let them play now, before they're old enough to be blown away, they'll miss out on that. I don't want them to miss out: I want it to be like it was for me when I visited London for the first time - another world.

I also want them to try D&D, because I think they'll enjoy it. I can't leave it until they head off to university, because then they might never get into it then (they'd basically need a D&D-playing boyfriend to get them involved). Teenage years are a good time for playing D&D, when imagination matters more than the rules-lawyering that can come later.

So that's why I won't let them play virtual worlds - yet.



Boy, there's a whole 'nother discussion Richard. I remember my first D&D encounter (carnivorus apes and a rust monster) vividly, with just that sense of wonder. My kids have talked similarly about a certain encounter with some zombies in a game that I ran. I remember my first surreal steps into an AberMUD in much the same way... less so a few overwrought dikus and variants. By then I guess the shine had worn off for me. These days it's replaced by a patina of memory.

I have heard people say the same about their first few steps into MMOGs -- and even now, I confess, there are a few odd and otherwise inconsequential spots in WoW that really grab me that way. I wish I knew how to replicate that kind of experience... but maybe it's as you say, something that emerges from the combination of age, familiarity, and where you are in your life.


Mike said, So poor Samantha never really had a chance.

Heh, it's true. I went away to college and tried to major in International Affairs, but it just wouldn't stick. I found myself writing papers on online communities for my sociology classes and realized that I was more interested in the 'family business' than in any of my college courses.

My (future) children and nieces and nephews will probably be similarly doomed, though I expect that one of these days, someone in the family is going to decide that the rest of us are a bunch of silly geeks, and they'll go off and do something serious, like becoming a lawyer or something. ;)


And yet there are lawyers here! There is no escape!


I remember playing D&D with my big brother gamemastering. I couldn't have been more than 8. I remember it was really exciting and I still have memories of it. The main point, though, was that it was quality time that I was spending with my big brother. It was almost equivalent to a bedtime story, in many ways, since, at the time, I remember I wasn't too good at roleplaying and my brother had to give me a lot of cues. I think the MMO world is a little bit too complicated and irrelevant to real life to show to children that early. Also, IMO, as long as children don't play MMOs their entire life, revisiting a game you played as a child can also bring that sense of wonder, as you are looking at a familiar world with totally different eyes. You see things that you couldn't before. I still think D&D is a more wholesome alternative to MMOs, at least for children, because the experience is more controlled. You automatically edit out the naughty bits and don't have to worry about your child seeing something. You could get dozens of D&D adventures without much work at all. Just pick up Homer or King Arthur, assign characters, and read through the book. At every big moral decision, ask what your children would do. Is it right to kill the cyclops? Run away with Helen? etc.


The first two games I designed were kid's games. My son was seven and my daughter was five. They playtested and received official t-shirts. My daughter has flirted with computer games since, but she's more into robotics and cognitive science these days.

When he was ten my son and I started playing EQ during its first month. Six months later he had formed his own guild. He successfully disguised his age, although the guild was mainly young as well and it was near anarchy.

By the time he was twelve DAoC launched. He formed his own guild which became one of the largest and most respected on the server. He succesfully convinced other players that he was a cryogenics engineer from Seattle in his late twenties.

Contrary to the slam often made against MMOGs that they are for the socially inept, I saw him grow from a shy kid into someone with mature enough people skills to lead relic raids when most high level players were only in their forties; and become the guy other players turned to when they needed disputes arbitrated.

But he didn't come into his own until SWG when he did NOT form a guild. Instead he parsed the game's economy in the first month and became one of the top three richest players on the server. He did this by ignoring the game as designed. He killed nothing except to level. He bought low and sold dear. He only lasted two months (one less than me) before he became bored. There was nothing left to buy. The cash was just numbers.

When WoW arrived we weren't interested until a friend insisted I play it for business reasons. My son is now eighteen. He signed up when he went off to college this summer, so we could play together. Now he is running a growing guild of mature players. He's still the youngest, but only by a few years this time. And he immediately started to game Ironforge and the Auction House. After only a couple of weeks he had moved up from buying and selling blues to purples.

Now that he's sixty he does instances, sometimes two or three a night. His gear is almost all purple. His guild is prospering, and he's about to buy his epic mount. Oh and his grades (except for math!) are fine.

What is the moral of this proud father's blather? He learned more people skills, organization, strategy, tactics, governance and economics than most ever learn. He did it in eight years from the ages of ten to eighteen, and not in school. He did it in MMOGs.


P.S. It was probably only of interest to me, but thanks anyway, Ted, for the chance to relate the story!


Lee Sheldon>Contrary to the slam often made against MMOGs that they are for the socially inept, I saw him grow from a shy kid into someone with mature enough people skills to lead relic raids when most high level players were only in their forties; and become the guy other players turned to when they needed disputes arbitrated.

Doesn't this anecdote demonstrate that virtual worlds are for the socially inept. How else are they going to become socially ept?



Heh, well Richard, I think the comment I hear most is that the inept usually continue in their ineptitude, gaining no particular eptness during their tenure in an MMOG.


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