Like me, a huge percentage of people exposed to games as children are still playing. The average age of a gamer is 35 – a generation ahead of mine. So it makes sense that Cecil Adkins of The Examiner would ask, "What happens when two gamers form a family?" From his thought-provoking article:
If you're a parent and you spend a lot of time playing MMOs, your child will inevitably become interested in them Children and MMOsas well.
There is a lot to be said about balancing quality time with your family with work and an active MMO life so that your kids don't feel neglected…So how do you handle it when your little tyke decides he or she wants to get involved in online gaming?
Is there a way to merge the demands of an avatar in a fantasy-based MMORPG like World of Warcraft with the real-world demand for parental involvement in a child's life? Does the spouse of ten years trump the Sword of Ten Thousand Nights?
As players spend more and more time plugged in – and we see the average time creeping up as games and the Internet become more technologically immersive – society will come up against some hard truths. There are only so many hours in the day, and hours spent questing are hours not spent teaching a child to ride a bike or helping with homework.
The argument has been made by techno-optimist Philip Rosedale in Wagner James Au's book The Making of Second Life that our physical world will eventually be entirely supplanted by virtual encounters. Does this also mean our interactions with our own children and loves ones will go virtual?
Anyone who reads this blog knows I'm a tech optimist, but being an optimist doesn't mean ignoring real concerns. Parental involvement, child socialization, and family communication take precedent over virtual worlds. What will change, if Adkins is correct, is how we socialize kids. Another snippet:
Making friends and interacting socially in the real world is a necessary part of growing up, and doing those things in the online world can be a part of that too.
As the generation that grew up meeting friends and possible mates through chat rooms, virtual worlds, and digital dating begins breeding, we are naturally going to pass on some of our cultural views to our children.
Brave New World
Far from the net-phobia of my parents, this generation seems poised to accept internet socialization as an entirely valid, entirely legitimate form of communication. Television stations are even adjusting their marketing to take this psychological change into account. But the internet-dependence of today's children raises questions.
There is nothing wrong with evolving socialization, but we can't forget that the real world should, by its nature, take some precedent over the virtual. Though the time may come where virtual reality and synthetic worlds can entirely supplant the real, that time has not yet come.
Until technology develops a system of flawless digital family involvement, the family will suffer when gamers devote their full attention to a synthetic world. The deep fear of virtual worlds is overblown, but writing off the growing number of internet-addicted gamers as inconsequential is equally misguided.
Think of the children!