We’ve all seen it … once a kid is old enough to play computer games, the fascination grows and grows, and it sometimes seems very difficult to control their desire to immerse themselves fully in this virtual world. And this temptation will not get any smaller – just think what gadgets like the Oculus Rift will mean!
One issue I have with too much computer interaction is that it makes you think that cause and effect are always clearly and logically linked. You click “print” – your document prints. You click “send” – your email wings its way to its recipient. You tap your left mouse button – Minecraft Steve destroys a block of dirt; you tap your right mouse button – the same block is placed somewhere. And so on.
Life is not like that. At least not for a lot of the time. You do A, B, C – and F happens, or maybe I, or X, but not D. You mention you’d like to go for a cuppa, and all of a sudden there’s a dozen of you in Olive’s. You had thought one or two others maybe! But that’s fine. You ask a friend a simple question, and they look at you funny, turn around and walk away. Leaving you baffled. But you can wait for an explanation – maybe something happened that you are not aware of.
Learning to read people, learning to expect the unexpected and deal with it, is part of growing up. Too much of “I press X, then Y must happen” can make this realisation difficult for today’s youngsters.
And this is where I see a possible role for multiplayer games. Via the internet (and – especially for younger children – hopefully well-monitored and with clear community guidelines), children interact online. In our house, it was mainly Club Penguin at first, then Minecraft. And it was not always sunshine and ice cream… at times, there were even tears when someone had promised to play together but didn’t show up, or when a Minecraft creation was accidentally destroyed by another player.
But these things are good! They offer learning experiences. They help the child understand that if you do x, y does not always follow, and they help to learn how to deal with this fact.
The way our children learn about the world is profoundly different from the way it was when we were young. It can be difficult to understand, even for someone with such an eager interest in all things digital (and such a drive to be playing when I can). There are dangers out there, and I will address how to do our best to keep them manageable in a future blog post.
However, the advent of multiplayer games has added a certain unpredictability, and that is something I for one think is a very welcome development!