On Parenting a WoW player
I’m veering seriously into opinion here, no theorycrafting. A little bragging while I’m at it, though.
As I mentioned recently, I’ve a daughter who plays WoW. A 15 years old daughter who’s been playing for some time now. As a parent, I’ve concerns. The concerns basically boil down to the fact that if you like WoW at all, it’s (by design) addictive.
OK, let me digress with that “addictive” crack (no pun intended). Blizzard wants you to pay a chunk every month, and to buy its expansions as they come out. Now, the company really doesn’t care how much you play so long as you pay. But they know – KNOW – that if people quit playing, they quit paying. So they intentionally strive to design so as to encourage you to keep playing often enough to keep spending money. For lack of a less semantically loaded term, they want you addicted to the game.
There are several spinoff problems with this. First, most of us are built so that we gorge on our addictions anytime we’re given a chance. Some of us can keep the gorging down, but there’s a larger-than-we-like proportion of our population which can’t resist going on. And it’s a sad fact that children are less likely to have built the brakes to stop gorging. Oh, most will stop at some point, but as a rule it’s well after the point most of us older folk would set.
And the second problem deals with the children as well. I’ve met (in person) a LOT of kids who play World of Warcraft or Everquest or … well, a lot of MMORPGs. They’ve a lot in common with players of RPGs in general — they tend to be really bright and imaginative. Unfortunately, this makes them more vulnerable to the addiction aspect as the game which caught their interest now influences their imagination so that only the game can really catch their attention… A danger sign — if all the off-game conversation revolves around the game, there might be a problem. And if the child starts giving up food and sleep and face-to-face friends for online gaming, MIGHT is no longer applicable.
So, how do you deal with this? Best, in my opinion, by pre-empting it.
The draconian measure is the dreaded Parental Curfew. NOTE – not parental controls. The latter are the means of enforcing the curfew if you the parent suspect your child is violating the curfew. No, I’m talking a reasoned, reasonable discussion and agreement that your child only plays the game at certain times on certain days. For example — During the school year my daughter can play WoW on any non-school day from, generally from 8 am to 11 pm – 10 pm if the next day is a school day. On the last day of school each week she can start an hour after school ends for the day, with an end time of 11 pm. All that has two Major Restrictions: 1) Homework takes precedence; 2) pre-arranged family events take precedence. (BUT – I hear cries – What about Monday through Thursday? Well, three nights a week of martial arts pretty much takes care of that. Have I mentioned she’s second dan in TKD? brag, brag)
During the summer vacation the rule was that two days a week were TKD free, and the same precedents applied.
But those are my rules for my family, done after discussion and with agreement and compromise. As a result I’ve got an honors-level student doing honors-level work and still having a pretty full life outside World of Warcraft. Which is going to be pretty important for her later life — I suspect “Level 70 on all classes in World of Warcraft, 1800+ Arena rating” is going to be worthless on a resume except as a ‘standout difference point’. (No, she doesn’t have that. I’m using it as my example – a bit of hyperbole.)
I think the key thing is that I pay attention. The rules aren’t arbitrary, but they do exist. And they’re not a ‘demand from on high’ but done with a real attempt to balance the fact that she has a lot of fun with the desire that she not be a computer zombie for the rest of her life.
And that, then, is my advice. Remember you’re raising someone who will have to make – and live with – decisions of their own, and in the long run teaching how to determine and live with limits as well as opportunities beats the heck out of life-long compliance with external authority.
I have a daughter who plays WoW, not a WoW-player who happens to be my daughter. And I am proud of her, and expect to continue being so for a long, long time.