Since gaming has been a big part of our lives, especially Alec's, I felt like it was important to participate in March's blog carnival over at the Radical Unschoolers Network.
Also, for anyone who is reading here for the first time: Tim is my husband and we have 3 children-- Alec 15, Abbi 14, and Kyra 11.
How are video games a part of you and/or your kids lives?
They're just like any other interest in our house. At certain times they are being played more than others. Specifically right now, there isn't a whole lot being played, but there were other times where there was a lot. Currently, Alec is working on completing Persona 3, which is a RPG (role player game) and he'll usually play some drums on Rock Band each day. WoW (World of Warcraft) has gotten lots of play in our household the last couple years but right now it isn't so present. Kyra will be on quite a bit for roleplaying and Alec will be on 3-4 nights a week for raids with his guild but that's the extent of that right now. Abbi used to play WoW quite a bit with leveling her characters and roleplaying but right now she's doing other things.
How do you support video gaming in your household?
We get the games that people want and we've been able to get most of the game consoles that are out there. Like I said in the above answer, it's just like any other interest. We nurture each other's passions and sometimes video game playing is it. We've also made sure that there were places and TVs to play, if certain locations weren't working we'd figure out places where it would, for example, Tim just finished a media room in the basement so there's one more place to play. If Alec is up at night and others are sleeping he can play down there. We also keep our eyes open for new games and for resources to help with the games that we have. When the kids were younger we had to do that a lot more than now. Now they all know how to look up guides on their own and research different things about the games that they are playing. I still keep my eyes open but they are all really independent that way.
if you haven't always been supportive how did you "get there"?
We weren't always in this place, as far as gaming. I remember when I said I'd never buy a game system. I said if they (our kids) bought one, that would be fine, but I wasn't going to support that. (eek!) How did I change? I remember reading on unschooling lists about how to support our children in their learning and that it's great to support what your kids are interested in. Well... Alec was totally interested in gaming, so we got him a game system (and he bought one himself with money he earned :). Just looking at his face when he's into a game is so telling, he's involved, thinking, figuring things out. It wasn't him not thinking or just rotting his brain (as some people would think) it was him being challenged intellectually. (and if you know him you know how hard it is to challenge him!) I truly think, in these last years, that video games have been about the only thing that has been a challenge to him, really. He doesn't play just any game either, he's quite particular with what he delves into. If there's not enough in the game he usually doesn't play it very long. In school, they really couldn't bring anything to him that would keep him challenged, and he loves figuring things out. Gaming has been his work and it's been good.
Do you play video games as a family?
We have and do when there's a multi-player game. Rock Band and Guitar Hero have been great for that. Also we've played WoW that way too, we could adventure, quest and just have plain fun together. It's been an amazing bond, I'm so glad it's in our life. When I think about it, even 1 player games can bring about a bond if the other person who isn't playing is willing to watch and learn. A lot of times the kids will take turns with a single player game and then they can talk about the game, comparing strategies or experiences. That's very cool too. I think this is key for the parents too, you can hang out with your child and watch what they're doing. Ask questions, learn why it is interesting to your child, I can't stress how important it is to be part of your child's life that way. Don't look at it as isolating, it doesn't have to be... be part of it :)
How do you deal with your mainstream friends ideas about video games?
They know Alec is a big gamer and that we've all played video games. It's not usually an issue.
What do you say to your kids when their friends aren't allowed to play V's because of restriction?
We haven't had that issue a whole lot. I do remember there was one time a mom to one of Alec's friends didn't like him playing Halo at our house because he'd come back to his house too excited.... that was different. I guess when our kids are excited about something, we are too! And there was one other friend who couldn't play video games so Alec would do other things with him. They would play board games or they would go outside and play. They'd find other things to do. When my kids have heard about parents not allowing gaming they feel bad for the kids, especially if the kids want to be playing, but they've always honored the parent's wishes.
Thoughts on violence and VG, or learning through VGs.
As far as violence and video games, I truly don't believe that a violent game will make a person violent. Not allowing someone to do something will have a much worse effect on the person than a game with computer generated images. I've seen how feeling powerless and limited can make a person be more violent and angry. I know a lot of kids who play video games and usually they are the most gentle and non-violent individuals.
We've learned a lot through video games-- from reading to typing, to comparative math reasoning to history. It goes on and on because games can have so much in them. One point I do want to make though is that I'd never advise someone to get video games because of the learning opportunity. I'd advise someone to get them if there was interest being shown.
How does VG system or console sharing work in your house, how has it evolved?
We've all had to learn to have patience with this since so much of the time you can't just get off a game instantly. Who ever that is playing may be working toward something and very often you have to get to a save point or you lose your progress. Just understanding that has really helped with the sharing of consoles. They know that they like to be on so they'll allow the others to have a turn. Also, right away we got 2 different consoles and had a couple of TVs so if there was an issue we could offer another alternative.
how much is "too much"?
This is one thing I've learned from having video gaming around our house; "too much" for one person isn't always "too much" for another. Some of us like physical activity and that's what energizes us, others get totally jazzed from figuring out a solution in a puzzle. I'm not going to tell anyone to stop doing what they're doing. We'll do other things and some times they'll choose to stop playing and join us; other times they'll choose what they're doing. The big thing here is that they have the choice to do what they want so it in turn gives them the freedom to choose not to play. It's not in limited quanity and that's been only positive.
Bringing video games into our home has only been a good thing.