In the first part of this piece, I discussed gamers as a collective and how we can work together to lift each other up and ensure the continued success of our industry. In this part, I want to focus specifically on those gamers whom, for whatever reason, are by nature a living role model in the lives of others. This could be parents, older siblings, guardians, or even friends or coworkers.
I am a father of three boys. I raise them in a religious environment and spend a lot of time with them individually. I know all their habits, desires, hobbies, favorites and thinking processes. For example, if my wife were to seriously cut herself while cooking, my oldest would ball up and hope it all gets better, my youngest would be fascinated with her emotional reaction while my middle son would rush to the aid and ask how he could help. I know them. I raised them. Yet, I am continually amazed how often they learn more from my bad examples rather than my teaching.
This goes all the way back to Unreal Tournament 2004. My oldest was 8 when he started playing. He became hooked. He would spend all day and night. Eventually, we got wise and we had to limit his time. He was crushed and rebelled. After weeks of back and forth behavior surrounding the game, we finally came to the conclusion that he had become addicted. Taking the game away was almost like forcing him to get injections in the face. Today, he is almost 15 and is able to identify when he spends too much time on game. But getting him to this point was not simple.
The biggest roadblock to my children’s gaming maturity was my own gaming immaturity. I would tell them to get off the computer, but they would see me play Guild Wars until late hours of the night. I would forbid rated M games, yet they watched me slash zombies in Left4Dead as my teammates spouted obscenities. I would tell them to avoid multiplay since most gamers love dropping f-bombs like candy wrappers, yet they would see me wear a headset so my fowl teammates did not annoy my wife.
It comes down to a simple concept that is ages old: Lead by example. If you care for the ones whom look up to you, then as their role model, it is your responsibility to help them develop healthy and mature gaming habits BY SHOWING healthy and mature gaming habits. Here are some suggestions for encouraging that special little gamer in your life:
1. Watch the words. Playing online, in private, with friends is one thing. Playing with, or in ear shot of, your younger audience is completely another. When most non-gamer parents judge gamers based on the filth spewing forth from their lips… younger gamers often get bad reputations or even prejudged. Help them to retain respect in the eyes of those around them. Teach them that controlling your words is a strength, and not a weakness.
2. Consider the content. Aside from ratings, the in-game goals and actions are indicators of maturity. If your game places value on stealing cars, capping thugs and raping women, it’s a safe bet that the younger gamers will see those actions as real world options. I’m not saying games make kids bad… that’s absolutely false. I’m saying that games CAN give kids ideas of what is cool and what might bring them friends. They can be a positive figure in their communities or they can be ‘that kid every parent hates.’ Encourage positive actions by playing games that reward positive actions.
3. Mind the time. While we all love spending hours in our favorite open ended world, our lives are arguably more rewarding when we spend more time away from media than in it. This is true with almost any entertainment form. Imagine your girlfriend’s only after school activities were watching every chick-flick ever filmed. Or your wife who welcomes you home after a long day by spending the rest of the day on Facebook. Or your best friend decides that his day is just not complete without several dozen episodes of old sci-fi shows. These might all be fun in moderation, but when they become the driving force of your day, you lose focus of what matters. Show younger gamers where your values lie by showing them things outside of games.
And finally, I would like to ask you to ponder one phrase; “See the forest for the trees.” This means that rather than focus on what game you play, what match you lost, what achievement you want or what clan you join, place your focus on the PC gaming community as a whole or in your area. Get involved in the lives of others. Share your gaming tips, help others level up, teach noobs instead of thumping them. And be an advocate of your favorite game service (such as Steam).
When you curb your game life for the purpose of encouraging others, you might discover that it gets much more rewarding.