Move over Bitcoin, there’s a new sheriff in town. Games and esports are going to be the new hot topic of conversation at your family gatherings. Games can be as confusing as cryptocurrency and if you have kids, you’re in danger of becoming an uncool parent that’s out of touch. No one wants that. Fear not, I can help.
With 80% of teens are playing games, you are likely going to have to navigate your child’s interest in games, if you haven’t already. This can be a tricky topic to deal with, and parents often fall into a trap of meeting their child’s enthusiasm with disdain.
The media really don’t help the situation. Between horribly outdated, disrespectful comments about nerds that verge on bullying, and fearmongering that a harmless game will turn your child into the violent scourge of the playground, I wouldn’t blame you for having the wrong idea about games.
The truth is, gaming is not the same as it was in the 90’s. Most parents have an outdated view point and think it’s all Super Mario and blocky images, but you can be different! Games have come a long way, with the graphics and production value of big budget movies.
Just because your child is sitting in front of a computer or console, it also doesn’t mean they’re an anti-social. Gaming these days is incredibly social, with most gamers playing games with friends and communicating through gaming headsets. There are also LAN’s where tons of people bring their computers and play together and it’s a great community to be a part of, with some great role models. It’s also a safer, and a far healthier environment than being out in a bar.
The gaming community can also offer a great opportunity to engage the youth. As an example, the Oceanic Pro League for a game called League of Legends recently partnered with Headspace, a youth mental health initiative, to raise mental health awareness with kids. This means a lot to me, because as a child, I dealt with my parents messy divorce through games and my gaming community.
Beyond a bit of good fun, your child’s interest in games is also not wasted time, as gaming offers plenty of career opportunities. Your child could go on to work for one of the many successful games publishers, like Electronic Arts’ Andrew Wilson, who rose through the ranks to become one of Australia’s most successful international CEO’s.
They could also become a content creator on a platform like YouTube, where Aussie creators like Elliot “Muselk” Watkins have achieved great success. Elliot has recently surpassed 1 Billion views, earning vast amounts of advertising revenue in the process.
Beyond this, esports (highly skilled and competitive professional gaming) alone will be a $1.5Bn industry by 2020 and just this week a team of 7 players called Fnatic won over USD $250,000 at an international tournament for a game called Counter-Strike.
Australia is in the midst of an esports gold rush. The Football Federation of Australia has launched a gaming tournament. Footy teams like the Bombers are launching esports teams and Hoyts has launched a new dedicated esports events space in Sydney.
Based on all this, if your child has aspirations of becoming a pro gamer; a coder; or simply a creator, you should be pushing them towards their computer, not discouraging them.
Hopefully by now you see some merit in your child’s gaming, so the question is, how should you engage in your child’s hobby? These are a few things I wish my parents had known when I was a child. It would have massively improved our relationship, and saved them, and me, a lot of stress.
First, take an interest. What games do they play? Why do they like them? Who is their favourite creator or pro player? Treat their interest in gaming, much the same as you would for a sport. Do a bit of research into what they like and watch a few YouTube videos. A fantastic example of this is actor and face of Old Spice, Terry Crews.
One day he walked in on his son and asked him what he was playing, only to find out his son was watching people play games. Crews was blown away, and felt that he was out of touch and at risk of losing his bond with his son. Instead of trying to push his son to spend less time with games, Crews dived in, learned about his son’s passion and even took on a DIY project of building a computer with his son. Even his daughters grew curious and took part in the fun. (This is also a great example that computers and games are not just for boys.)
Second, your child is likely playing games with other people, so set good expectations around when they can play, but also be flexible. That way they can plan when they’re going to spend time with their friends without interruptions. There’s nothing more frustrating as a gamer, than when your parent demands that you stop playing immediately, especially if it’s unexpected.
You can’t pause a competitive online game and if you’re forcing your child to quit at the drop of a hat, they’re having to be very rude to the group of people they’re playing with. Likewise, if they’re near the end of a highly competitive game, giving them 15-20 minutes to finish the game will make them appreciate, rather than resent you, because not all their friends’ parents are as understanding as you are.
Lastly, encourage your child to have a balanced lifestyle and try to use games as a way to get your child interested in other things, like sport or history. As much as I think gaming and esports have a lot to offer, you should encourage your kids to get out, see the world and most importantly, do some exercise.
As a gamer, this topic means a lot to me. Gaming has had a huge positive impact on my life. It’s given me countless hours of fun; a way to deal with difficult times in my life; some of the best friends I could ask for and a fantastic community to be a part of. I’d like others, both young and old alike, to get a chance to experience this.