Posted by : Wendy B Thursday, 25 April 2013

We originally had kids so that they could craft for us in MMOs. Turns out, this can be just as tedious to them as it is to us, so they’ve moved on to playing their own games. Watching kids play video games (or do anything, for that matter) can be such a fascinating experience. I’ve learned about (and from) my kids by watching their gaming habits.

Bunny (7.5), like her parents, spends a good chunk of time on the computer – or would, if we let her in our do as we say, not as we do parenting style. She enjoys the little games on sites like Y8 and Friv, but we’re not fond of them because of their intrusive nature. Instead we steer her towards more trusted sites and express our preference for games that focus more on learning. She’s learning proper keyboarding at school, so I’ve made a rule that she has to spend her first 10 minutes of home computer time practicing her typing. After that, she will visit the company game sites for National Geographic, McDonald’s, Barbie and such. I’ve also let her indulge her pursuit of fashion design by introducing her to Polyvore.

She played Final Fantasy Tactics Advance for a short while, but has mostly settled on Club Penguin, which is basically an MMO for kids. The game offers lots of little games and the kids can work as spies and such to earn funds for their igloo (Bunny’s pink igloo castle now sports a disco floor). It’s a game created by a parent with heavy safety restrictions. The chat function is limited to pre-programmed phrases that make deeper communication with actual friends difficult, but prevents the inappropriate behaviour that haunts adult MMOs. At regular intervals, events are introduced, such as the upcoming Marvel Heroes. There will be incentives and challenges for the kids to participate in. I bought her a membership to give her access to greater options, but the game is still pretty accessible for the F2P players. Bunny has recently been playing with a friend and it is hilarious. They are both on the phone yelling back at each other like deaf old ladies trying to communicate across a grocery store.

We also have a PS3 and a Wii but the girls have not really taken to the console games. They will occasionally play the sports, exercise and dancing games on the Wii, or beat each other with frying pans in Little Big Planet and play the levels I built for them, but they’ve recently found more interest in the Atari Flashback. Hmm… We should probably break out the SNES.

Meanwhile, Panda (5), is spending more time with the Leap Pad we got for her a year ago or her sister’s old Leapster II. And now, since my purchase of a Nexus 7, she’s been playing more confidently with apps on her own, without asking for her sister’s help. This weekend, after reading a My Little Pony comic, I downloaded a Gameloft game that turned out, I thought, to be more complex than she could handle.

I was so wrong.

Other than the need to have her sister or me read things for her and explain pricing requirements, she’s totally taken to this world building commerce game. While Bunny’s need for instant gratification has had her more or less give up on the game within a short time, Panda has already determined that she will not be travelling to Canterlot to attend the royal wedding until she is satisfied with production in Ponyville. She comprehends the cause and effect of it all, even when the game keeps putting off our attempt to purchase Applejack, by making us do other things.

Bunny’s competitive nature has her playing now and then and whining because her sister is so much further ahead. She has not yet passively aggressively pointed out how much better the game would be if I bought her more coins and gems, but I’m waiting for it. Her attitude concerns me, but I understand that it’s just her way. She can focus and chew through books in a few days, is planning to join the math club and frequently creates projects for herself to do. In other words, she’s me (except for the math club part).

I actually like the MLP game myself and want to play it, but don’t want to make the decisions without Panda’s permission. I already got in trouble for buying Teacher's Pet when she doesn't like him. She didn't appreciate my reasoning that he was cheap labour for the ice cream shop.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that I’m actually working for my kid.

WHAT IS THIS?

This is my mindspill. Mostly about comics, books, video games, movies of the science fiction and fantasy leanings. Sometimes recipes and parenting stuff will sneak in, along with a real world rant or two.

I also write about geek culture at Women Write About Comics, and I review genre fiction at The BiblioSanctum.

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