Friday, April 22, 2016

Dealing with Disappointment

Twenty days since my last post? Sorry! Shame on me.

Monkeyami and I uploaded our first YouTube video earlier in the week and we talked about how to have fun playing Destiny. While that's important, I also want to talk about how to deal with disappointment -- especially when our children feel it (no, not disappointment IN our kids).

Being the researcher I am, I try to look for legit advice based on studies. Child psychology is outside of what I'm used to researching, so I'm a little new to it. But I'll share what I've found and some of the sources to back it out. Please note, this info is also available in our next YouTube video, so if you're interested in that form, check out Family Gaming on YouTube.

Note that we're talking about disappointment, not anger. Getting salty because you lost a match isn't disappointment -- it's just a bad mindset.

One of the toughest parts of dealing with disappointment is knowing when to address is as a more serious issue as opposed to something that happens on a daily basis that we need to learn to cope with. Sure, life isn't always fair. Get used to it.

How can we tell the difference? First, if a child would be humiliated by something, that certainly merits a parent stepping in. This article mentions a child forgetting their school play costume. Turn around and go get it. Don't try to turn it into a teachable moment for being more responsible. Another marker for me is if the situation is extraordinary. Extraordinary events don't happen daily or even weekly, Intervening once or twice a year is not helicopter parenting and will not diminish the other lessons you teach them to be accountable.

So there's a situation that fits as humiliating or extraordinary -- how can we help? This article provides several ideas. First, empathize. This doesn't mean you have to acknowledge that their emotions are justified based on what has occurred to disappoint them. So that kid you can't stand turned down their invitation to the dance -- big deal. But to THEM it is. Acknowledge that they're upset and disappointed. That's it. Next, provide perspective. Point out that this isn't the end of the world. From experience, however, I can attest to their likely not accepting your statement. For them, this very well might be the end of the world. Especially if this is the first serious disappointment they've experienced. If it's not, though, you could always point back to their previous experience to show them that they got over those past experiences.  Lastly, be a voice of reason. Life is unfair at times, Decisions are often unfair. Merit does not play into every life event. Luck is often a part of it -- whether good or bad (but that's a whole 'nother can o' worms). Focus on what your child CAN do to both deal with the disappointment and work to improve.

Most importantly, let them know you love them and they're safe.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Games Together Litmus Test

My goal is to start sharing research on gaming and children. The common argument is that gaming is bad for children in almost all ways. If you can't tell, I don't agree with that. I think gaming can have positive benefits. Not just the ones that come to mind first, like hand/eye coordination, problem solving skills, but also ones that you might not think of. Reading, for example, or even social skills. This is the OPPOSITE of the commonly cited research. If anyone has ever tried doing research on such a topic, it's not the easiest to find. So bear with me while I work on my Boolean search chops.

In the meantime, an easy test to see if your family is gaming together, or if you're just playing video games at the same time under the same roof.

For me, if you are active in your gaming together, you're doing it right. Are you showing interest in what your child is playing, and vice versa? Do you watch them while they play (note: this is different from supervising)? Do you help them when they get stuck? Do you celebrate with them on successes and help console them on failures (to help keep that ugly Anger at bay!)?

The tough part of this, as with parenting in general, is knowing at what point "help" becomes "doing it for them." Kids like playing games in different ways than adults. My son loves driving his Sparrow off cliffs and jumping off the Tower (in Destiny). So be it. That's fun for him. When he plays alone, I'll let him do what he wants. Once he's in a fireteam, though, I make it clear that now he's just one of three people working towards a common goal and he has to play that way.

The opposite of active gaming is passive. There's an easy way to describe passive gaming -- babysitting. Is the game service as a babysitter? If so, consider ways you can become more involved in your child's gaming.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Destiny Scrims and Emergent Order

This post won't be too family oriented, sorry.

As many (all?) Destiny players know, there is currently no option for custom games. No way for you and five of your friends to get together and play on two teams of three against each other. Players have been asking for this since the game came out.

Then some creative players figured out how to game the matchmaking system. They figured out that if you had two people close to each other geographically, they could trick the matchmaking system into assigning the two groups to each other. A very convoluted way to create custom games. Along with this, some other person or group came up with a set of rules that go along with playing the game this way -- referred to as "sweats" or "scrims." Sweats/scrims became a code word for: (1) hey, do you want to play with 5 other people by (2) using this method of tricking the matchmaking system to (3) play within these agreed upon sets of rules that really don't get mentioned in the game, you're expected to know them. I first heard about all this with a Crucible Radio podcast on scrims. You can find that here.

Wow. All that to overcome the lack of a custom game option.

So how does that come about? The answer is emergent order. When people want something that isn't being given to them, they will find a way to do it. If we want to get into the economics of it, the cost has to be low enough to merit it. If scrims requried someone buying $500 of hardware just to play, I doubt emergent order would have created it. If it only requires 5 minutes of matchmaking and understanding the agreed-upon rules, the "cost" is small (the time needed to listeni to the CR podcast, for instance). For more on emergent order check out this video from the creator of the Keynes vs. Hayek videos:

I also highly suggest EconTalk podcast if you're into that sort of thing.

How might this apply to a more orthodox economic setting? I've recently seen headlines about toilet paper and condoms being unavailable in Venezuela (I've seen this headline several times since Chavez took over). Does that mean people can't buy toilet paper and condoms? I guarantee you they are. They just aren't finding them in the official stores. Their unavailability has allowed emergent order to creep in and create a black market for these goods.

Thanks for getting this far through a non-family post about Destiny that was probably boring for you. As a reward, Fear the Boom and Bust. :)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The True Vanguard Story

This is the story of how this whole blog started. It's a family story. It starts with my son and I looking for Destiny videos on YouTube to watch before bed. The first criteria is that the videos be kid friendly. No bad language at all. First we found My Name Is Byf. Cool site and cool guy. We watched him quite a bit. Then we found True Vanguard. Nothing against Byf, but TV became our favorite quickly.

So after watching TV's videos for several months, I decided to let him know our nightly ritual and see if he would be able to play with Monkeyami someday. Which led to this Twitter exchange:

I'm sure he's used to getting requests to play with people regularly, but I doubt he got one before from a parent asking if he would play with their kid. I'm guessing that had something to do with his response, which was a "yes" and led to one of the craziest Monday's ever.

March 7th, I got Monkeyami home from school and got him ready for his Trials run with TV and TKiriella (Managator subbed in later). TV streams on Twitch, so I was able to watch the broadcast along with watching my own TV. What was the most amazing was the response in Twitch chat over my son. How cute he was. How polite he was. How GOOD he was. :) It was incredible to read all the comments -- overwhelmingly positive.

As a thank you note, I made this post on the Bungie forums. The response was again overwhelmingly positive.

Then the icing on the cake -- True Vanguard released some of the highlights on his YouTube channel (video at the end of this post). I couldn't keep up with the comments as the video received more and more views. So many of them were positive. A couple (10%?) were negative and led to my very first post here (since they were worried about him playing a rated T game). But 90% at least were people saying how this video brought a smile or laugh or light to their day. It now has over 100,000 views. To think that my little boy has brought that much joy to this world just by being himself, and TV has allowed that to happen by playing with him and putting up the video, is simply amazing.

That leads me to the takeaway. In a word increasingly digitized, with people's thumbs attached to their phones and tablets, many complain about the lack of community. They equate online/cloud based lives (texting, Instagram, video games) with the demise of family and community. Those two don't NEED to go together. The amount of community I felt in the two days that all this unfolded was greater than anything "in real life" in the previous couple months. Online gaming and communication are what we make of them. If we use them to deepen relationships with family, friends, and strangers, then we are building community. The Destiny community can be awesome if we look to do that.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Forgotten Rule -- Anger Management

There's one very important rule I forgot to mention in the previous post. It's also the toughest to figure out. First, a look at my own history with anger.

I really liked playing racquetball in college. I really hated losing. Somehow, I had gotten into the habit of breaking my racket every time I lost. What a stupid habit. I'd then have to go buy another $15 racket so I could keep playing a sport I liked with friends whom I enjoyed playing. Until I lost again, broke it again, and spent $15 again. A really dumb cycle.

So I started hanging the broken rackets on the wall of the townhouses I rented. I figured seeing the broken rackets would be a visual reminder of the money I'd wasted on new rackets. It didn't work. The cycle continued (luckily, I was either good or my friends stunk at racquetball).

Fast forward to 2001. Madden online. Wow. What great times! Same cycle. I'd get mad about a play, a loss, or any other stupid thing (sometimes it wasn't even online, but against the computer!). SLAM! Break the controller like it was a racket. This time, I was out more than $15 though. I didn't keep track of how many new controllers I had to buy, but I'm sure it was more than 2 dozen. What a stupid waste of money.

So when my son started playing games, I kept an eye out for any signs of similar anger issues. I wanted to nip them in the bud. Luckily, I didn't notice anything until he started playing Destiny. Probably because it was more competitive than Lego Star Wars or Disney Infinity. So that led to the forgotten rule:

If you get mad, either make yourself take a break -- or I will.

This rule has worked great. The first couple times, I had to make him take a break (obviously -- what gamer would voluntarily quit gaming?). After that, I only had to remind him to either calm down or I would make him take a break. The warning sufficed. Even once (a Saturday morning), he came upstairs and said he took his own break because he was getting mad. Perfect!

Here's my worry, though: what to do once this method doesn't work? What's Plan B? I'm really not sure. Eliminating gaming altogether is obviously an option, but doesn't address the real issue, which is anger management regarding competition. 

My personal epiphany (I don't break controllers or rackets anymore) came through my faith. It worked better for me than any other solution could have, but I realize it's not everyone's first choice. So what are your methods for dealing with anger? Not just for yourself, but with your children?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

First Post: House Rules

My family was a gaming family from the first week. I met my wife and heard all this World of Warcraft stuff. That was her world. I was coming from Madden and SOCOM. I figured if I tried this WOW thing out it would help get me some brownie points with the cute girl I had just started dating. Thus started a 5 year WOW journey.

Fast forward to present, and our 6 year old son is a gamer as well. He started with Wii (of course) and moved onto the Lego games. My 16 year old stepson introduced me to Destiny, and I got hooked. So while Kniteryderr (the 16 year old) and I would play Destiny, my 6 year old (Monkeyami) would watch.

The day Monkeyami asked if he could play Destiny, my wife (Tatii in WOW, but she's not on PSN) and I had a decision to make. Should we let him play a game rated T? Much like deciding on what TV shows or movies to watch, the rating meant less than the content. Destiny, in case you aren't familiar, is a first person shooter. There is no gore (blood etc) or bad language and the violence involves shooting aliens. Given this, we thought it would be OK to let him play while we were with him. This led to the first house rule:

1. You don't talk about Destiny outside of the house.

Why was this important? Because we didn't need him mentioning Scout Rifles and Hand Cannons, let alone killing a Fallen or Hive Major, to people who didn't know what he was talking about. 

As he played, and got better, we started getting into watching YouTube videos. I made sure to check them out first because, as you can imagine, there are a lot that contain adult language and content. Our two favorites quickly became My Name Is Byf and True Vanguard. The content was excellent and I could be assured that there was no adult language (OK, Byf occasionally drops something). Byf ended up being our go to channgel for Destiny Lore, and True Vanguard for Player vs Player gameplay.

As his gameplay developed, we added a couple more rules.

2. If you're in a fireteam, be a team player.

Don't goof off exploring the environment if other people were counting on you to do a mission. 

3. You're not allowed to have friends, message people, or talk on headset.

No brainer! He now has 4 friends. One of them is me. One of them is a member of my own clan so that I was able to find the raid group when I played on Monkeyami. His first "real" friend was an 8 year old boy whose parents are in my clan. His fourth friend is "Teriyaki" who added him in order to get him in Trials of Osiris. The only time he's ever been on headset is a story that comes in our next post. :)

4. Playing video games is not a right. You earn your gametime.

All homework has to be done. All chores done. If you give mommy or daddy attitude, you lose your gametime for the day. If you don't sleep in your bed, you don't get to play the next day. Etc. 

5. Always play supervised.

This started as a no exceptions rule, but as we've watched him play and he's gained our trust, we relax it every now and then. Mainly on Saturday mornings when he's awake before us and we want to keep sleeping. This is the ONLY time we use the Playstation as a babysitter. :)

So Monkeyami has gained a bit of fame for a couple days due to his gameplay with his hero True Vanguard. That's what led to this blog, but instead of starting with that story, I wanted to start this blog with our house rules. Because that's the right way to do things. 

Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment on how your family games together. Is it a family affair? How have you successfully worked gaming into relationships? That's where I would like this blog to go -- accentuate the positives of gaming!