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My pre-teen son has become very enamored of an online game called World of Warcraft. We have friends whose child is somewhat obsessed with this game. I am getting a lot of pressure from my children to say okay and let them play at home, buy the cd, let them have an account, etc. I think the name of it bothers me the most - however, as my son pointed out, that is pretty much judging a book by its cover! Does anyone have any experience with this game? Is it as awful as it sounds, or is it pretty benign? Pros, cons, any thoughts would be welcome. Thank you. Melissa
My teenaged son and his friends have discovered a game called World of Warcraft. Is anyone familiar with this game? I was told this morning by another parent that it is considered such an addictive game that she won't let her son buy it. It does seem to be pretty consuming. I'm also interested in what limitations other parents put on computer/TV use. We don't allow computer/TV use during the school week, unless it's homework. On the weekends we limit ''screen time'' to two hours per day. Our son says we are the most restrictive parents he knows. Any thoughts? Nontech Mom
Here's what our rules are: no gaming at all during the week, limited to 4 hours a day on weekends (that may seem like a lot but it can take that long to do a group mission.) He must stay on top of homework and his sports and music commitments, and his grades must stay up or his account gets cancelled. We had to cut him off once to help him get clear on the concept. But now he understands what he needs to do to keep gaming and has been doing a good job with prioritizing. As long as you're clear on how you want it to fit into your son's life, I think it will be fine. WOW Mom
The upside of that is that access to the game becomes a powerful incentive. Letting our son play anything on the computer as much as he wants to has obvious ill effects; making him do something worthwhile first and imposing a time limit causes some grousing but it's worth it.
The Warcraft genre is violent, but in a cartoonish way -- the player's perspective is not from behind a weapon, as in "first-person shooter" games, but from above the field of play. For what it's worth, unrestrained violence is not a winning strategy; a player must consider his resources, make allies, and so forth. Playing Warcraft hasn't made our kid violent. --John
But I have one concern I'd like to ask those of you whose kids use it about: earlier, when my son wanted to sign up for XBox live, I did some online research and came across many adult users complaining about the level of foul and abusive chat happening during games with others on the system. That made me say no. Does this happen with Wow? Are there any system filters that would help prevent that kind of thing? Has it been a problem for anyone? Thanks! anne
Before I go on, let me say that I take the issue seriously, and I don't think it is susceptible of simple, easy answers one way or the other. As those who know me or have read others of my posts will attest, I'm a rather conservative parent and not one who believes that whatever kids want or do is ok. I also want to say that I don’t intend any disrespect or sarcasm towards other views. If I’ve trodden upon anyone’s toes, please forgive me: it was inadvertent and I apologize sincerely.
I've got two sons (20 and 14) who play World of Warcraft (WOW) and other computer games. My older son was a (volunteer) beta tester for WOW. I have struggled with the issue of my childrens' involvement with these games for a number of years. For what it's worth, here's the view I've come to.
First, let's not debase the meaning of ''addictive.'' Its base meaning is ''Compulsive physiological and psychological need for a habit-forming substance: e.g., 'heroin addiction.''' No computer game remotely fits that definition.
A secondary meaning of ''addiction'' loosely refers to ''The condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or or involved in something, e.g., 'an addiction for fast cars.''' At most, that subordinate meaning is appropriate in the case of individuals who have a pre-existing disposition to extremes of compulsive behavior. It is by no means appropriate as a description of computer/video gaming in general, nor of the relationship to such games of the vast majority of children and, increasingly, of adults. To label computer gaming ''addictive'' merely forestalls its thoughtful examination.
Kids are habitual and compulsive about play. That's not news, it's the state of nature. The question is, are video games different from other forms of play in ways that compel us as parents to approach them as we would approach truly addictive substances such as drugs or alcohol?
Plainly not. Video games do not kill brain cells -- in fact, the scientific evidence is that they improve and develop certain valuable brain functions. Nor do they carry the terrible physical consequences of addiction: they do not destroy livers or lungs; they do not carry the risks of HIV or hepatitis. They do not create zombies living from one hit to the next. They do not cause the impairment of judgment and physical coordination that leads to life-threatening behaviors like drunken driving. They do not depress heart and brain function to the point of death from sedation. They do not kill their users.
Because of generational differences, we parents inevitably view the gaming phenomenon from a position of limited knowledge. Would we say that our children were 'addicted' or 'compulsive' if they played chess or read books four or more hours a day? Probably not, because we are familiar with those activities and value them. Computer games are different because our generation(s) have little or no direct experience with them. In consequence, we don't know what they are like from the player’s perspective, nor do we have direct experience of their positive or negative effects. That's worth bearing in mind.
It's a struggle for parents (myself especially) to create order in their children’s' lives, especially the lives of teens. Computer games, WOW included, are one of many specific challenges we face in leading our children to a mature, balanced and healthy adulthood.
What parenting challenge does the video game phenomenon create? To me it comes down to one thing: balance. Given the choice, children will play rather than ''work.'' Yet they must work at things that we believe will be of long-term benefit -- studies, physical fitness, responsibility in family life and other areas reflecting our individual values. As parents we must find ways to bring balance to our children's lives, and to teach them the value of balance so that they become self-regulating.
There's nothing peculiar to WOW or other computer games that alters the nature of these challenges -- they exist no matter what our children’s' interests. I can't tell anyone else where to strike the balance; that is hard enough to discover in dealing with my own children. But I can tell you that what I've suggested above asks the right questions: is my child's life balanced, is he getting enough physical activity, is he keeping up with his schoolwork? And so on. Getting into a slanging match over whether he or she is ''addicted'' to a game is just foolish.
Now to World of Warcraft itself. One should not fear its content. Or, given that judgments about content involve personal values and taste, I should say that to me this game's content is not seriously violent or at all disturbing; in fact, it is rather mild. Movies such as ''Alien,'' “The Exorcist” and any horror film are far, far more disturbing. In fact I find them unendurable. Not so this or most other video games.
Most parents, I think, can safely trust most kids to draw the appropriate distinctions between gaming fantasy and life’s reality. There are exceptions of course, and you’ll know them when you see them. My trust in kids’ usual good sense doesn’t stop me from banning an offensively violent piece of trash ( “Gran Turismo: San Andreas” springs to mind.) But I find that most children and teens are reasonably sensible about such things. If they aren’t, any fault may lie elsewhere than in the game.
Warcraft's content is comparable to The Lord of the Rings. It is not a ''violent'' game any more than a mystery or suspense novel is ''violent.'' Unlike some games that I detest and (mostly successfully) ban, the combat (and thus ‘violence’) that occurs is sensorily mild, for lack of a better term. While combat is fundamental to WOW's ''warcraft'' theme and gameplay, neither it nor violence is the essence of its content or its appeal.
World of Warcraft’s true essence is fantasy, the quest, guilds of fellow creatures, imaginative role-playing. Unexpectedly, it instills the work ethic by requiring the player to work steadily and persistently over weeks and months towards a goal. It teaches TANSTAAFL: “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” (Thanks to Robert Heinlein for that wonderful invention.)
In visual detail, richness and imagination World of Warcraft is a stunning expression of a new art form. The open-minded may find it, as I have come to do, a formidable expression of creative genius. Or they may think I’m an idiot – reasonable minds can differ. Take a look at a copy of a book called ''The Art of Warcraft'' for a pale taste of the game's visual scope.
As I grow older I find, to my dismay, that I can fall into intellectual laziness and become fixed in my views. Yet for a thinking person this is a habit of mind devoutly to be avoided. To that end I suggest this line of thought: The creation of the personal computer is comparable to the invention of the printing press. Both created the conditions necessary for the emergence of a new creative form. This observation may horrify some, but from my vantage point that horror flows from a failure of vision and historical perspective. Just as the printing press was the precondition to development of the novel as an art form, so also the personal computer has been the wellspring of a new art form, one still in its infancy but redolent of future magnificence.
The video game is one expression of an emerging creative form in which multi-sensory participation directs the story line. Video games, and perhaps a broader art of story-playing they portend, are interactive, three-dimensional, engaging of the imagination, richly graphic and cinematically creative. From a critical perspective one may believe that none of these qualities is as fully developed or well executed as it might be, but that does not alter the essential point: this is a fundamentally new art form. If I’m right in that notion, we might be wise not to stifle our children’s experience of something that will grow to be a part of their world in ways that we can only dimly imagine.
Finally (and I know I do go on), interested readers might want to look at the first chapter (''Games'') of a recent book, ''Everything Bad Is Good For You,'' by Steven Johnson. I don't endorse or reject his arguments, but they are thoughtful and thought-provoking in the same way as Malcolm Gladwell's in ''The Tipping Point.'' Johnson concludes with this observation: ''What you actually do in playing a game -- the way your mind has to work -- is radically different [from what is commonly assumed to be the case.] [Game playing is] about finding order and meaning in the world, and making decisions that help create that order.''
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