I had the pleasure yesterday of meeting the most adorable little boy. He was with his mom in the store buying clothes for school. As his mom came up to the counter to pay for the merchandise, he fiddled away the time playing on his DSI. I asked him what game he was playing. He told me Pokemon. I asked him which Pokemon game he was playing and this led into a lengthy conversation about the various games, Pokemon he had caught, and the Pokemon TV series. As his mom gathered up her purchase and they turned to leave, I overheard him tell her in an excited whisper, "See mom! Even adults play Pokemon!" Her response was, "You should be more worried about other things, like school coming up." I gave a slight sigh knowing that once, a long time ago, I was like her.
Remember when Pokemon was all the craze? Children drove their parents nuts about the game. Some schools banned kids from bringing their Game Boys into class. My own children talked nonstop about the game to a point where I thought I would go mad. Then came the day my daughter found out about a Pokemon league they were having at our local Toys-R-Us. She begged us to take her. My husband at the time told her that Pokemon was just a silly game, and her grandmother told her she'd buy her a Barbie instead. So it happened that on a cold day in November, at 9 am, I found myself standing outside of Toys-R-Us in a line of boys that extended way into the parking lot. Freezing and not wanting to be there, I told my daughter that there were no girls standing in line, and perhaps this wasn't something she really should do. I then tried to convince her to leave and take her grandmother up on the Barbie offer.
My daughter looked up at me with her big blue eyes and said, "Why can't I be here just because I'm a girl? And you know I don't like Barbie."
I realized at that point that I had just contradicted everything I believed in - and everything I had tried to teach my daughter. I had just told her that because she was a girl, she shouldn't do something which she loved. Instead I had tried to push her into something that was more 'girly' because I didn't want to stand there in the cold. Teaching your children to be individuals and follow their passions doesn't work if it only comes at your convenience.
How many times have you seen parents contradict themselves? We spend so much time teaching our children to do the right thing, and so little time realizing we don't always follow our own rules. The say if you ever want to truly see yourself, then take a look at your children. The way we interact with people, the way we handle problems - these are the things that children pay attention to. You could tell your child to be honest, but if you're not it's that action your child will learn from. Not your words. A friend questioned me the other day about why I enjoyed playing video games with my children. She told me that when her son plays she sends him off to his bedroom because she can't stand to listen to it. She found it odd that I enjoyed it. I found it odd that she didn't want to participate in her son's activity. For me, as a parent, games have been a mirror to see myself reflected through my children's eyes. That's why I have a hard time understanding someone with her view.
Fast forward several years forward from the Pokemon craze to when my daughter was a teenager. She and I had just started enjoying multiplayer in Call of Duty, and on this night I had just finished up a match with some friends and jumped into a party with random people. I was greeted with a female voice stating how she was going to lead in points, followed by her making vulgar remarks about turning on the guys. I remember rolling my eyes and thinking to myself oh, another one
. For some reason I made it my personal mission to show her up. Maybe it was because, in my mind, she represented everything that was wrong with how female gamers where viewed. Maybe I just had a bad day. I hunted this poor girl down throughout the entire game, ignoring other players that I could have scored points on. By the end of the match I was in second place. She was at the bottom. She quickly left the lobby. I had succeeded at showing her a female player could play the game without announcing the fact to the group, and without flirting just to get attention. My daughter had been in the room watching me the entire time.
"Congratulations, mom," she said. "I just watched you transform into every jackass player I've ever run into during a game." And with that she walked out of the room.
She was right. Once again I had contradicted myself and what I had taught her. I should have played the game the way I normally would have, by not targeting this poor girl, but instead by going after every member of the opposing team. My daughter wasn't beside me cheering me on, but scolding me and letting me know my actions were upsetting and unappealing to her.
We later had a more in-depth conversation about what had happened. It wasn't the game that brought out a bad side to me, but my feelings about how women players are treated, and this girl was setting a bad example of female players, which to me only encouraged the guys to continue harassing us. Although my daughter didn't agree with how the young lady had acted, she felt my actions were no different from the guys in the game giving a female player problems because she was that, a female player.
I don't find violence or sexual content in video games a threat to my children, in fact, we've had some of our more serious conversations after playing video games. Take the airport scene in Modern Warfare, or the romance scenes in Dragon Age with the inclusion to be able to choose a same sex partner. What about Duke Nukem? These games have opened up topics for us to discuss and it's given me a good view of not only my children's thoughts over them, but it's opened up a window for me to see how I've raised them.
When you don't want to take the time to learn about something, then I suppose it's easier to point your finger to something else as the blame. The friend who questioned me about playing games with my children brought up the topic because she was upset with the fact that I had on a Call of Duty t-shirt. I shouldn't have to explain why with all the media about it the past week. She was worried that my son would be effected by the game. Again, I found it odd she would care - considering she sent her child off into the other room so it wouldn't be an annoyance. And my son? Although he's watched us play several different FPS, he doesn't like them. He tells me that it just isn't his thing. He'd rather play Mario, Kirby, or any other platform game. It doesn't matter that his friends enjoy FPS. He's into his own thing, and that's perfectly fine. I don't follow statistics much, and I can't change what other parent's think. I can only share my own experiences, and perhaps I can somehow be an example of the good side of video games. I enjoy seeing what's on the other side of the mirror. Everyone else can stay on the safe side if they like, wearing their rose colored glasses.