You’re driving home, excited to see your kids after spending the day working hard to provide for them. You get home and other than a quick hello you find it difficult to get your child away from the computer screen.
You just don’t get it. What is it with these video games? You feel frustrated and don’t understand why they play these silly games. You feel overwhelmed because, although you try, it seems like no matter what you do, your child simply wants to keep playing more and more. What has happened to your son or daughter? Why are they so drawn to these video games?
I remember this situation well because I was this child. I even went so far as dropping out of high school twice and pretending to have jobs so I could continue to play more. My own breakthrough happened after living in Victoria, British Columbia for five months, where I had resumed playing video games — for up to 16 hours a day.
Prior to living in Victoria, I’d quit playing for 11 months; I thought I had a handle on my gaming problem. When I arrived back home in Calgary after my five-month stay in Victoria I was determined to figure out why I played video games and how to truly overcome this.
What I learned was there are four reasons why we play video games. These fulfill unmet needs we have for growth, contribution and community. By understanding why you or your kids play, you can have more power to move on. Here are the four reasons why a child or teenager plays video games:
Games are a Temporary Escape
We all need an escape sometimes and video games provide a great way to do just that. After a tough break-up at the age of 18 I was able to escape into games and avoid having to deal with the situation.
Games are Social
The games themselves are only the activity your child is participating in. The sense of community that games provide is one of the strongest reasons why your child plays as much as he or she does. If your child experiences any type of bullying or rejection at school — as I have — they are much more likely to find comfort in friends online.
Games are Challenging
Games give you a sense of purpose, a mission, a goal to work toward. This adds a level of meaning to your child’s life they may not be getting elsewhere. Games provide an achievement paradigm.
Games Provide Constant, Measurable Growth
When a child plays games he or she can see constant, measurable growth. This is a feedback loop: You get to see rewards for the effort you put in, both in the game and socially in the community. You get to see progress. In life it can be harder to see the progress you’re making, but in games you “level up.”
It’s so important to understand why your child plays games because this allows you to help them find these same benefits in other activities. It also allows you to come from a place of support and encouragement instead of judgment and frustration. Gamers are naturally defensive of their games and in order to have influence you need to have a trusting relationship with your child.
The next step is to start a conversation with your child about why they play games. I know you may have done this in the past, but this time I want you to come more from a place of curiosity, not judgment. Use the reasons I’ve detailed above as a compass and see how you can implement these motivations into their everyday life in other ways.