Gaming Culture is Taking Over: What Parents Can Do

Ready or not, gamers are modernizing traditional societies

What to Know

  • Gaming culture is no longer owned by the introverts of the world and younger generations are using it to their advantage.
  • All kinds of people stuck at home during the pandemic are discovering the joys of being part of a gaming community.
  • Parents can keep kids safe in these communities by changing their own behaviors and becoming more involved in gaming.

When Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (aka AOC), two U.S. Representatives, invited gamers to play with them on Twitch in a game of Among Us, Baby Boomers rolled their eyes. In fact, most people probably did the same... except Millennials, Gen Z (and younger Gen Xers), and those who pay attention to those generations.

What is Gaming Culture?

Gaming culture is, in short, a world in which people who enjoy video games band together to form communities with others who understand the appeal of gaming.

Most people tend to think of 'gamers' as odd young men in hoodies hunkered down in basements playing violent video games who then venture out to shoot up schools and create mayhem on the streets. That's only been the case in a few random situations but the myth has persisted, probably in response to the psychological professionals who have expounded heavily on the notion that video games wreck young brains.

But just like any other culture, it's really a group of people who perform numerous activities in life and come together through a shared passion. Gamers have customs unique to the games they play, take pride in the accomplishments they achieve in the games, work together to beat enemies, and create social groups that understand and, in many ways, police themselves to create safe places to come together.

During a pandemic what could be more natural, really, than people coming together online in a fun environment when they can't do it in person?

Nothing unusual about that, especially when you think about gaming culture in terms of how cultures evolve over time. Shared values, global communities, solidarity, and more concepts are all at play currently to help this movement take hold.

How the Culture Has Evolved

Gaming culture today has moved far beyond the basement. While war games do still tend to dominate the video game industry, other avenues involving eSports competitions, Minecraft servers used by schools to teach teamwork, math, and science, and streaming services like Twitch have evolved to create communities where recent generations of kids learn to work with one another and create true friendships, both online and in person.

With the Congresswomen's savvy foray into the culture to encourage voting among the younger generation, gaming culture effectively stepped out into the forefront as a force that is here to stay. Gamers responded to the call in staggering numbers, happy to be recognized but, more importantly, ready to play and show the rest of the world how quick and easy it is to apply gaming societal mores to a larger society in general.

The choice of the game Among Us, which is a community-based game where players attempt to root out the imposter among them, was an obvious choice to encourage voter participation. As the game is played, murders occur and community members must collaborate to vote out the player they think is creating problems for the group.

Just watching AOC and Omar play helped people realize that a simple game of murder, task management, and voting could be pure, simple fun. During a pandemic what could be more natural, really, than people coming together online in a fun environment when they can't do it in person at a sporting event, concert, or movie theater?

Post-pandemic, the joys and common experiences of gaming will continue to bind people together.

In one evening, today's true gaming culture was exposed by the hundreds of thousands of people who joined together to simply enjoy life and apply basic gaming concepts of teamwork, careful thought, and hard work to vanquish an enemy. If you think these generations aren't applying these same skills to real-life, you're not giving them enough credit to think for themselves.

Toxic vs. Healthy Gaming Cultures Do Exist

There will always be the weirdos online who attempt to contact children and take things beyond the norm into dangerous territory. No one should ever pooh-pooh that as nonexistent. These people are similar to the ones you read about on the evening news who kidnapped a child in broad daylight or run child trafficking rings. These dangers should always be taken seriously, whether in person or online.

More frequently, parents should worry most about the toxicity of online chats where bullies can hide behind screens and type insidious comments into simple conversations.

It can become scary for kids who don't know where the "report" button is in the chat or who are afraid to tell mom or dad that someone is saying bad things to them online. (That fear primarily exists in terms of 'now they'll take this game away from me.')

Just like any other toxic situation a child might encounter, gaming will probably have an online version of it in some way. Stay watchful but, more importantly, stay open and engage with your child frequently about the game and who they are playing with.

Family playing video games together
andresr/E+/Getty Images 

How to Keep Kids Safe When Gaming

While online dangers do exist, of course, more and more parents are discovering that embracing gaming can be instructional, informative, and even entertaining for families. Some research indicates that video gaming can actually improve cognitive function in the brain regions responsible for spatial orientation, memory formation, strategic planning, and fine motor skills.

Just like barring kids from watching TV doesn't stop them from sneaking in forbidden shows or growing up to become avid TV watchers, it's important to work with children to set limits on time or find games that help them learn the skills you feel are appropriate for the real world. Every child is different; your parental judgment should always be the final decision.

Here are some tips we've learned about video games and kids:

  • Ask your kids to show you where the 'report player' button is and find it together if they don't know.
  • Discuss the types of situations where players should be reported and reward your kids when they tell you about a player they reported. You're not raising a snitch; you're raising a child who can defend themselves and recognize a toxic situation when they see it.
  • Watch your kids play the game. Most kids will be pleasantly surprised that you're interested and will happily show you the ins and outs of the game.
  • Play the game yourself. Your kids will enjoy watching you and likely be happy to give you plenty of tips as you do.
  • Buy them games that teach cooperation and teamwork. Minecraft, Lego Worlds, Animal Crossing, and similar games all do this and can be played either independently or with others.
  • Give older kids some leeway to play games that might seem a little scary; don't automatically dismiss the game they want. Among Us, for example, involves murder and is exploding in popularity. We didn't want to let our kids play until we finally played it ourselves and understood that the overall concepts it was teaching weren't harmful (or gory) at all.

Gaming culture is here to stay and today's kids are not going to escape it, nor do they want to. The parenting trick to learn is how to stay involved with it, understand how it's impacting your own child, and when to dial it up or down for your own family.

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