Saturday, September 24, 2011

Digital Mentors

For months now I have jokingly called myself a Black Ops Widow. While My husband's playing gives me the time to work, I am noticing that it gives the people he plays with something else. Socially, the game fulfills the needs of belonging, significance, and fun for him and the others in his clan (the team he's on). There are two kids between the ages of 13 and 17 in the clan and since August the two teenagers have been back to school which decreases their play time. I enjoy hearing snippets of the conversations the clan engages in with these teenagers.

Daily they ask them about school, their classes, homework load, etc. They are always encouraging them to stay in school when the kids complain about the work. And they give them a hard time if their homework is not done and they are playing. These two kids are pretty valuable teammates, but they encourage them to come back after their homework is done.

Recently, one of the clan kids was grounded and could not play for a couple of weeks. He was grounded because he was supposed to be cleaning his room and instead chose to play Black Ops. I clearly remember the day he was supposed to be cleaning his room because my husband and the other adults in the clan told him repeatedly to get off the game and clean his room like he was supposed to. And when he told the clan why he wasn't on, they surely told him that he was missed, but that next time he needs to take care of his chores.

But I also hear them coaching the kids about their social skills. They often tell the kids to speak clearly and loudly. While a big deal of the conversation is ribbing and joking, there are times when they have to tell the kids to watch the language they use (the adults only swear when the kids are not playing). Some kids who are not a part of the clan, but often join in playing use some pretty racial language and the adults give them pretty clear expectations: either stop using that language or you're not playing with us. Typically it works and those kids often come back to play with them again.

While I've been thinking about this post for a couple of days, today is the first day I've had time to sit down and write it. Sadly, my heart broke for my husband and the other clan members when they were rendered powerless last night. One of the kids told them that his mother physically abuses him. I could tell this was a serious statement in the way my husband looked at me and how the tone and confidence of his voice changed (the conversation started pretty jovial as it usually does). None of them knew what to say to the teen. But they are able to provide him with this place, this space, this small community.

When engaging in online multi-player games the opportunities to 'meet' people from all around the world are endless. There are different socio-economic backgrounds, different cultures, various ages and genders, and different languages. Oddly, it comes down to one thing - relationships. I wonder what they'll do when Call of Duty releases a new version of their game. It is likely to happen and I do hear the clan talk about it now and then. And while it is 'just a game' I'm not sure any of these clan members' lives would have been the same had they not 'known' each other.


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