Growing into Online Gaming.
After some initial hiccups and the occasional breakdown, Online gaming is now undeniably a part of the passion we love. Games and the online space are now joined at the virtual hip in such a way that it would be impossible to separate the two. This joining has brought with it many wondrous additions to how we enjoy games, additions like multiplayer, content updates and gameplay improvements. However, it does have its pitfalls with things like toxic online interactions and hostile gaming communities. As a parent, it is these problems that worry me most about the online space and until now has been the reason my kids are not allowed to play online.
However, thanks to my recent purchase of a PS4 Pro, my kids now have a shiny hand-me-down PS4 to call their own and due to the nature of the current console cycle going online with the PS4 is almost unavoidable. I am now faced with the daunting task of introducing my eldest to this wonderfully exciting, yet incredibly toxic area of gaming and I am more than a little worried about how I should approach it.
The first little bitch and moan I have is about the PS4 architecture its self. I can’t share my PS Plus subscription with a second PS4 easily (It can be done but it is hardly an elegant solution). This means, for sake of convenience if nothing else, that my kids need to get their own PS Plus sub. So my first move was to make the boys a deal. They need to pay for their own subscription. Nothing like a little parental blackmail to encourage the kids to do their jobs and earn some pocket money right? They seem cool with this as they like the idea of a couple of new games hitting their console every month and of course, it means they can finally tackle their friends in the online space.
So with my kids madly emptying the dishwasher and sweeping the floor, it is only a matter of time before they have earned enough money to go online and that is where the real trouble starts. I now have to decide what games they are allowed to play online and what games are out of bounds. There are a couple of things I need to consider here. What is the community like, how difficult the game is and how likely are my boys going to be exposed to some of the online space’s more toxic elements? Honestly, I am rather worried about this step, I am sure I don’t have to tell you all how horrible the online space can be. For every great match or round there seems to be another filled with festering humans spitting bile at other players for not doing what they think is essential. The problem is I know my eldest will be a target for this sort of vitriol because, by dint of being 12, he isn’t very good at a lot of games. That lack of skill equals a big bulls-eye painted on his back for abuse.
So where do I start them out? My first thought of Overwatch is quickly dismissed because while the content is appropriate for a 12-year-old, the community isn’t. God, I would hate to imagine the abuse a naive kid who just wants to shoot some ice at someone would get for not being “on point” or “defending the objective”. I also contemplated letting him play Battlefront, however with the second one around the corner and the choppy way the game was released only the hardest of hardcore are still playing this one and he would be eaten alive in the online space.
One game I thought of has huge potential though and that game is, believe it or not, Destiny. Destiny seems to me like the perfect introduction to online gaming. It has a large open world that my boy can just cruise around in and improve his skills, it is largely co-op focused (taking the crucible out of the equation) and there is a mountain of content that can be completed without any online interactions at all. The other thing that I like about Destiny for a younger one is that unless he is teamed up in a party, there is no voice chat. So the worst that anyone can do to him is dance like a weirdo in front of him. The other great thing about Destiny is that I can team up with him and join him on his crusade to destroy the arch-baddie and rescue the galaxy.
There are some other choices that are appropriate, Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is an obvious choice, but Destiny feels like the perfect compromise and welcome to online gaming. It is basically an adult game, which is super important to a 12-year-old boy, yet there is nothing in it content wise that is inappropriate. It also encourages teamwork and gives players with low skill levels the ability to feel like they are still contributing towards the goal. The key point though is it does this without subjecting players to abuse from douche bags and that is the most important part.
So while I am scared stupid about what my kids are going to find in the online world, I don’t think I can hold off any longer. So it is with a worried expression and a copy of Destiny that I usher my kids into the next step of their gaming lives. I will be watching closely and making sure that they don’t turn into one of those people that ruin the experience for others, but apart from that this is a step they need to make on their own. They will die, they will get abused and they will get frustrated, but hopefully, they will have a lot of fun doing it. Welcome to online gaming my boy, have fun but don’t say your dear old Dad didn’t warn you.