Click. Click. Click. I looked over at my dad, who was staring intently at his phone. Click. Click. Click. ‘Dad… what are you doing?’ ‘I’m playing a game.’ ‘A game?’ ‘Yep, a game.’
Such was the story of my recent trip to my parent’s house. I frequently stumbled across my dad, phone in hand, emanating that clicking sound.
It seems that my dad has in some small way become a gamer. My dad. A gamer. The same man who has never really been into technology, let alone games, captivated by some small colourful balls flying around his iPhone screen. Remarkable.
Yet the story seems to be the same for the nation at large, with roughly two-thirds of people playing some kind of game on a regular basis. This phenomenon is not restricted to adults; children are using games like never before.
I was chatting to a 12 year-old in my group recently, who is into ‘The Sims’. For the majority of her half-term break she had been positioned in front of her tablet device, nurturing and caring for her ‘Sims’. She certainly doesn’t fit the stereotype of a gamer, but then neither does my dad. And, increasingly, neither do the majority of people who actually play games. Because the reality is that there simply isn’t a stereotype anymore: the nerdy-middle-aged-man-with-greasyhair- and-no-social-life typecast of old is long gone. Gamers are everywhere. You may even be one yourself.
A common reaction to this surge in gaming interest is distrust, or maybe even fear. But, as Dr Bex Lewis explains in ‘Little Gamers’, we needn’t be afraid; there are many positives to gaming, including increased cognitive development, social understanding and respect for diversity in children growing up playing games. With the right protection and good boundaries, children can enjoy and flourish in the digital world.
You may disagree. I must admit that I feel a certain amount of apprehension about the future of digital use. Being a bit of a technological granny, I am a slow adopter of new things and would often rather opt-out than embrace digital developments. But I find it comforting to read the thoughts and advice from experts such as Bex, who have studied this stuff, and feel optimistic about the future.
The truth is that however we feel about gaming – enthusiastic, afraid or nonchalant – we cannot ignore it. Now is the time to draw effective boundaries and guidelines for the parents in your midst, and encourage a healthy engagement for the children in your groups with the games that they play.
As for my dad – I imagine it’s a similar story. The ball game, like gaming at large, is here to stay.
Click. Click. Click….