The other night I had an epiphany, it was a wonderful moment. I entered a dungeon to tank on Sedagive, my death knight, and made my usual greetings to the group (my parents always imparted on me the importance of greeting others in order to acknowledge their existence). Immediately, one person in the group chimes in: “Hello all, this is my son’s first time running a dungeon, please don’t kick him, he is a noob.” I took notice of guild and server names and realized that the dungeon group was comprised of me, a friend of mine, and a family.

I asked which was the son, so that I could be careful with him pulling aggro. I let them know that it was fine and I would only pull small mobs and watch the pace. The dungeon took about 15 extra minutes, but it was worth it — family time should not be rushed. It dawned on me that World of Warcraft and other games might be the new manner for families to gather around and engage in good old family time.

When I was a kid, it was rare that there would be more than one television in the house. The TV was a place around which the family would gather. Prior to that, it was the radio. Some time in the mid 80s something happened, though. With the advent of cable, TV’s got really cheap and found their way in to multiple rooms. When that happened, families began to split apart. Moreover, around the same time, life got more expensive in other areas and both parents found themselves needing to work to make ends meet – the American Dream stopped being a dream and became a fantasy, one difficult to meet, but families felt the need to pursue. In doing so, families began to split apart and they soon lead individual lives. But, MMO’s may be bringing families back together.

But first an important commercial break:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAf98_rVuwE

Notice at the end, how the family is not communicating at all. Mom and dad are in the front smiling while their kids are in the back like zombies, nice and quiet. Car trips used to be a time for families to talk and voyage — that is, adventure together. But, the American Fantasy changed that, the fantasy pushed families apart, and many industries in our society further fostered that disconnect.

A couple of stories:

A few weeks ago when I was leveling my mage, I partnered up with a random player to get quests done a bit more quickly. The other player asked me if I knew a few in-game characters and throws out a few names. I knew them all – they were in my guild. She then let me know that two are her parents and one is her uncle.

Many moons ago I was in a guild where I was the rare person not in the Army. The Army families were using the game as a manner to keep in touch and do something together while one spouse was overseas, stationed in Korea (I send this note out to Dave: Good luck in Afghanistan, my thoughts are with you, bud). It was a steadfast rule that every Friday was “Date night” for one couple and you never got in their way when they were playing – unless they wanted to group up for a dungeon or raid.

Well before the Army guild, there was this guy I joined with a lot, who often had both his son and daughter on at the same time, playing together.

There was also the tandem of two brothers: one healing and one tanking, often, mom or dad would be on DPS.

It really became clear to me when I was looking to publish an essay I had written about World of Warcraft and why I play. In my search, I ran across other essays that pointed out that many families separated from moving on and the like, use the game as a means of communication and doing something together. One of these essays I read was written by the grandmother, writing about how she is able to be a part of her children and grand children’s lives through WoW.

world of warcraft mohawk group

Thinking about the commercial above, family road trips were meant to be a time for adventure. A time for families to gather in the car and hit the road to see America. But, as noted above in the commercial, the car has become a place where each person can isolate him or herself in their own little world. What is missing here — and throughout much of our culture — is finding its way into WoW and other MMORPG’s is that sense of family adventure. In my adventures throughout Azeroth, I am seeing more families playing and questing together. Adventuring together.

Moreover, as I have written before, WoW can teach children some important life lessons: cooperation, tenacity to get it done, some problem solving skills, politeness, seeing success in failure, and so on. Imagine what children can learn, though, without parents and grand parents being involved. Most psychologists lay out guidelines for families gaming together: simple ideas like being in the same room (if possible) and selecting games they feel appropriate for their family, among others. Most important, though, is to share in both the game and adventure together.

In the summer I don’t focus on WoW as easily because I play outside on my laptop. I get distracted by watching the birds and other critters that make their way onto the porch or in the yard. Sadly, what I don’t get distracted by is the noise of kids playing in the streets or the park that is less than 100 yards away in the middle of my neighborhood. Most kids are inside either watching TV or playing a video game. If families are going to stay inside rather than enjoy the beauty of a Colorado summer day or evening, I hope that they are at least together.

Family time is meant for connection and growth, unfortunately, from many of my students I see that there is little connection within their families. When I was a kid, you would be hard-pressed to drive down the street without breaking up a game of kickball or some other activity. Often, dad would be pitching and mom catching with kids in the outfield; another family would be kicking the ball. While not an adventure, they were together. If we are going to stay inside, WoW can be a moment to recapture that sense of family time and play together.

So, when it was announced that there was a kid in the group, I smiled, because I knew that these three people were sitting together and doing what families should do: playing and adventuring as a family.

What about you? Do you play with family members? Do you see WoW or other games as a means of re-uniting families?

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