Much of online gaming revolves around individuals working together to achieve a common goal. And like any team activity, you have a responsibility to be a present and useful member of your group. You cannot just walk away. If you’re going to play online you have to be ready to finish what you started.
My kid is about to be 14, and is starting to try out gaming online in Monster Hunter World. The rules of gaming change when your kid is ready to start playing online. For us. The parents. We have to adapt and change when our kids are ready to start trying on adulthood. We have to let go and let our kids manage themselves while we act as counselors.
What Parents Need to Know
When the eldest was little, I made sure our kids played quality games, didn’t spend too long playing them, played fairly when they were playing games with their friends, and took a break before they got overly frustrated at a game. Now that he is older, I have to give him room to try managing all those things himself.
When he was playing by himself or with friends in couch co-op, I could always tell them it was time to wrap up a game. But I can’t do that when he plays online. My kid can no longer just up and quit a game whenever I ask. He is now responsible to the other teammates he is playing with. If he is in a mission he cannot pause the game or leave the group. No one will want to team up with the player who leaves mid-mission to go eat dinner. That is not how adults handle things.
When our kids play online, we must remember that they are now a part of a team or group and as such have made a commitment to them. They must be allowed to finish what they started. We must let our kids to learn to manage their own time. They will have spectacular failures, but as my eldest likes to say, “I screw up here at home so I don’t fall on my face in the real world.”
What did I teach my eldest before he started gaming online?
You Must Finish Your Mission
There are going to be times when a mission slogs on and becomes boring as all get out. You can’t quit. You have to see the mission through to the end. Your teammates are likely just as bored and fed up with the mission as you are. Remember your commitment to them and finish what you started together.
There are going to be times when the leaders of your group bicker and fuss with your teammates. You can’t leave no matter how annoying they are. Some people are just not meant to be leaders. Recognize that these people probably fall in that category. Leaders don’t harass teammates. You don’t have to party with them again, but you do have to complete the quest you started with them.
There are going to be times when your mission fails and someone restarts the mission without giving people the chance to leave the group. If you have time and want to continue the mission, go ahead. But if you do not have time, by all means, gracefully let the group know you didn’t agree to retry the mission and leave. Good leaders will check in to make sure people don’t need to refresh their healing supplies or change weapons/character builds or even have a trip to the bathroom. If they don’t, then that is their mistake not yours.
You Cannot Pause a Live Game
Unless you are playing online by yourself, you can’t just walk away from your game and come back in a few minutes. There is no pause button in an online game. It is a live game. Time keeps moving forward. The first time you leave your character in a game and walk away to get a drink or use the bathroom and come back to find your character dead, you will learn that lesson.
If you are in the middle of something with a group and an emergency comes up and you need to walk away from the game, you need to communicate with your team. Let them know you have to go AFK (Away From Keyboard) and then try to park your character some place where you won’t be attacked. If your team asks why you need to go AFK, be honest without giving any personal information. Most anything can be covered with “bathroom”, though try to manage that activity before you start a mission. If you don’t tell your teammates you are AFK, they may just leave you where you are and move on, leaving your character open to attack. That is your natural consequence for not being a good teammate and communicating with them.
Everyone who plays online has internet issues at some point. People are understanding when you get kicked offline. It’s so common that many games have ways to rejoin your group built into their game. Always try to get back in the game and let your teammates know what happened. If your internet connection goes out multiple times in a short time period you might just tell them your internet is not cooperating and call it a session. People will understand. And if they don’t, you don’t want to play with them anyways.
Manage Your Time
Don’t start a mission that will take 30 minutes if you know you only have 10. If you only have time for one round of the mission your group wants to do, tell them ahead of time. They may choose to not have you come with them because they want to do the mission multiple times. And that’s ok. They are not rejecting you, they are just finding the best fit for what they want to accomplish.
Sometimes in a mission things go sideways and take way longer to finish than they were supposed to. If that happens, tell me. Unless you have to be at the school for a band concert in five minutes, I will understand. Finish the mission. Sticking with a messed up mission to the end shows your character. And sometimes these are the funniest memories. Like the time I spilled a soda on my keyboard when I was leading an Underworld mission Guild Wars. My character could only throw off one attack and spun for the rest of the time. But I hung in there and guided everyone till we got our mission accomplished. And it was hilarious.
No Rage Quitting
I know that you are a teenager. You have tons of pressure from school, your social life, and your changing body and mind. Sometimes it’s hard to keep all of those pressures from causing a boil over. Don’t carry that into an online game with you. Please understand that rage quitting is unacceptable. It was never acceptable when you got frustrated by a game when you were little. It is not acceptable now. This is not something stable adults do. Oh we feel frustrated and we feel strong emotions, but the difference is adults know when to take a break. And if we become overwhelmed by our emotions, we make sure to finished what we started before we take our leave. When you’ve made a commitment to other people that’s what you do.
Now I’m not telling you to stay in toxic situation. If the team you’re in has gone toxic beyond repair, you don’t need to feel responsible to them. As long as you are not being attacked I recommend going silent, finishing the mission, and then blocking and/or reporting the player(s) who was being offensive. If you are being verbally attacked and there is no one in that group who you would want to play with again, you have the right to leave. Then block/report as necessary.
Playing Online With Your Real Life Friends
I hope you get to experience this sooner than later. Playing online with your real life friends is fantastic. You already have an established group dynamic. Things are easier to negotiate. Your friends are more forgiving of small mistakes. Laughter comes more easily and more often. This is really one of those life experiences I want you to have. When you’re playing online with your friends you will naturally feel committed to finishing whatever mission you start. There will also be an easier understanding if you need to leave. When it comes to partying up online with friends, the bare bones of this lesson of Finish What You Started is all you need.
Guide to Raising Responsible Gamers
As our eldest goes online, I’ll be sharing with you the lessons I gave him about online gaming. At times these lessons will be from something that happened to him online. You can find these lessons linked under the Parent Page for the Guide to Raising Responsible Gamers series. I hope you find our journey into online gaming helpful for your own family.