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Some families find a way to make videogaming a part of their lifestyle. It's very common for parents to get involved in other activities their kids might choose, like sports or theater. Whether we see videogaming as an equivalent interest or not, if our kids are into it, we can make more of an effort to do it with them. I knew of a number of parent-child teams like this in World of Warcraft, where the parent's presence had the extra benefit of providing some oversight and mediation for a teenager. Some of the parents were actually pretty good players too.

Playing games with your kids can help parents see past some of the stereotypes about the hobby. Is the violence really that much more graphic and disturbing than what kids see on TV? Do gamers really treat each other with nastiness and disrespect most of the time? I think the obvious answers to these questions would settle many parents down. I also think gaming as a way to connect with your kids, rather than simply permitting it to get a break from them, makes it less likely it will become something they do to avoid you.

Gamers and the non-gamers need to aspire to a better dialogue with more trust and mutual understanding. This means listening when someone who cares about you thinks you are playing too much. A great deal of anger at gaming is generated when such feedback is ignored. It also means understanding that the pleasures and challenges of this hobby can be a fun and worthwhile diversion, even if you don't like playing yourself.

We parents have a long history of not accepting what young folks like to do. If something seems foreign and strange to us, we reflexively assume it must be dangerous. This is the essence of the generation gap. Something new may "destroy memory and weaken the mind, relieving it of work that makes it strong." This sentiment captures what many parents think about technology today, but it is a statement Plato attributed to Socrates in 370 BC in the Phaedrus, and it refers to a newly popular technology of the time called writing. If youths can survive the advent of writing, the printing press, the telephone, the television, the internet, and countless other technological innovations, they can certainly survive videogaming and whatever comes after it, whether parents like it or not.

In fact, I do not believe it is folly to hope, with Jane McGonigal of the Institute for the Future that this medium may eventually evolve into something that continues to be entertaining, but also provides opportunities for collaborative, creative problem solving that might positively affect what happens in the real world. Now that's something Socrates probably would never have imagined!

Dr. Mark Kline thought Char was a mild-flavored North Atlantic fish before playing Starcraft II. Have a question for Dr. Mark? Send it to askdrmark@escapistmag.com. Your identity will remain confidential.

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