Earlier this year I wrote a blog and it was, comparatively, my most successful post I have had so like any self respecting brand/series/writer, I have opted to write a sequel!
I guess the thing about being a parent is that your situation changes constantly as the children grow up – its one of the joys of having them, so it is only natural that I would revisit my Gaming as a Parent post now nine months later as a lot has changed. In that time, the little gamer has returned to school, I have returned to work and the world has returned to something that resembles the new normal. As a result, the time allotted to games has changed as well meaning that it can be harder to get the time in to play the games, both together and solo meaning our experience at the end of 2021 is very different to the start. The influences on her from school have clearly played a huge part as well with her taste changing to a very particular, incredibly Playmobil-esque game which will remain un-named until further down lest I incur some sort of curse where my head becomes a cylinder and I become a toy. These reasons though are why I wanted to follow up on my last post as its incredible to see how quickly these things change and I can imagine will continue to change.
Before I go on I wanted to say that I really appreciate the support so far and if there is any aspect of Gaming as a Parent you want to hear about please let me know. As I said in the initial post, I am not here to tell you how to do it and I am more than likely way off the right approach but what I can do is tell you my experiences. I hope to learn as much from your feedback as much as you may be getting a little insight into my approach. With that out the way lets go…
The Arrival of
I was 20 when Minecraft was released and I loved it. The boundless creativity it offered which allowed you to have the adventure unique to you was a moment that early twenteen Ryan will always look fondly on. It was the perfect mix of simplistic controls and imagination that encouraged you to pick up and play, imprinting your own interpretation of the world around to build up your home. It is for this reason that even now, years later, I am still partial to picking it up and playing because despite the new content that has been added and the various game modes available to you, you can still just go old school and have your adventure. As mentioned before, the little one and I still dabble in the creative mode because it allows her to let her imagination run wild and she can create whatever she likes and I get the impression that this is a sentiment shared by countless other children and its why I actively encourage this game to be played with any budding young gamers. So when I heard that the kids in her class were on Roblox, I was initially quite excited because, from what I had heard it was just as much about encouraging imaginative thinking as Minecraft was. However, its not as clear cut as a ‘Playmobil Minecraft’ as you may be led to believe…
Don’t get me wrong it is not a bad game but it also isn’t what I would class as a game as we know it. For a non gaming parent, you aren’t likely to get it. For a gaming parent, you will more than likely be frustrated with it. Her want to try and play Roblox began long before her return to school as she was watching many child YouTubers play this game so when I said to her that she could create her account and play with her friends she was both incredibly excited but also much more clued up that I though so straight away she knew which servers she wanted to go to. However, after writing this sentence, I realise I may first need to step back and explain what Roblox is…
PSA – What is Roblox? Roblox actually predates Minecraft with it being released in 2006 but it has made much more of a resurgence in recent years. It is, by definition, a game but the description on the site itself describes it as ‘a global platform that brings people together through play’ whereas I would describe it more as what you get if Habbo Hotel (check it out) , MySpace and Minecraft had a baby after an uncomfortable one night stand and then no-one really knows which house it should live at. Essentially, you create an account and an Avatar and can then choose various games/servers to jump into and play whatever the game is. These games are created by people ranging from amateurs to pros and can be anything from roleplaying to survival games. You can simply play the games or you can create them or you can do both. The games can be played all for free although you can also buy the Roblox currency to buy cosmetics, additional access and more activities.
Now that I have tried to summarise what ‘a Roblox’ is I can get in to if it is a good game for my little one. Short answer – I don’t know. I can tell you that it encourages imaginative play as she has jumped into many roleplaying servers and spends hours on end running round relatively empty towns pretending to be a baby, a doctor and a robber all at the same time. You can do a lot in the games while simultaneously it is quite shallow, but I think that is where her imagination comes in. I created an account too so we can play together; sometimes we play tag and sometimes she is adopting me as a baby and then putting me down for a nap (not a sentence I thought I would write). A lot of the games that she seems to be drawn to are these ‘real life roleplaying games’ which I guess serve to replace the similar play she would have been doing with her dolls and Barbies. Since Roblox has appeared on the scene though, we have had to tell her to step away from the laptop from time to time to play with her toys as well so that she doesn’t become limited to the rules of the game and can instead continue to imagine her own worlds outside of the constraints of a programmed game. That is proving a little harder however she does do this but this comes back to the moderation point I’d previously made, albeit I have been a little more relaxed over the past week that I probably should have.
These roleplaying servers do do a good job of ‘replicating’ real life for a child. And by replicating, I use it loosely because it allows them to get a job and earn money; they can get a house, they can get a car etc but I wouldn’t say they get the crippling anxiety and aching body that comes with growing up. One thing that is quite handy on many of the servers is that they can earn currency (free currency, not Roblox currency) from working so there is a reason for them to work. As a result she can buy a new pram for her AI babies or a new bed for her AI pets but to do so she needs to work and save. I have taken this opportunity to teach her the concept of saving for something better; yes you can have that single pram now… or you can save a little longer and get the fancy two seater sort of argument. Initially there was a frustration because she wanted it now and, I imagine, in her own play with her Barbies, they probably would have just got what they wanted straight away, however now she is faced with the very real experience of having to work for something she wants. We replicate this anyway with pocket money but it does help enforce it when she can experience it in her sandbox. It actually made me consider installing the Sims for her because I believe that is something she would love to play however I think she’s still a little too young for that. Nonetheless, I think that there are some factors in here that are allowing her to experiment with very real world issues.
However, the nature of this being a sandbox play for everyone means that there is also plenty in here that is unsuitable for her. Luckily, as she is under 13, you can have parental locks on that hides anything deemed unsuitable for youngsters as well as various options for who can friend her, speak to her etc. On a game like this I think this is crucial because I can imagine it is so easy for this platform to be abused so those parental limits are a must. I have allowed her to look at all the games available as long as I can approve them first and luckily she is very good at asking permission first. That’s a good thing too because I very quickly came across a Squid Game game on there which, on the outside looks very colourful and fun but given I have watched the series it is not something I really want her playing. I think that for anyone under 13 this parental guidance is a must but what is slightly concerning is that this available to 13+ despite the series on Netflix being a 15? I am not a parent that is going to go on a crusade and ask for stricter restrictions etc, I am only here offering a warning – sense check the levels they are playing. I don’t know if there is a moderation and review of levels and I am unsure how these things are filtered out but I think it is prudent to know what they are playing.
PSA – Microtransactions. Word to the wise as well, make sure that you don’t set up your bank details to the accounts as there are a lot of prompts to buy stuff using the Roblox credits. Unsure if it is intentional or not but sometimes it can be vague as to what currency is needed and it appears that it can be very easy to purchase this with a few clicks of the mouse… stick to gift cards for topping the accounts up!
What I have found though, is that she is much more forthcoming if I play with her. It gives me a first hand look at the servers and games she’s jumping into and I think she feels better knowing I am there playing with her. It is not my sort of game, at least not the ones she plays, but there are some that we have had fun on. There are obstacle courses (Obbys) and the floor is lava which has allowed her to start playing with a mouse and keyboard for example as she learns to jump and scale (up until now most of her play has been on consoles) which are much more up my street than roleplaying as a baby. She has picked up the playing on a computer surprisingly well and her ability to platform on a 3D stage is impressive, even when using the touch pad on the laptop. I am actually a little scared that if she continues to play games she may even surpass me in ability… I dread to think.
As I have re-read this I have realised that this part of Gaming as a Parent was less about how you game as a parent and more an introduction to Roblox for Parents so in the next part I will be looking at how I play games while an inquisitive and nosy 7 year old pokes around in my business. However, the recent introduction of Roblox has been very enlightening to me, both as a Parent and as a Gamer so I figured it was also an interesting piece of insight to share. As a gamer, it is not a game I want to play. I can see why it appeals to kids as the games leave enough for room for plenty of imagination but its plagued with microtransactions that, to a certain point some of the servers feel like they are straight up trying to exploit kids. As a parent, it has been fun to play something like this with the aspiring gamer as she has been able to lead the games she wants, mix up the different types we play (role playing to fashion shows to surviving natural disasters…) and its good to see her pick something up and learn it herself. This has been as much a learning curve for me as it has been for her, and hopefully it sheds a little light on the platform for you Reader.
Update 01/11 – I had planned to release this blog last week (sometime between 25th and 28th) but then something happened to Roblox – it went down! From about Thursday/Friday last week players couldn’t access the servers meaning kids across the world were left without being able to roleplay or complete their Obbys (obstacle courses). It caused outrage on Twitter as it was down all weekend with some fearing an external hack and others thinking it was crashed due to an American Chipotle deal resulting in overloaded servers when in reality it probably just needed some TLC. It did force the little one to actually do other stuff, from playing with toys to even doing a 1,000 piece puzzle but I could tell that she really wanted to play it. She was visibly disappointed when she couldn’t play and I tell you now, I can relate to that feeling of not being able to play a game due to maintenance! But at the same time, it did show me how influential and addictive this game is for a 7 year old who hasn’t learnt restraint and balance yet. As a result, I have taken some learnings from this weekend; it was a good little detox for her but it certainly needs to be limited!
Have you played Roblox before and do you agree with my impressions as a gamer and/or as a parent? What are your thoughts on the platform and do you think that this is something kids should be playing? Let me hear your thoughts below or drop me a message on Twitter! In the next post in this series I will actually talk about home I game AS a parent and how I balance the games I play when there is an impressionable little mind running around!