Massively multiplayer online (MMO) games are great fun. I like to think of them as an opportunity to chat with my online friends while doing productive things like killing dragons. But as with all things, there are downsides to this type of video game, too. The companies that develop them thrive on keeping you entertained and addicted, and they do so with fun things, but also with tedious things. You have to work hard and pour in your leisure hours to achieve greatness in game, whether that be in reaching higher levels, crafting for cash, or obtaining epic loot. As a responsible, hardworking adult, that leisure time is precious and limited. It’s rare to find the time to dedicate to the various endeavours of gaming while balancing family life, work, and other responsibilities. When I became a parent, I refused to sacrifice my gaming habits for the needs of my kids. Instead, I learned to work around them. And more importantly, now that they are older, they’ve learned to work for me.

Some people prefer to violate terms of service in order to circumvent the tedious tasks of the game. They may deploy bots to perform such tasks as fishing or killing 400 bunnies in order to obtain the coveted bunny loot. I, for one, prefer to abide by the game’s rules and instead breed my very own minions to do this work for me. Granted, this does not give me the instant satisfaction of knowing I’ve left a mindless drone to do my mindless virtual chores for me while I go to work. There is a bit of a waiting and training process required to get the geeklings up to speed.

Why not adopt a child at a more reasonable age, you might ask. While this is indeed a good idea in theory, you can’t guarantee that the child has been raised to enjoy gaming. I feel that it’s important to get kids into gaming as soon as possible such that it becomes a natural part of their lives. This is why it was not uncommon to find me breastfeeding during Sky battles in Final Fantasy XI. I am fortunate to have had a Linkshell filled with friends who understood when I had to pause a leveling party to change a dirty diaper. They understood that I was raising a young gamer, and they respected my priorities.

Wendy B, geek parenting, gaming kids

It’s important to start them young.

As my daughters have grown, we’ve kept gaming at the forefront in order to ensure our plans come to fruition. We let them have their own kiddie gaming systems and play their own kiddie MMOs, like Animal Jam and Club Penguin, while our own gaming continues in the background. Soon enough, they are taking greater interest in the grown-up MMOs we’re playing. We lure them in with fancy outfits and cute animal companions, laser guns, magic, and lightsabers. Before long, they say the magic words, “Can I play?”

Of course dear, but this is a tricky game. You’re only allowed to do the things I tell you, okay?

Oh that look of joy on their faces when you stock them up with their first set of pickaxes and mining gear! So precious!

Kids think everything is fun when they’re little. While I might find hours of smelting steel ingots to be a mind numbing bore, kids latch on to the repetitive tasks and enjoy the praise you bestow upon them each time they achieve that high quality synth.

As they get older and more adept with the controls, you can let them venture further into the virtual world. Initially, mine were scared to face off against monsters, but now, at age 11 and eight, they are much more comfortable with laying the smack down on nefarious beings and innocent woodland creatures alike. When you’re comfortable with their skills, you can entrust them with the tedious process of leveling your characters to the max. This is often also related to questing, as well as killing for experience points.

You don’t have to wait for your kids to be literate for them to go questing. After the first ten, “I need 50 broken teeth from mutated cow paddies” fetch quests, even the adult gamers aren’t reading the details anymore (sorry devs, but pithiness is best). As long as the kids can identify the necessary targets on the map, you’re good to go! This proved particularly useful to me the other night when my daughter needed help with her homework, and I really needed to get to level 20 in World of Warcraft so that I could get a mount for my troll hunter. I did her math; she leveled up. She thinks this was a fair trade. Hehe. Sucker.

Things do get a little tricky when the kids get older and start on that whole “independence” kick. “I want to make my own character,” says my eldest. I don’t appreciate her trying to shirk her responsibilities to my characters, but there are advantages to her creating characters of her own, too. First of all, since she’s playing on the same account, her achievements are attributed to me. For example, I have skillfully manipulated her into playing classes in Star Wars: The Old Republic that I have not completed yet. If she completes them, I can reap the rewards. Or, if you’re willing to graduate the kids to their very own account, you can play alongside them. What better way to build a team of dungeon raiders with offspring that you’ve conditioned to follow your orders lest you ground them for any insubordination? The finest loot drops are yours without argument. You are no longer at the mercy of luck of the draw because obviously, mommy gets first dibs.

Some people think that their gaming life has to come to an end when they have kids. I think this is a very unfortunate point of view. When trained well, kids are, in fact, an opportunity to enhance your gaming. And they can learn so much in the process as you share in that quality time in a virtual world. The family that games together…