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Let’s Try Gaming with Kids…

Red Thomas Posted:
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I love gaming.  It’s a passion I developed on consoles as a young adult, which then turned into a love of PC games as I entered college.  Online gaming really took off after I’d gotten to college, and MMOs like Ultima Online and EverQuest really defined a lot of what I’ve come to expect from games, at least on an emotional level.

I’ve shared this passion with my nieces and nephews, building each a gaming rig as they get old enough and trying to keep everyone kitted up to at least decent hardware.  Each PC comes with Minecraft and Kerbal Space Program pre-installed when I give it to them, and then the kids develop their own tastes from there.  Some of the youngest have developed a taste for games like Fortnite, though most have graduated to more mature forms of entertainment as they’ve gotten older…  thank, God.

Final Fantasy is a pretty game, but that wasn’t enough for the kids.

I decided to ask one of my nieces and one of her brothers (eleven and twelve years old, respectively) to join me playing an MMO or two last week.  Neither has ever experienced a game like that and I was curious to see whether they would enjoyed it.   Since I’d never played Final Fantasy XIV Online, I decided to give that one a shot first.  We installed, and my niece was thrilled at the character creation.  We probably spent about thirty minutes experimenting with all the different options customizing her character.  In the end, rather than going the cutesy route of picking either the Lalafell or Miqo’te, she picked Hyur.

With characters created, we jumped into the game.  Both kids were picked up by their mic, so I could hear them exploring the world and being amazed by how pretty the game was.  At some point a random stranger emoted to them, and that initiated several minutes of standing around giggling over each available emote.

A hallmark of games like Final Fantasy is the depth of story. It’s strangely lost on kids, though.

My niece and nephew traded off playing the game over the next hour or so, but they really didn’t enjoy it.  For one, it took so long to get into anything resembling combat that they were bored out of their minds.  Additionally, neither really seemed that interested in the storyline.  To be fair, the characters are so chatty and there’s so much reading, that I was getting rather bored with it myself.

With boredom setting in, I thought I might move them over to an easier game, World of Warcraft.   Surprising me again, my niece took the lead and picked a Tauren Hunter for her character, though she did spend plenty of time playing with the character creator to get her character just right.  With that complete, we jumped in to play for a bit.

I never realized how min/max I get with quests until I tried to explain how to complete two quests at once to the kids.

It wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped, because the free version made it hard for us to find each other and we couldn’t group.  I sprung for a month subscription for both accounts (though, I think I really only needed to subscribe on one of them).  With the subscription, we were able to find each other quickly and get to gaming.

Even after playing Final Fantasy, my niece hadn’t quite gotten the idea of questing, but WoW’s intuitive system made it easy for her to pickup and start playing.  We hunted a few mobs and did a little exploring.  Before long, both kids were a little bored with WoW, so we called it a day.

My nephew tells me that he’s logged into WoW since and tried the other classes, so it’s possible he’s on the verge of falling for MMOs the way I once did.  He has echoed his sister in saying that he found both games pretty boring, though.  To my nephew, even the more streamlined experience of World of Warcraft felt flat compared to the action of a game like Fortnite.

The kids seemed to enjoy WoW more than FF, but neither seemed to be as interesting as I’d hoped to the kids.

The lower levels of MMOs are always pretty simplistic in my experience.  Most of the fun begins later once you’ve gotten higher level and have the more complex enemies to face.  I wonder if some of their boredom might be relieved at later levels.  I’m also thinking that games with a more active combat system like Star Trek Online and DC Universe Online might be more appealing.

I may try a couple more games to see if I can home in on something that they enjoy.  I know they liked ARK: Survival Evolved, so maybe something like that.  Their mom would shoot me if I let them play Conan Exiles, but Fallout 76 should be coming out soon.  That’s likely to be on their list.

I’m curious if anyone else games with kids, though.  What games should I try that I haven’t?  Also, how do some of you parents handle allowing kids to enter the world of online gaming?  I feel a little like the experience of online console games has muted some of the older concerns related to letting kids experience unfiltered online culture.  I’m just the cool uncle that helps the kids get access to stuff their parents would rather I didn’t, so I’d be interested to hear what parents think.  As always, let me know below in the comments!


Red Thomas

A veteran of the US Army, raging geek, and avid gamer, Red Thomas is that cool uncle all the kids in the family like to spend their summers with. Red lives in San Antonio with his wife where he runs his company and works with the city government to promote geek culture.