Maybe this has happened to you? You visited your grandchildren and watched one of them. sitting on the couch holding a Nintendo Switch gaming controller with eyes sharply focused on the TV screen. He/she was wearing a headset with a boom microphone and talking to someone as if they were playing the same game. Who are they playing with, you may have wondered? When you were told, ‘a friend from school,’ you may have wondered further, how are they playing with his friends?
Welcome to the world of multiplayer online gaming, where friends and strangers from anywhere in the world (as long as they can get an internet connection!) can simultaneously play together in a single game—with countless other games happening at the same time! No doubt, this is a bit of technology magic that requires a leap of faith. In today’s gaming worlds, your grandchildren are safely ensconced alone at home all while communicating and playing with others – anywhere in the world—in a gaming experience. The kids, well, they pretty much all love it. Here is what you what should know about online gaming:
- It’s not just about playing a game, your kids watch other players while they play. Thanks to subscribers to gamer channels on YouTube and Twitch—a platform solely designed to watch other gamers play, your grandkids are part of the esports phenomenon where video game battles have turned into a lucrative spectator sport.
- Esports events are becoming bigger and bigger. The largest ones award prize money that’s consistent with ‘real world’ sporting events. It’s the same formula. Millions of video gaming enthusiast watch, creating opportunities for advertising dollars and sponsorship deals.
- Your grandchildren see other gamers turn their video game obsessions into a profession – a very lucrative one! The video game companies create tournaments with prize monies. A typical monthly salary of an average pro gamer ranges from $1,000 to $5,000. One of the most popular gamers watched is Ninja and he earns $350,000 a month just from his Twitch subscribers!
- According to CNBC, Fortnite is the game that rules them all, consistently appearing on the top of the ‘most-played’ lists. Fortnite launched in September of 2017. In the fall of the following year more than 200 million people registered to play. In 2018, Fortnite announced that it would provide $100 million in prize money for competitions in its very first season of competitive play, outpacing the lifetime award pools of most other games in a single season.
- While your grandchild can play these games for free – there is no software or membership to buy, the video game developers have successfully monetized the experience! In 2018, Epic Games, the developer of Fortnite, generated $2.4 billion in gaming revenue! When you grandchild is asking for vbucks for Fortnite, they are buying access to how they experience the game—which in no way influences how well they play the game. These enhancements change how their avatars look and appear to other players. Looking at the industry as a whole, free-to-play games collectively earned $87.7 billion on these optional enhancements!
TIPS TO KEEP YOUR GAMING GRANDCHILD SAFE:
- When your grandchildren are visiting or when you are watching them, set and share time limits for gaming. Letting your grandchild know when dinner time is or when you need to leave for an appointment—and offering a reminder prior to the end time—will help your child proactively plan how they game.
- Be concerned by your grandchild’s gaming habits not from the number of hours played but by behavioral characteristics like withdrawal, compulsion, lying and a shift of values.
- Tell your gamer that their gamer tag should not reveal their name, age or gender. They should never reveal where they live or what school they go to. Email addresses, phone numbers, photos of their face and gaming account passwords are also off-limits.
- Your grandchild should also implicitly understand that they should never accept an invitation to communicate with another gamer they do not know on a non-gaming platform or app.
- Remind your grandchild that a stranger is ALWAYS a stranger, even when online interactions may make them seem familiar. In the online world, you never truly know who is behind the screen.
- Encourage your grandchild to use respectful and appropriate behavior when gaming. Be sure that your grandchild understands that you are available to them if someone makes them feel uncomfortable when playing a game.
- Most importantly, your grandchild should never, EVER agree to meet up with a stranger offline.
KEEP CALM & GAME ON
As a grandparent of a young person in the digital age, you are a Digital Grandparent and you have to guide your grandchild how to live with technology responsibly. It’s good to for you to know what your grandkids are up to with technology. Having this knowledge lets you connect with them where their latest passions are. And who knows, you may find some of these games appealing and want to join your grandchild in the next online battle! But most importantly, if you understand the good and the bad about online multiplayer gaming, you can be another adult voice in your grandchild’s life that shows them the pitfalls they need to avoid.
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