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A G-rated adventurer in Azeroth March 21, 2008

Posted by Barbara in Warcraft.
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Talk about a paradox.

It’s not that I haven’t heard colorful language before.  I grew up around oil-field workers, truckers and cowboys.   Worked in a diesel shop for several years.  Went to college.  Even taught at a college.   But something about the careless, in-your-face use of profanity in a game surprised me.   One of the first things I learned about playing an MMPORG is that Internet, as a medium of social connection, changes the rules of engagement.

For a lot of reasons, people don’t feel the same need for restraint in personal behavior on the Internet that they would feel in the real world.  This, and the fact that among the 15 million or so people who play Warcraft there are at least a few with non-existent moral standards, means that language, topics of discussion and ‘creative’ roleplaying (including sexual themes) can be a reality.  Parents, especially those with younger kids who want to play, need to be  aware of this and learn how to control the environment.   Otherwise, you may find yourself explaining words and concepts you hadn’t expected would come up in casual conversation quite so early.  

The parenting challenge changes somewhat when the child is an older teen.  By this time, kids need to be making their own choices about what language they are willing to tolerate and where they will draw the line.  Teens feel a great deal of pressure to conform to ‘peer’ behaviors and need parental input so they feel empowered to control their own space.   Open conversations with parents who also play the games become important here.  These conversations need to be happening anyway.  Trust me – even the younger kids are hearing a lot of the same stuff on the playground at school.

So, if the internet experience can be this crude, wouldn’t it make sense to simply avoid it altogether, as many choose to do?   My answer to that would absolutely not.  Certainly you should be knowledgeable about the games you choose and whether the game is suitable for your individual child.  But avoiding the situation altogether simply means that your child will be exposed to this at his friend’s house or even after he (or she) goes on to college and away from your influence and will not have the benefit of your guidance along the way.   And you would lose a tremendous parenting tool!  Much good can also be found through gaming and internet use.  I hope to examine many of those topics in future blogs.

What should you expect of an online experience?  Most game companies give at least passing acknowledgement to requiring players to avoid language that would be offensive to most reasonable people, including racial slurs, overt sexually oriented remarks, profanity, etc.   Blizzard, for one, provides not only some oversight of player language but also gives the individual player tools such as profanity filters that offer some control of the game experience.    They aren’t perfect – but then, real-life isn’t either.

In Warcraft, you have the option to turn off most of the ‘world’ chats – which reduces overall language distractions, but may also limit some desireable features of the game such as the ability to trade your game skills and goods with the world community or find groups to help you accomplish quests or other goals that are difficult to impossible to achieve on your own. 

The profanity filter, of course, stays on at our house.

And I highly recommend you find a good family-oriented guild.  Or start your own.  Now there’s a good topic for another post! 

/salute

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We must become the change we want to see in the world.  ~Gandhi

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Comments»

1. psychonia - March 31, 2008

Thank you sea for a wonderful look at gaming from a more sensitive perspective. I know there are a lot of G-rated gamers out there (me being one of them) =)


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