Thank You for a Great 2018

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Standing on the edge of 2018, I would like to thank my friends and family for supporting me and my writing. THANK YOU! I’ve been at this on JBG for over sixteen years now. Kind of crazy to think about! Time does fly.

Reading over posts I’ve written this past year, we’ve put some miles behind us:

  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has been replaced with Fortnite, in the Hall household.
  • JohnnyBGamer crossed the 3,000 view mark this month (December). I TRY and not focus on numbers, but I was excited over this. I’ve written more this past year than I did in 2017 (118 posts versus 48). While I’m not quite back up to my 2016 numbers (4,700 views/101 posts that year), I’m getting close to it again.
  • I didn’t realize it, but I stepped down and away from Theology Gaming FB Group this year (seems like a long time ago now). While that transition hasn’t always been easy for me… I’m proud of what I accomplished there as a Community Manager, with a great group of guys, and I wish them the best in the years to come.

I wrote the following post back in April of this year. While I’m still sorting through these thoughts, I’m also more confident in just writing and sharing life… just being me without being a front/organization (I’ve ALWAYS struggled with this). Thanks for reading in 2018, I can’t wait to see where we’ll go in 2019.

Thinking Aloud

My church’s youth room is decorated with black and grey tones. Even the ceiling tiles have been painted black. The overall effect reminds me of a dark cave; a dark worship cave.

As I was waiting for my wife to get out of a summer camp meeting, I talked to a few of the guys hanging out in the youth room. I was immediately asked, “Do you play Fortnite?”

Wyatt, sitting next to me, suddenly perked up, “What’s Fortnite?”

I talked with this kid, we’ll call him Alex, about the game. He gave me a history lesson on the rise of battle royale games, how most of them stemmed from a game called ARMA.

I was reminded just how nerdy gaming culture can be when Alex dove into a PC versus console debate.

“I’m a part of the PC master race.”

I’m sure you are, Alex, I’m sure you are.

My youth room encounter got me thinking about this site, my thoughts towards ministry within the gaming culture, etc. I am reminded that gaming culture spans a large swath of demographics. That when I think of gaming culture, I think of those who are closer to my age, not someone like Alex.

Reminded me that I started this blog to encourage others in the gaming space. That JohnnyBGamer has always been about promoting a balance between life and gaming. My original tagline, for the site, was: “Because there is more to life than just gaming.” I created that tagline in the midst of a season of watching friends being consumed by what they were consuming, video games. I hated that, I hated the control gaming had upon them, had upon me.

At this point in life, I am at a place where gaming doesn’t have as strong as a pull as it once did. But in talking to Alex and his friend last night, I’m reminded that there are others still in the midst of that struggle. A struggle where kids I know, kids around me, are out of control in their gaming. Makes me wonder…

How can I help parents:

  • Curate the types of video games their family consumes
  • Promote healthy media consumption habits for their children

How can I help gamers:

  • Ask questions about the games they are playing
  • Learn healthy online habits for interacting within gaming culture
  • Be aware, overall, that there is more to life than just gaming

I am not sure where God is leading me right now. But these are thoughts I’m processing through in this season after stepping down from Theology Gaming. Whether I step out and do something “big”, become more purposeful with this blog, or just take the gaming lessons I’ve learned, along the way, and use them to help my son navigate the gaming space.

Video Games and Attitude

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We have a rule in Hall household that goes something like this:

When you start to get angry or frustrated at a video game, you need to turn it off and take a break.

This rule applies to myself and to my son. Years of playing video games has taught me that taking a break, when angry or frustrated, is beneficial. Even when you are so frustrated that all you want to do is keep pushing through, I’ve found that it is best to stop. There is something taking a break does to the brain. As a kid, I remember pausing a game overnight and then being able to destroy a boss, that was previously impossible, the next day.

But what about when a game causes attitude? Anger that one can’t play longer or even has to quit? I remember a period when I was playing Mass Effect 2 a few years ago. I’d play the game late into the night, ignoring my bride, who would end up giving up and going to bed. I felt a pull while playing that game, a drive to see where the story went. Mass Effect 2 had it’s hooks in me just as World of Warcraft did years before.

I know that I can have issues with some games. Even though I haven’t been hooked on a game in awhile, I know that the right combination of design elements can take me down.

The same is true with my son. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild pushed all the right buttons for him. It was all that he and the kids at church were talking about. I’d constantly hear about the Divine Powers:

  • Revali’s Gale
  • Daruk’s Protection
  • Mipha’s Grace
  • Urbosa’s Fury

I’d hear so much about Breath of the Wild that I thought I was going to go nuts. And the attitude that came with the game, whenever he had to quit, was frustrating.

Tabitha and I find ourselves at the same attitude point again with Fortnite. But this time it’s a little different due to gaming elements Fortnite embraces (your child is being manipulated):

  1. The Store with Artificial Demand – When you log into the game, you can easily tab over to the Fortnite store. Here you can look/obsess/covet the latest in Fortnite cosmetics. Some of these cosmetics are available for a limited time, playing into an artificial demand where kids think they have to purchase something before it is gone.
  2. The Subscription with a Shady Pay-to-Win-with-Time Formula – Once you buy the $10 Battle Pass, Fortnite is all about unlocking tiers, which then unlock different cosmetics/skins/cool looking things. Fortnite developers Epic Games boasts on their website that the Battle Pass equals: 100 tiers, 100 rewards. One marketing bullet point states that it takes 75-150 hours worth of gameplay to unlock everything in the Battle Pass. Fortnite encourages players to dump as much time as they can into the game through their shady tier/unlock scheme. A pay-to-win-with-time formula, aimed at children.
  3. The Feedback Loop – A typical match takes 20 minutes to play. Unless you are knocked out of the match, in which case you can just jump into another match… and another match… and another match. This creates a feel good feedback loop for your brain. Just one more match, mom.

What is a parent to do? Here are a few things I’ve learned:

  • On the Nintendo Switch, you can set a screen time timer to help manage your child’s play. There are several options to choose from when the timer runs out, including shutting down the console (if you are feeling evil; Do not provoke your children… – Ephesians 6:4). Each console has different parental settings, read up on them, empower yourself.
  • Parent. Talk to your child about their attitude. Be ready to follow through with consequences (don’t offer empty threats). Also don’t be afraid to have your child take a day off a game.

Gaming attitude is something our parents did not have to deal with as much as we have to–although I say that while clearly remembering my Mom taking away the NES controllers–. So set some boundaries/consequences and read up/educate yourself on the tools you have at your disposal. Learn about the game your child is playing, the one you are growing to hate because of their attitude. You never know, you might learn something about your child and be able to help them set healthy boundaries to use later on in their adult lives.

You are the parent. You do not deal nor negotiate with emotional terrorism.

Gaming is a privilege, not a right. (I can’t believe I just wrote that as a dad who games.)

How are you working through your child’s attitude when it comes to games?