Opinion with Matthew Munson: Gaming online and a return to ‘social’ life

Online gaming

A big part of being a parent is the social secretary role; getting your child about to the various things they’re doing.

With the gentle lifting of lockdown, some of the things Bryan enjoys have restarted; his swimming lessons and a dance class. Lovely; he’s very excited about both, and so my calendar is filling up again. I’m glad; those things bring a smile to his face and I certainly don’t begrudge that. It’s nice sometimes to be surrounded by other adults; I ended up chatting to one of the mums at the leisure centre while Bryan swam, and I realised how much I had missed even simple interactions like that.

One of the nice things about lockdown (in a weird way) was the slower pace of life; as society opens up again, I’ll miss that. Bryan is certainly more tired this week, and I think I am too. Organising everything has made me realise how much we missed those things, but also how nice it has been not to clock-watch quite so much. We’ll probably never get the balance right, but at least I know what that slower pace of life feels like – and know that we can replicate it from time to time.

I had a conversation with Bryan recently about computer consoles; one of the perennial debates of our age, I suspect. He’s not been particularly interested in PS5s or X-Boxes or … well, whatever the other ones are in the past; he used to have a handheld Nintendo DS, but he just never picked it up.

In the last week, he’s had the chance to play some computer games with a couple of his mates, and they’ve been fun. I wondered if, afterwards, he might come home asking for a games console, but no; nothing. I had braced myself to have a chat with him about it, but after he had told me about the games he’d played and the fun he’d had with his friends, that was it. I was so surprised, I almost had an attack of the vapours.

In the end, I gently asked Bryan what he had thought of the games. “Yeah, good” was the reply, and I soon figured it out; he liked games that allowed him to be sociable with his friends – multi-player games. Ones where he played by himself weren’t very interesting, and that really does fit into his personality.

We’ve spoken before about internet safety – going on multi-player games can often mean being in a game with strangers who could be any age (and certainly tell you they’re one age when they’re something different) and have a flexible relationship with swear words and so on. Some kids seem to be introduced to that at a young age, but I don’t want that for Bryan; he has so many other opportunities to play with his friends.

When he’s older, I fully accept that he might want a console with a bit more passion; right now, he’s 50/50, and because he has a lot of different activities and opportunities, perhaps he doesn’t need that to fulfil a need.

As a teenager, it could be a good way for him to stay in touch with his friends, and I’m open to discussing that with him. When I was a kid, there wasn’t the same pressure; computer consoles were very different, and the internet wasn’t even something we used very much – and we had to plug our computers into the wall when we did. Oh the “old days” …

Gaming can be a lot of fun, and I’m glad Bryan has the chance to see what it’s all about. But I’m also glad I can introduce him to a lot of other fun activities as well; I want him to experience life in all its glory, even if that does mean I am reduced to being a social secretary on occasions.