Sibling Rivalry, Virtual Style

Let’s talk video games.

I know, I know, I’m a mother of three GIRLS. You’d think this wouldn’t really be an issue at our house. We all know that the male species tends to have more of a problem with addiction to video games than females. Definitely still true, but nonetheless, we have a video game issue going on over here in recent weeks.

It all started with these:

laptop_old

Old, delapidated laptops which had spent years sitting in some closet at my husband’s office. Lucky for him, he knows someone who is skilled and prepared to help in just such a situation.

Within a few weeks, my hubby had two refurbished laptops ready to go. He proudly brought them home and announced, “Hey, these will be great for schoolwork for the girls. Just think! They won’t have to fight over your laptop anymore.”

I had to admit that was a little appealing. But still…a 9-year-old and a 7-year-old with their own computers? I wasn’t sure.

In the month or so that the girls have had them, they had not once violated any restrictions we’ve placed on internet usage and haven’t hacked into the passwords we’ve set to keep them off of sites we wouldn’t want them visiting. Inappropriate viewing has not been an issue at all.

Unfortunately, educational viewing has not been an issue at all, either.

One word: MINECRAFT.

Minecraft

Some of you are nodding your heads and groaning at the mention of that name.

Minecraft, from what I can understand, is a video game which has absolutely, undeniably, and maddeningly, NO PURPOSE WHATSOEVER. Really! There’s no goal, no points to earn, no mission…It makes me totally nuts!

I mean, come on! When I was a kid, I was hooked on Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers. And as we all know (well, all of us over the age of 30, anyway), this game had a definite goal! Collect coins to earn an extra life, jump on the turtles and mushroom guys, defeat Bowser, and most importantly, rescue the princess!

Now THAT was an age where video game makers had some brains.

Photo credit: Joe Madonna via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo credit: Joe Madonna via Flickr Creative Commons

But today?! Today my girls are playing a game in which the sole purpose appears to be to wander around creating a virtual world. No points. No long-term goal. No skills to learn (like memorizing all the secret helps on Super Mario).

They build these huge towers and houses brick by brick, painstakingly placing each stone where they want it. And now, because we have TWO laptops for educational purposes at their disposal, they can actually connect their virtual worlds and visit each other.

And just like in the real world, when they visit one another in their virtual worlds? They fight. They fuss. They argue about who tore down whose building and make running, dashing leaps to destroy each other’s stuff using their stored tools and weapons such as swords and TNT.

“STOP IT!! I worked for hours to build that warehouse!! MMMMOOOOOMMMM!!!”

“Oh yeah? Well, I’m just going to go tear apart your garden and rip down your fence around your mansion!”

Commence crying.

Merciful heavens.

Did we REALLY need more ways to fuss?

I try to go in and be the peacemaker, but usually it goes down something like this:
(screaming and yelling and crying)
“Mom! She just blew up my entire neighborhood. I’m never inviting her to my world again!”

Snickering.

“Why would you do that?” I ask the one wearing the wicked grin.

“I dunno.”

“How would you like it if she blew up your neighborhood?” I ask.

“I wouldn’t care. My neighborhood got invaded by zombies,” she replies coolly.

It’s at this point I have to just detach myself and focus on what is actually happening in our real, live world. I finish my speech about getting along, not destroying each other’s worlds (because they do that enough in real life to now start the same pattern in their pretend worlds), and to cut it out before I cut it off.

I go back to my room, wishing again for the days of Super Mario and Luigi. Now HERE were brothers who knew how to get along. To work together. To cheer each other on.

Probably because they were never working in the same world at the same time.

Why can’t video games be like they were then? Isolating. Nice and separated from one another.

Thanks, Minecraft makers. Now I’m spending time actually cleaning up virtual messes my children are making. Better get back to picking up my daughter’s destroyed building brick by brick. Stupid laptops.