Gamers make good (Spoiler alert: Parent involvement is key!)

In an earlier post, Gamify Your Children’s Strengths, we talked about how the gaming community is expanding.  How much?  If you want to think of it in cold cash, gamers spent $93 billion worldwide last year, according to Gartner Research.  Video game consoles bring in roughly half of the revenues, with mobile gaming growing faster every year.

Thanks to smartphones, gaming is more accessible.  Chances are, unless you are Amish (which would make it really challenging to read this post), your kids are going to game either in your home, at a friend’s home, at school or eventually on their smartphone.


Gaming is a passion for many.  Team Thrively believes in the positive development of passions.  Parents are the best gauge for when habitual gaming crosses over into unproductive time.  But for the time you do allow your kids to indulge, we have a few recommendations.  More accurately, we are passing along the suggestions of gamers whose childhood investment in gaming turned out to be valuable in their adulthood:

Top 10 Parent Suggestions from gamers who cashed in on their skills 

1.  If you can’t get on board with gaming, you can still inspire a love of problem solving and curiosity.

Keith Leonard recalls his father saying, “We will not be buying video games for this thing, they are Pabulum for small minds!"

Keith also credits his father for setting a high standard for learning:  “My father's love of math and science was probably the start:  Long talks at dinner about the origin of the universe and various species in history were common.  I showed an interest in how things worked.  He started to explain physics to me (with his old textbooks) when I was quite young, at a level that was approachable...basic things like levers, etc.  My father’s influence was huge in terms of what I would eventually do in the industry as a lower level game engine programmer.”

2.  Encourage appreciation for how using technology beyond gaming for entertainment can be useful – either to others or ourselves.

When Justin Richards was young his family traveled to Romania to refurbish computers and teach technology classes in orphanages.  Justin recalled dusting off the computers and getting them set up for classes.  This family project made the entire Richards clan technologically savvy and demonstrated the power of providing access and knowledge to others.

3.  We encourage our kids to be good readers so they can eventually become good communicators.  Put on your reading teacher hat and ask your kids to tell you all about their game, including the time in history, setting, characters and storyline.

Steve Green’s love of gaming plots inspired him to write his own stories for gamers like him:   “For me it felt as though I were reading a book. I took on the role of characters, was put in their shoes, went through their trials, and experienced their superpowers or lack thereof.  I felt in control…. When I decided to attempt to create games, it was actually because I wanted to tell a story.”

4.  Be proactive.  If you see a spark of interest, sign up your kids to learn how to program, code, mod, animate or design so they develop a love of producing games.

Justin Richards recognized that there were many opportunities for high school students who wanted to code, but far fewer for middle school and late elementary school children.  Justin created Youth Digital specifically for the 8-14 year old age range.

Helpful hint:  Thrively has thousands of coding classes listed by location ranging from free after school programs, to online classes to two week camps.

5.  Keep your children’s strengths and interests in mind as you encourage them to explore gaming beyond the entertainment experience.  Gaming experience leads to many careers beyond coding.

According to Steven Green, “There are more ways to be involved with creating games than through coding. I currently work in the sound department of some games, creating the sound effects, leading on dialogue recording and editing. Other areas that are light on the coding side include art, which involves characters and environments, and writing.  For example, creating stories that could end up becoming a script to a video game. Coding is very important to making video games, but it is in no way the only role required to create them.”

6.  Ask your kids what part of the game gives them that oomph!  That’s what Team Thrively calls passion.

Alan Wolf recalls:  “Similar to reading books or watching movies, video games had a certain immersive quality to them which I found very appealing.  Unlike books or movies though, video games also had an interactive element that let me explore their worlds.”

7.  Seek good influencers who can guide your children to moving beyond playing video games and understanding the creative development side of gaming.

Alan Wolfe remembers how his friends inspired him:  “While in 7th grade, a small group of friends and I decided to start learning to program games in a language called QBasic.  We started off with really simple text adventures, then learned how to fake graphics with text characters on the screen (such as having an X where the player was and having enemies be Y's moving around on the screen) and we eventually learned how to do proper graphics with lines and circles, then started dabbling in some basic music and sound effects.  It was a blast working on projects and sharing them, while also sharing techniques we figured out with each other.”

8.  If you lack ideal influences and resources to support your child, create them!  It can be amazing an amazing journey for you and great for your child’s self esteem:

That’s what Kimberly Bryant of Black Girls Code did for her daughter.  See Kimberly Bryant’s full-length video where Kimberly reflects on the big picture, “It’s not about coding, it’s also about creating self confidence in young girls of color.”

9.  Ask your children to demonstrate a deeper interest in gaming beyond recreation.  If you are encouraged by what you see, give them more freedom to explore.

Keith Leonard’s parents were reluctant at first, but Keith’s intellectual curiosity made them feel more at ease that his time wasn’t wasted on gaming:  “My parents’ restrictions went out the window once they realized that it would be silly to stop me from making games, so how could they stop me from playing them??”

Steve Green’s parents were all in from the start.  It made a world of difference:  “It's extremely difficult for any child to pursue a path, even if they love it, if their family doesn't support them. {My parents} raised me telling me games would rot my brain, hurt my eyesight and lower my school grades. Here I am now, though, beginning to make a living off of creating games. However, I like to say that I create worlds.”

10.  Become invested.

Before starting Youth Digital Justin Richards taught coding to inner city kids who were at risk for not graduating high school.  Justin noticed the parents who came to class with their children, asked questions, were engaged and “just cared” often ended up with bright, active learners who went on to do brilliant things in coding.

l l Discover Your Child's Strengths

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