Part of the challenge of being a fairly new dad (13 months and 2 kids long so far) is finding a balance between everything you want and need to do in your day. My wife and I have tried to develop good habits early on, such as being willing to drop anything we’re doing to spend time with the family. This means that I’m more prone to going AFK from games than ever before, so I’m not doing any group stuff until well after 9pm.
Another habit we’re creating for the future is how we handle punishments and rewards in our family. Oddly enough, I suggested a system that’s a bit of a meld of what my parents used to do, but sprinkle in a few MMO concepts as well. Hey, if MMOs can “train” us with conditioning, then why not use what I’ve learned for my kids?
For example, my parents used a series of colored circles that hung off the fridge to represent our “Uh Oh” state. Every day, we all started with white circles, but if we did something wrong, a circle was taken away to reveal a new color and a corresponding punishment:
- White (no punishment)
- Yellow (verbal warning)
- Green (TV taken away)
- Orange (Toys taken away)
- Brown (time-out in room)
- Black (spanking)
The colors helped us kids grasp the concept of how much we’d been in trouble that day and what was coming next if we persisted. In a way, this was kind of a form of “death penalty” or somesuch, with a bit of color-conning thrown in, if you want to relate it to MMO parlance. Even as adults, we understand colors well, and MMOs use color signifiers for both good (loot rarity) and bad (monster strength in relation to you).
Another thing my parents did was to create a chore chart that allowed us to earn our allowance piecemeal. Instead of getting a flat $5 a week or whatnot, each chore was worth a dime or quarter or other amount. If we wanted money, we looked at the unchecked boxes on the chart and headed off to do a series of chores to get the funds we needed for candy and comics.
MMOs? Dude, my parents were quest-givers, and they simply created a bounty sheet and spelled out the rewards ahead of time.
At a garage sale this weekend, I was thrilled to find a HUGE tub of Legos for $5 (I can’t imagine the store cost for all these pieces — a couple hundred, easily). I suggested that instead of one day handing all these toys over to our kids, we create Lego “packs” (ziplock bags with a few handfuls of Legos apiece) that would serve as rewards for special chores and whatnot. I think that when you earn something, it has more worth to you then when it’s just given for nothing.
My wife and I have our own ideas to build off of these, but many of the concepts remain. Color as a way to help our kids understand significance, choice when it comes to chores, working to earn something that you cherish, cause and effect, reward and punishment. It’s funny to look at MMOs as being a virtual parent, because in a way, it is. It nurtures us while encouraging us to grow and fend for ourselves. It guides us down a path that gradually introduces more choices and places to go as we get our feet. It spanks us when we do wrong and showers us with goodies when we win. It even tells us to play nice with others, but that doesn’t always go over well — greed and selfishness and bullies still exist in this sphere.