Guild Chat: Minors and MMOs: Family-friendly guilds

    
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Welcome along to another advice-filled edition of Guild Chat for a double-bill of advice for better facilitating junior players in guilds. I received two similar requests that centre on how to best incorporate young players into guilds, so I thought I should roll them into one article that tackles the issue at hand as framed by both a parent and a guild leader. Reader Jason wants to introduce his daughters to his favourite MMO but is worried about exposing them to his guild and the general MMO community, whereas Damondredlocks is wondering how to transition from an adult-only guild environment to one that welcomes all sorts of players from all age groups. See the full submissions and my thoughts on the matter below, and don’t forget to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

My two daughters are 9 and 12 and have always played age-appropriate games with their mom and me. They are now showing interest in online gaming and in my MMO collection specifically. Even my oldest isn’t allowed to play the FPS shooters her mom enjoys because we don’t think she’s ready yet. She is quite a young 12, I don’t think she’d cope with potential online abuse even if we quickly stepped in or with the violent nature of the games. I don’t know how to accurately age-gate MMOs because of the online aspect of it and I am also not sure if my guild would be suitable for a child to be in. She would cope with the gameplay side of things, I don’t think the themes of my MMO collection are too adult, but I worry about the people she interacts with online. If I do allow them to play, should I find a specifically child-friendly guild for our family, should the girls have their own accounts, and how do I supervise them?

 

–Jason

baby quaggansThis is one of those topics that is just so personal that I couldn’t possibly give you a definitive answer, especially since I’m not a parent myself and I don’t know your children, but what I can provide is a little bit of advice for helping you make your decision. I can tell you that some of the Massively Overpowered staff let their children play MMOs (with several sensible measures in place), so you’re not alone in wanting to share the hobby with your little ones. The most important thing is that you are aware of how your children use games and know which potential themes, topics of conversation, or activities are no-go areas for you and your family. Defining what precisely makes you uneasy about online exchanges will allow you to limit the risk presented to your children, which will, in turn, make the barrier between them and MMO gaming become lower.

People are the primary source of risk in any online pursuit that involves minors, so you’ll want to evaluate the ways in which you interact with your online community and consider those interactions from a child’s perspective. You might well need to screen out map chat before allowing your daughters to play, for example, or you could consider turning on the profanity filters to screen anything they might see. Likewise, you should parse your friend list, appear offline, or disable friending in any MMO you play in which this is an option to limit the number of ways private interactions with people you haven’t approved can occur.

You might well decide that you’ll need to find a new, more family-friendly guild before you let your kids loose, or you might reach a decision that you’ll remain in your guild but won’t invite your daughters’ characters into the fold. Some guild leaders are more than happy to make allowances for children within their ranks, and in one guild I’m a member of we have a thirteen-year-old boy who games in the same room as his father, and we take him through all but the highest-end content. His father doesn’t permit him to speak to us via whispers or voice channels, but this works out perfectly well because we work hard to engage the boy as a group instead of as individuals.

At this point, we don’t know if MMOs will click with your daughters, so if you’re playing subscription games then I would recommend letting them play on your account at first until you know they are enjoying it and you’re comfortable. Let your daughters make their own characters on your account and send them enough resources to get around but not enough that you’d miss if they were wasted. Perhaps ask your guild leader to limit your guild bank permissions if you’re worried that they’ll accidentally rock the boat by taking things from the guild that they shouldn’t; you can always just ask the leader or officers for whatever you need. Sit side by side and guide them through the mechanics and the levelling process, using this time to discuss with them the decisions you’ve made and why you’ve made them.

wow partyIf you opt for separate accounts, log on at the same time and play with them to reduce their dependency on strangers to complete content and also to get the enjoyment of showing them the ropes. The easiest way to supervise their play is to join in! The main piece of advice to take away from this is that online game communities are great vessels for controlled engagement with both peers and adults for minors. Interacting with a wide range of people is critical to child development and shouldn’t be discouraged, provided some sensible caveats are applied. Keeping a close eye on who your children are talking to online and the methods by which they do it is sensible no matter the platform, so don’t feel bad for worrying. Whatever you decide, keep enjoying gaming with your family! Playing games with your children is a fantastic way to explore new themes, spark discussions, and bond over shared goals.

Tina, what is the best way to open up my guild to all types and ages of players? My guild has mostly young guys of around 20 in it who like to swear and make typical masculine jokes. I like the fun we have but I do think we could branch out if we toned it down a little, especially now that some of us are aging up and have partners or families we’d like to play with. I don’t want to run an online frat house well into my 30s so it’s time to get more mature. Help?

 

–Demandredlocks

I’m sorry to hear you’re not feeling that your guild is a good fit for you right now, Demandredlocks, and I’m glad that you’re willing to work at creating a more inclusive space. It’s all too easy to fall into social boxes as you seem to have done, but it isn’t terribly difficult to fix now that you’re focused on making some changes. I want to first of all stress that making these changes doesn’t mean ruining the fun atmosphere you have already or getting rid of the ‘worst offenders’, so to speak, so your hard work so far hasn’t been in vain. If your guild understands why you’re evolving your merry band of men into a happy family, they’ll be far more understanding of the limitations it puts on their continued membership.

eso guildThe most immediate thing you can do is clean up your guild chat. The least painful way to do so is to move the adult banter to VOIP chat in a dedicated channel for your mature members. That way, rather than blanket-banning the banter, you’re simply moving it to an approved location away from little eyes and ears. Some people are particularly sensitive about censorship of any kind and won’t take the clean up very well, but making some compromises for the good of the collective shouldn’t be too much of a stretch for the bulk of your roster. Remember that you have noticed many of them settling down in their private life: Your guildmates could well be thinking that it’s time for a change too but just didn’t know how to make the transition or bring up the subject.

You’re not going to become an inclusive, family-oriented guild if your guild advertisements and messages are filled with fratboy humour. Keep it friendly, focused, and informative for best results when it comes to attracting a more diverse audience. Encourage your guildmates to invite the family members you’ve mentioned above and you might well see their behaviour change very rapidly: It’s amazing how different some people are when they’re surrounded by their family sphere as opposed to their friends. Finally, you might find that having a few of the naturally more mature guildmates stepping into authoritative roles in the guild will help provide more understanding contacts to your new guildmates should any problems arise. Expect the odd bit of off-colour banter to slip through for the first little while and be as understanding as you can about this as you transition.

My last point would be to keep a close eye on the interactions between your guildmates and new young members to ensure that friendships are conducted in such a way that doesn’t create any misunderstandings or safeguarding issues down the line. Make it a rule that no unrelated adult sits in a VOIP channel alone with a minor, for example, and try to keep groups to more than two people. Ultimate responsibility for each child’s online safety lies with his or her parents, naturally, but that doesn’t mean sensible precautions that protect both your junior members and existing roster aren’t a prudent idea. Good luck!

starwars guildOver to you!

I’d love more voices to weigh in on this one, especially if you happen to game with your children or run a successful family-friendly guild. Do you think MMOs should be child-free zones, or do you have a set age in mind when you think MMOs become appropriate? What’s your recipe for a minor-friendly guild? Let both Jason and Demandredlocks know your thoughts in the comments.

Many thanks to both Jason and Demandredlocks for these submissions. If you’d like to get some guild advice, send your query to me for consideration.

MOP’s Tina Lauro is on-hand to deal with all of your guild-related questions, queries, and drama in Guild Chat. Whatever your guild issue, she’s sure to have a witty yet sympathetic response. If there’s a specific topic you’d like to see dissected, drop Tina a comment or send an email to tina@massivelyop.com.