Exploring the intersection of ‘Dad and Data’ as family bonds get stronger playing World of Warcraft
Social connectivity had been scarce after nearly three months of sheltering in place in downstate New York, a particularly “hot” area for COVID-19 infections. To cope, our family sought activities to enable us to escape the confines of our suburban home and to find new ways to connect with one another. My mind immediately went to World of Warcraft, a game and social space which I had been a part of (on-and-off) for over 15 years. In fact, some of the characters I had created in the game were older than my now-teenage son, who I had recently introduced the game to - a humorously odd meeting of my virtual and real progeny. My wife, son, and I arranged a collection of laptops and PCs in our basement, and we quickly found the adventure and daring that we so desperately needed, provided by the expansive, virtual realm of World of Warcraft.
While the circumstances of this embrace of gaming were catalyzed by the rather extreme circumstances of COVID-19, the more basic phenomenon at play here is not new to our family nor many families like us around the world - parents who are increasingly using gaming as a means to connect with their children.
This was a pretty natural means of connection for myself, not just as someone who works in gaming but also boasts some pretty strong bonafides going back to my childhood. However, I’m hardly the only one like this. Research conducted by Activision Blizzard Media on Dads who game, found that about a fifth of the entire gaming audience are “gamer dads” like myself. Compared to older gaming men without children, they are more likely to play “Battle Royale” types of games - likely a circumstance of finding common ground/play spaces with their children. Similarly, they tend to report higher motivations for the social elements of gaming - 69% report enjoying playing games with others (compared to 47% of non-dad gaming men) and 61% really enjoy the social interaction between players in games (compared to 37% of non-dad gaming men).
The premium on social interaction that gamer dads seek, leads to a rather natural backdrop for the family scene described above. And perhaps, not too surprising, as in general, gaming is largely thought to be the domain of men. However, perhaps to more relative surprise, mom was arm-in-arm with our son and I, on our adventure. Though not as much of a lifetime gamer as myself, having started largely by watching her older siblings play, it took becoming a mom, for my wife to really invest in gaming. She is not alone, as other research conducted by Activision Blizzard Media found that 71% of mom’s we surveyed had some interaction with gaming. Gaming activities are not simply quick individual dalliances mom was sneaking in as time allowed - 37% of gaming moms report playing games with their friends, partner, or kids. Moms who game, reported higher levels of being able to relate to their children (45%), relative to moms who did not game (37%). Further, gaming moms believe that technology can bring people closer together in higher levels than non-gaming moms (30% and 22%, respectively). In short, much like gaming dads, gaming moms see gaming and technology as a contact sport.
Modern parenting, with a plethora of highly connected and social technologies, is fraught with peril. Often, we parents are finding an increased willingness (and perhaps necessity) to explore these sometimes-brand-new technologies to understand the worlds our children inhabit (i.e. emerging social media platforms, etc.). Where and when we can find a “home court” advantage, born from our own experience, is a welcome reprieve, as this is where gaming parents can shine. However, we may find that the inverse is increasingly true, as a new generation of gamers is not minted by gaming parents, but rather, by children drawing their parents into gaming. At the nexus of social connectivity and entertainment, gaming is a uniquely powerful platform for families to bond.
Back in our basement/the world of Azeroth, our family trio continues on in search of new challenges and adventures. For other parents out there that wish to join us, you’ll have my shield.