Around the Internet · Time Travel Tuesday

Time Travel Tuesday: Gamer Age-Gap Relationships

This is a reblog from April 26th, 2012. It was written during my Minecraft glory days. Situations I found myself and my friends in in-game prompted the article. Enjoy!

(No audio today. I may add it later. I apologize for any inconvenience.)

Gamer Age-Gap Relationships: Where do you draw the line?

We live in a world of diversity. Whether online or in person, we are constantly confronted by people of a different race, gender, and age. The variety of different types of people one crosses paths with online is astounding.

You’re in Minecraft. You’re talking to the guy next to you in pixel form. The form is just as yours, but slightly different in color and pattern. He types to you just as you type to him. You find a common interest and hash out a plan to build on that interest. It’s easier to converse through an instant messaging program, you both agree. So the two of you become more than Minecraft pals. You’re now Skype friends.

You discuss details of your build. You build the most amazing thing together. You share goofy moments. He fell to his death a few times, labeling him a clutz. He put you in an AFK box once or twice. You dragged a creeper to the base, on accident of course, causing the both of you to redo part of the left wall together. You disagree with the use of cobblestone, but you give in anyways since he let you use a few gold blocks.

Believe it or not, you’ve made a friend. No, he’s not a best friend or someone you’re going to invite to your next cookout. He’s just a guy that you befriended online and you think he’s awesome.

Then the inevitable happens. You’re decorating the outside of this amazing castle you’ve just built together and chatting about servers you’ve played on. He asks “So how old are you?” You answer “26″ without hesitation. His reason for asking doesn’t matter at this point. You two have been working on this build for three weeks and although little to no personal discussion has taken place, you don’t see the harm in answering this simple question. That’s when he follows up with “Oh, I’m 14.”

Awkwardness, commence.

You’re a grown man who has seemingly befriended a teenage boy online. You have his Skype. You’ve used vulgar language in front of each other. The AFK box you were held captive in was in the shape of a penis. You joked about boobs. You’ve both been acting just as some men act when they are in the presence of other men. But, you just found out he isn’t a man at all.

This happens all too often online and in games, especially in multiplayer settings. If you think it doesn’t, you’re in for a surprise. (If you think your kid isn’t making phallic shaped things online, you’re really in for a surprise.) I apologize for any awkwardness, but I needed to put you in this place and give you this visual to help you understand what this post is all about.

Where do you draw the line?

Minecraft, like many online games, has a very diverse player base. I am always meeting someone from a different heritage, a different gender, a different age, etc. Being on a fan-based server, where the ages range from 7 to 45 (the majority probably being 14-17 year olds), you learn a thing or two about how to communicate and who you are communicating with. I had to learn this the hard way when I first joined the MC community. I was fresh out of World Of Warcraft, a game I had been playing for six years with adults. (The only children I was ever around in game were the children of some of the parents in the guild.) I had never been around a lot of people younger than me in a multiplayer setting. Ask my friend Jim how surprised I was when he told me the server we were on was mostly teens.

I’ve realized quite a few things about my online world. One being that there is a new generation out there and I have to keep in mind that this generation is a younger generation and therefore I should watch what I say and do online. Another being that this new generation is raised on the internet, whereas my generation still went outside and played in wooden forts every day. We didn’t know how to program, build websites, or create mods and addons for games. These intelligent people doing all these things that I thought only adults were doing… newsflash: Most are actually kids and teens. A new generation of people who are incredibly smart, open-minded, and are making the same penis jokes that you make to your buddies at the bar. The internet is a vast place. Teenagers see and know about more things than I saw and knew about as a teen. They are exposed to more on the world wide web. So by society standards it’s expected of you to watch what you say and do, but that grows increasingly difficult the more people and places you are exposed to online.

So where do you draw the line? Some people choose not to get personal, but if you’re like me and love making friends and meeting people then I bet you’ve had similar incidents. Maybe you met a girl in game, added her to Skype and found out she was 14. Do you think her parents would mind that she was talking to a 26 year old guy online? Because in most cases, they don’t see two people with a common interest. They see a “pervert” talking to their daughter.

It’s ‘befriending someone who shares an interest with you’ versus ‘an adult befriending a child.’ This is the typical behavior that anti-predator sites like CyberAngels would have come after you for ten years ago. Times have changed, but even today this is questionable. Point being: You don’t go to a play ground and befriend the kid in the sandbox with a truck because you both share an interest in trucks. However, the internet has a seemingly different set of rules than “the real world”. People of all ages are everywhere online. Unlike “the real world”, you will cross paths. You may think this person is awesome. You may conquer worlds or build beautiful castles with them in a game. You may not know their age or background upon meeting them, but you would have shared an experience with them. You may believe you’ve made a friend.

How do you feel? If you were the man in the story above, what would you do after finding out who you were really talking to? Do you avoid talking to teenagers in games? Would you befriend someone underage strictly for gaming purposes? Do you stick to 18+ servers or 18+ guilds? And also… you younger people… what is your take on this? More importantly, what do the parents of young gamers think of this type of communication?

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