I wasn’t sure about giving my boys – age 8 and 12 – video game technologies like iPad, iPhone, iMac, Xbox, Wii, etc. Their personalities seem to change when they are in game mode. They can’t hear when you speak to them, they get irritable when you interrupt them for things like dinner and bedtime, and can get genuinely grumpy and irrational when the games don’t work out in their favor.
For my younger boy, Minecraft seemed to be a relatively fun and innocent game that allowed him to build things, rebuild them, and explore. Then came Roblox, which I had some mixed emotions.
For one thing, there is this concept called Robux. My son comes to me from time to time asking for Robux. I didn’t think it twice the first or second time. But when he started asking me multiple times for more Robux, I started to get concerned. So, I told him he needed to work for the Robux doing chores around the house, being nice to his older brother, getting his homework done on time and things like that. Earning Robux helped him start to think about the concept of working for a living, earning a paycheck, and pay for performance.
But after a while, even though he was earning his Robux, I started to get concerned about the way he was spending his money. Just because it was his money doesn’t mean that he should be allowed to do whatever he wants with it. We started counseling him on good uses of money versus bad and how addictive this was and the other negative things associated with buying points or coins or whatever digital thing these games were selling.
The interesting thing about Roblox is that there are ways for gamers to “work” within Roblox, to build things, sell things, go to work, etc. I watched my son take a photo of a log mansion that he found on Google and he replicated that mansion in Roblox. Then he sold it! He made Robux. He started designing things that other gamers would buy. He got a job at a pizza restaurant within the game and started earning money. Then, he saved up enough money to build his own pizza restaurant.
Suddenly, I found interesting life value in his play. He was budgeting his money on fixtures for his restaurant, he was advertising, he was taking orders, making food, and delivering to his customers.
Then one day, two customers ordered food and walked out on him without paying their check. Because he was living month to month, he couldn’t afford his expenses and had to go out of business.
Suddenly, I realized how close to reality this game was for him and how the learning experience was good, even if he annoyed me by asking for Robux from time to time. In the end, I also started thinking about the game designers and how they work on speculation to build games that people wanted to play and how they deserved to earn a living for their creativity and hard work.
Now, I am fine with his Roblox and Minecraft and other games. But, I do log in periodically to monitor what is going on, set a time limit on how long he can play, and make sure that his screen time is not negatively affecting his manners and attitude towards the people around him.