Rebecca: Hi, we are talking again with Alok and Kruti Kanojia, the co-founders of Healthy Gamer. We’ve been talking about technology and gaming and relationships, when we have something we need to be concerned about and listening to our intuition. It’s been such a rich conversation and today we’re going to be talking about setting goals as a family and supporting the gamer, which is something that’s totally not the way we normally think. We normally think, “Okay, there’s a problem over there. They just need to stop playing the game or they just need to come to dinner or whatever, but I really want to look at it from the perspective of our goals as a family and supporting the gamer, supporting that relationship, supporting that child. So, what comes to mind when I say that?
Dr. K: Yeah, so, I think that’s a fantastic approach, Rebecca, and I think the key thing to remember here is that games are fun for our children because they fulfill a basic psychological drive. And depending on what that drive is, I think one of the ways to really become a healthy gamer is to find something else in the real world that fulfills that same drive. So, you know, you were sharing a little bit about how your son likes Lego and Minecraft and Minecraft is basically virtual Lego. And so, if he’s playing too much Minecraft, you have to think a little bit about how this is a child who loves to build and create. How can I have him build and create? Another thing that I see is that there have actually been studies done, for example, by the Department of Defense that show that people who play video games have an IQ that’s 10 to 20 percent higher than the average population. I think this sort of idea settled in my mind when I was talking to one gamer who told me that he started playing video games a lot when he was in like 7th or 8th grade and he remembers the day that he gave up on school. And what happened is his teacher gave him a math worksheet and he did the math worksheet in about 15 minutes, walked up to the teacher, turned it in and said, “Can I have the next one?” and her response was, “No, that’s the only one for today. Why don’t you go and sit quietly and I’ll give you the next one tomorrow?” And so school is paced based on the average child or even in some cases the slowest child, so you take a seven-year-old who’s intellectually curious, who wants to learn, who wants to be challenged and they beat level one in a video game and right then and there, level two is waiting. And so, if you want to really get your child away from the video games, I think the key thing is to actually do that is to support them.
So, the treatments that I come up with for my gamers are, for example, I set them up with internships and tech startups. Because these are people that like studying information, they do analysis, they figure out how to achieve the best outcome in this video game. And I say, “Why do in a video game? Go do it in the real world!” Amazing thing is that they love it. So, as parents, I think starting off by talking to them about why they play the video game. And then actually what’s drawing them to the video game is probably what actually makes your child exceptional or special. And to recognize what that is and to give them something that satisfies that exploration, satisfies that growth, but it’s kind of steered towards something that doesn’t expire when they close the program. I mean, that’s exactly what you’re saying is, I think, exactly what needs to be done is to support these kids who are smart and curious and want to build things and want challenge and want to analyze things and want to come with optimal solutions. That’s what video games are! There’s so much problem-solving involved, so give them a real-world problem! One family that I was working with, the kid comes in one day and says he’s stressed out because they’re trying to figure out if they want to buy a house or if they should continue to rent. And so, I was talking to the parents later and I suggested they let him figure it out. Let him do the research, let him do the math, let him learn Excel, and let him come up with an answer. He loved it absolutely loved it! He’s contributing to his family in a meaningful way and so I think supporting a game or is exactly what you need to do and I’d go even it’s one step further and say challenge them.
You know and push them, don’t just take away the video game, tell him, “Hey, I see that what you do in this game is exceptional. I see that you’re ranked highly in the nation, you do a good job at the game. So build something for us, help us out. We need your help and if you think about one of the things that is really hard for children is that they don’t actually have much of an impact, right? They’re sort of taught in our society doesn’t teaches us that a fifteen-year-old’s primary job is not to help, but is to learn, right? But I don’t think that’s true. Put them out in the world and have them do something real.
Rebecca: That’s fascinating. I’m living in Mexico right now and what I see in Mexico is that the kids as they’re growing up, they’re doing real-world things all along. I went caving this past weekend and there was a 15-year-old who was my guide who took us into sketchy places, down rickety ladders, but he’s been in this cave since he was one. So, he has a purpose and so I’ve been thinking a lot about that with our kids, how in our society, we don’t have a place for them, there isn’t the same thing. So, I love what you’re saying here about seeing their real-world skills and finding helping them and challenging them to use those skills. Awesome.
Kruti: Alok, do you want to talk a little bit about like different types of gamers? So, this is very important and very insightful that not all gamers are the same, right? So, we talked about the creative types, but when you think about Fortnight, that’s a completely different type of person. And then you have people that are kind of more they like the world in the story and the narrative of it. So, I was wondering if you wanted to talk more about that. One thing that kind of jumped to my mind was I like stories and I was always the vacation planner. I liked worlds and things like that so, when my family went on vacation that is how they translated that skill for me, they said, ”You do the itinerary, you figure out where we’re going, what we’re doing, what we’re eating all that .” And I don’t know, Alok, you want to talk a little bit about like the adrenaline in Fortnight?
Dr. K: Sure, so I think following our theme of understanding your kid so one of the things that I’ve come to appreciate is that video game addiction is not one disease, it’s actually like a half-dozen. And that the reason that people get addicted to different kinds of games is important. It doesn’t have to be addiction, it can just be the reason that people are drawn to games is different. So, for example, people who play a game like Fortnight are all about competition and triumph and adrenaline. This is sort of a high impact game where every 60 seconds, you’re fighting for life or death and you have to explore this arena. It’s kind of like The Hunger Games, a video game version. It’s like a battle royale where you’re competing against 99 other people and there isn’t some kind of artificial thing. If you want to win that game, you have to be the best out of 100 and so it really capitalizes on people’s competitive drive. And so in that case when I talk to parents who’re thinking about supporting the gamer, you have to let them do something that’s competitive and also lets them feel like they’re winners because a lot of times gamers won’t be able to be competitive in some ways physically or whatever, they have anxiety, or they’re just not simply physically. They’re just not the fastest kid so they can’t be that competitive. And so I think, for example, a great replacement activity is martial arts where there are competitions. It’s a great way to build self-confidence. There are other gamers that are explorers, so they like to play adventure games where you have a character and you outfit your character and you go caving. You cross an ocean and you explore here and you look for this there. They like these survival-based games where you’re kind of out in the wilderness. And so I think some kind of like wilderness training or like Boy Scouts is like a good example of something kind of scratches that itch. Boy Scouts is kind of cool because you learn how to do things like build fires and build shelters and navigate and you learn cool stuff. And then there are people who are very community driven, so I think if you look at differences between boys and girls who play video games, girls tend to play more for a social aspect. So, they’ll play games like World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy 14, which are MMORPGs. ORPG so an MMORPG is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, which means that you have the character and there’s a persistent virtual universe where they’re like 5,000 characters that are controlled by different people. And you get together these virtual worlds, which have virtual economies and you even have different jobs.
So, you’ll have one person who is an herb gatherer and another person who buys those herbs and turns them into potions, but you can only do one. So, you have to get together with someone who does the gathering and you have to find someone who does the brewing, so you have to collaborate with other people. And so in these virtual worlds, the social aspect is a huge part of it. These are games that usually don’t play alone, you play them with groups of 5 or 10 or 25 or even 40 people and you’ll try to slay a dragon with 39 other people and everyone has their role. If you beat the dragon, it’s because everyone’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing. One person is keeping it from flying away. One person is protecting you from it’s fire breath, another person is grabbing its tail. It’s a very coordinated effort. And so, some people really strive for that sense of community and connection and like working together towards a common goal. So for people who play MMORPGs, I’ll recommend things like Habitat for Humanity where you show up one day, there are 50 people there and you guys build a house and at the end of it you walk away and there is a house where there wasn’t a house before. And so, there are some people who are strategic; there’s strategy games where you run a civilization, you have to pass laws, and you have to figure out how much to tax. If you tax too much or people become unhappy and if you tax too little you might don’t have enough money. So really complicated and for those analytical people, I’ll recommend things like internships. And so, I’ll set people up with internships at artificial intelligence deep learning companies. I’m in Boston, so there’s a lot of stuff coming out of MIT and there are a lot of startups, I’ll set people up there. And so if you have to figure out, is my child and an adrenaline junkie or they’re competitive or they’re explorers, or are they doing it for social reasons? Are they a strategist? Are they an analyst? And if like Kruti was saying, do they like stories? So the other thing that I’ll do is I’ll connect people with writing groups. We actually have a game or writing group. So what people realize is that they love watching Star Wars and they like playing these science fiction games and things like that I’ll tell them instead of being a consumer, why don’t you write that produce something? What is the story that you want to tell? And I think that as parents gravitate towards that, it becomes easier to say, “Hey, you can play this game for 4 hours, but at the end of one year would you rather played for 3 hours a day and write for 1 hour a day or play for 4 hours a day? And then the child feels like you get them and then they feel like they’re being supported because you understand you’re not just telling them basketball is the answer to all.
Rebecca: Basketball, right! I love that! I love how you and Kruti, I really appreciate you bringing that up. I really appreciate really understanding the why your child is playing, what those skills are that they are you know demonstrating, and then helping them to translate those into the real world. I love that, thank you so much for that.
Dr. K: Yeah, because that’s what makes them exceptional, that’s how you know if they want a fulfilling career that the world also financially values. It’s actually that attribute because they are storytellers and explorers and analysts.
Rebecca: Right and that really honors who they are and it honors the relationship between parent and child.
Dr. K: And the other really awesome thing is that you know as a parent, you’re even more likely to recognize who they are and they’re going to need your help with that. And it can feel so gratifying when a parent recognizes your strengths and you don’t even realize that you have them. Because these are kids that part of the reason they retreat to video games is because they don’t have confidence. And for your parent to be able to see that and set you up and then you know six months later, you’re breaking boards in karate class like that’s cool.
Rebecca: That’s cool very cool I’ve gotten a lot of really great ideas today. Yeah, so we’ve been talking with Alok and Kruti Kanojia and a Healthy Gamer and we’ll be back tomorrow to talk about Fun Friday.