Geek Advice – My Parents Don’t Understand My Gaming

Dear Pink Hair Girl,

I’m 17 years old and a senior in high school. For the most part, I kinda get along with my family, except for when it comes to playing video games. They keep telling me it’s a total waste of time, and are constantly on my back about how I could be doing ‘productive’ things. They say that it shows how immature I am, and my dad even makes fun of me, telling me that it’s the reason I’ll never have a girlfriend.  How do I get them to leave me alone and just enjoy my games in peace?

Sincerely,
Glitched at Home

Gaming: It’s for immature children, but it’s also way too violent for children.

Dear GaH,

Parents. Pffff. Seriously, don’t expect them to understand you until you’ve moved out for at least 5 years (not including college, when you come home for the summer–that seems to reset the counter.) To be completely fair, though, you probably don’t really understand your parents either. That’s kind of a cruel trick of the modern world: technology, innovation, social structure and all that jazz change so fast that kids are growing up in a world almost entirely alien to that of their parents. For example, when I was 17, I made myself some pocket-money by waiting tables, I read Sailor Moon manga between classes, and my biggest concern was figuring out what I should major in after high school. (NOTE, I am 10 years older than you). My mom, on the other hand (who is almost 40 years older than you) lived in post-WW2 Poland; she picked tobacco for a job and gave the money to her family, was enrolled in grenade-throwing classes in high school, and her biggest concern was saying something wrong, pissing off the communist Russians occupying the country and getting her parents imprisoned.

You don’t get it mom, all YOU had learn in school was pull and throw!

The differences between 17-year-old you and the 17-year-old version of your parents may or may not be that dramatic, but how do you know if you don’t ask them? Fun project: Find out what your parents where doing at your age.  (Warning: If they grew up in the US, prepare yourself for a barrage of how times were so much simpler/better/nicer. It’s a double standard. Parents work their asses off to give you a better life than they had, and then make you listen to them complain about how their era was so much better than yours.)  Regardless of what they tell you, at the very least, you’ll gain some insight into where they’re coming from. It might help you to appreciate just how foreign a place they grew up in, and why they’re not wrapping their brains around your fascination with gaming. My mom couldn’t comprehend my little brother’s fascination with FPSs…why would anyone WANT to even pretend to toss grenades around for hours at a time? She didn’t get it, and my little brother didn’t get why my parents disliked him playing so much.

But being in the position you’re in, you’re going to have to cope and co-exist with your parents. And believe it or not, they want what’s best for you, even if their actions don’t always seem that way at the time–and even if it doesn’t always justify the way they treat you. Their intentions are good, so give them the benefit of the doubt, and mull over these tips for dealing:

  • Earn the right to ‘waste some time.’ You mention that your parents’ biggest complaint is that games are “immature” and “a waste of time,” both of which suggest to me that they view gaming as a threat to your development into a responsible adult. In order to keep your parents from seeing it as a threat, you have to get all the ‘important shit’ done first. If you want them off your back about the games, make sure your grades are good, your room is clean, and your chores are done.  Having your life in order, to them, will be a good indicator that your gaming isn’t interfering with your life. This might be hard advice to swallow, since it’s probably what they keep nagging you about all the time, but you’re dependent on them, and they’re calling the shots. Sorry, but that’s the way it is for now, and it sucks.  And actually, hating having to live by parents’ rules is one of the biggest reasons humans amount to anything in life! If we loved living with them, we’d never wanna get a job to be able to make enough money to move out, and we’d have gone extinct a long time ago. (Try not to use that as a thesis for any papers, I’m pretty sure it’s wrong.)
  • Nip the teasing in the bud. They’re making fun of their own kid, and then have the nerve to call YOU immature? Do yourself a favor and have a calm discussion with your dad about the fact that he makes fun of you. Or, if that’s not your style or it’s too hard to talk to him, write it down in a letter. Try not to be accusatory when you talk about it. Just make sure he understands that when he makes fun of you, degrades your masculinity or your ability to attract someone, he’s behaving inappropriately. Try to tell him that if he intends it to shame you into not playing video games, that won’t work, because shame is a terrible motivator. And, in the long run, it’s only going to make you resent him, in a way that sticks with you when you get older. Confronting bullies is one of the hardest things we do in life, and I imagine it will be doubly so since this time it’s your family doing the bullying. But standing up for yourself will command respect, and if they really love you, it will make your relationship with them better once you get it out in the open.
  • Accept that they may never get it. You could try all the tricks in the book: play video games with them, introduce them to games they might find fun, show them statistics about how a third of gaming is done by grown men (last time I checked, it was something like that). But that may never be enough to help them understand what makes them enjoyable for you. It could be over their heads, and you’re going to have to deal with it. As long as you’re living with them, you all have to find ways to get along, or else the house turns crazy. They can be unsatisfied with your hobbies, in the same way that you can be unsatisfied with their music or their taste in clothes. You just co-exist with it for a while, until you can find a way to leave the nest. As long as you can convince them to be civil with you, and don’t give them any excuses to make video games a scapegoat for bad grades or getting into trouble in school, then it can just fade into the background for them.
It was the 70s. We did a LOT of things.

All in all, just have some conviction for your love of gaming. It’s what you do for fun, it’s how you relax after school, it’s how you socialize with friends. They might not understand it, but you’re your own person, and as long as all their other demands are being met, they shouldn’t have a problem with you spending your free time how you want. Besides, chances are they’re not going to tell you that when they were you’re age, they were getting high and doing things that pissed their parents off just as equally, but know that that’s probably the truth. Take the higher road, and try not to call them on it. Someone’s gotta be the grown up after all.

Sincerely,
Pink Hair Girl

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Pink Hair Girl

After her DNA was spliced with that of a jelly fish, Olivia became known to all as Pink Hair Girl. She also gives advice to geeks all around the world.

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