I’m not a big fan of video games, never have been.
I remember my brother’s Atari and our childhood matches of Pong, which I always lost. I kid you not: It was just too fast-paced for me to keep up.
I remember playing Ms. Pac-Man and Frogger arcade games at the local pizza place while my parents talked with other parents after the men’s softball game. I was decent at Pac-Man; my frog got hit by a lot of cars. You can forget Asteroids and Centipede—there’s something about my brain that doesn’t compute fast enough to dodge danger.
So when I say I’m not a fan of video games, it’s not the violence of Fortnite or the misogyny of Grand Theft Auto or even the issue of screen time and possible addiction to devices (those are articles for another day). I’m just really bad at video games.
I recently tried to play Madden with my tween son—he routed me, game after game, finally getting to the point where he chose the fake field-goal attempt for every play and still beat me soundly. I mean, who fakes a field goal from their own twenty-yard line on first down . . . and scores a touchdown?!?
I don’t play Farmville or Words with Friends. Not even to help friends out on Facebook. (I don’t care that you need wood planks or pickaxes—go to Home Depot like a normal person!)
But playing Clash Royale with my kid has led to some priceless conversations—like this one, on a recent ride home from school:
- Me: I finally got the Dark Witch but she’s useless. I put her down to defend against the Wizard guy and she was gone with one zap.
- Him: She’s called the NIGHT Witch, and she doesn’t throw stuff like the regular Witch or the Wizard. She shanks up close. Put her down against a Hog Rider.
- Me: Ohhhhhh. Duh. How’d it go today with Johnny when you asked him to stop teasing you?
- Him: I didn’t have to. He left me alone. If I win 20 more trophies, I’ll be in Arena 12.
- Me: Dude! That’s awesome!
- Him: Yeah. I have ELA homework on Greek mythology that’s due tomorrow.
There are so many reasons I’ve been playing Clash Royale for months, even though my adult friends and family think I’ve lost my mind. Here are just five:
- The cell phone is not a source of contention but a source of connection. Now the phone doesn’t take us away from each other; it brings us together. Instead of isolating us (in different rooms, with a different focus), the phone brings us face-to-face in the same space. Even cooler—when my son is away somewhere, we can still play together! Who’d’ve thought a tween would want to be on the phone with his mother? We’re in the same clan, folks. The. Same. Clan.
- We learn teamwork by working as a team. And we learn how to be there for each other. Sure, we play against each other, but we also play on the same team against others. We celebrate our wins with fist bumps and crazy dances, cheer each other on in our single battles, and encourage each other after a loss. I finally understand why my kid would get upset when he lost three battles in a row and dropped to a lower arena. That hurts. And now I know better (it’s called empathy) how to confront “rage-quitting,” which has become all too common with young people these days.
- This game talk has become a gateway to other conversations—about other video games, other apps, other issues in life. My son feels like he can tell me things and I’ll understand. Now we’re on the same team in more ways than one.
- Kids get to be the expert at something. Instead of your always being the one to instruct and lecture and show and correct, switch up the roles! Watch your child beam with pride as they school you. By that I mean, they will both teach you how to play AND beat your brains in.
- You show interest in something that matters to your kid. If it’s important to him, it’s important to me. While this applies to more than video games, my son is twelve right now and video games are what matters. Because he knows I care about him enough to care about Clash Royale (he’s convinced I’m the only mom who plays), he knows I truly care about him. And convincing a teenager that you care (about him, about the stuff he cares about) is hard work, am I right? Hopefully, my son will remember this in five years, but if he doesn’t, you can bet I’ll be reminding him.
In two days, I’ll drive to my local mobile phone store to pick up my new device. My old phone decided to suddenly stop working; the salesmen couldn’t fix it; and the nifty warranty that came with it grants me a free replacement.
My son went with me to try to get the broken one fixed. Later, when we were at the swimming pool, he informed me, “You know, this means you will lose all of your progress on Clash Royale.” I stared at him. Felt tears in my eyes. No . . . seriously? Not when I’m about to get to Arena 10!
I thanked my son for everything he taught me (how to defeat Sparky with Zap and then a Skarmy) and for playing 2v2 battles with me while he coached. He smiled and said, “You’re welcome.” I wanted to hug him and tell him to stop growing up and to thank him for sharing his life with me.
Instead, we went home from the pool and played board games like it was 1986.
[A boy mom and 4 Boys Mother contributor, Marissa Glover teaches and writes in Florida, where she spends most of her time sweating. Follow her on Twitter @_MarissaGlover_.]