Why are they so hooked on the game play? And why does it upset me so much?

I have never really understood the appeal of computer games. As a child of the Tetris and Mario brothers era, it never really appealed to me. My friends and I were more occupied with physical play or watching endless telly during the holidays.

The current circumstances of everyday life during the pandemic mean my two children are spending more time playing computer games online. They often play with their friends so I see this as an alternative to a traditional play date that would have happened as part of our old life.

However, one evening the other week my 12 year old had a full melt down when I refused to let her ‘complete’ her game as it was 10:10 at night and  time for bed. She had taken a break from the game to watch a movie with us and had expected to be able to finish the game afterwards. I could not understand or relate to why she was so upset about it, and was not able to validate her feelings. To me ‘it is just a game’ that she could play again tomorrow.

I was able to accept she was upset, I just could not understand – why?

I thought about what had happened and reflected on the way I had dealt with the situation. I resolved to try to understand more about how the games work and why it is so important to complete elements of the game. This is what I learned:

  • The games being played now are highly sophisticated to trigger rewards and secure the investment from the player to keep playing for the next reward.
  • The games of the 90’s had slower rewards, and you were expected to play levels multiple times to figure out how to reach the end.


I did this by asking my daughter about the games she played- why they were important to her and why it mattered. I learnt more about how the game worked to hook in her interest and commitment.

Only when I took some time to listen to her and get to know more about how the game worked, I could begin to understand things from her perspective. And THEN I was able to validate how she felt about it and acknowledge those feelings of anger and disappointment she had.

We then spent some time including her brother (because we have plenty of time together right now) working out some ground rules for the future. Such as, all games should be completed by 9 pm. That I give them a 30 minute warning to complete a game/level so they do not start a new one at 8:30 pm.

I had no idea that in the games they play, each element can last between 15 – 20 minutes or even longer in some other games. I didn’t know that they can’t or don’t always play in a way that means they can solve their progress, that they need to reach a certain point before they can save so when they return they can pick up where they left off.

I know I may never understand the attraction of computer gaming, but I do know what it is like to work for something and not be able to save it. I do know how great it feels to be asked questions about things that interest me and have someone pay attention and understand my feelings. It made me think about the times I have worked on reports and lost my work and how frustrating and upsetting that it is.

Living, learning and working together at home can create a pressure cooker of emotions that fluctuate from calm seas to choppy waters seemingly over nothing. But taking space to reflect, being curious about what is important to your children can be the way you can help steady the ship. Until the next time…

The game my daughter was playing was in Roblox called Ninja Tycoon. She was working toward getting a certain number coins before she could do the next challenge!

Blog Post written by Penny Phillips Parent of Lucy (12) and Alex (10) and the Parent and Creative Activities Manager with HeadStart Newham

Blog edited By Ghazal Haqani Peer Parenting Facilitator and Writer


For information on keeping your children safe online NSPCC have teamed up with O2 via Net Aware.

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