Those crazy kids ... We sure hear a lot of frustrated cries for them to get off our Azerothian lawns. The usual scenario: The son or daughter of a relative or friend takes up playing the game. She's a great kid and all, and you're happy to make the occasional dungeon run with her -- it's just that every one of those evenings ends up as an exercise in frustration.
She's late to meeting spots. She goes AFK in the middle of dungeon run. And she pesters you endlessly whenever you're in a raid: "Are you done yet? What are you killing now? Why did you wipe? Are you going to try again? Is everybody mad? Are you done yet?"
Is there a way to keep sharing the occasional fun session with this young player without opening yourself up to a barrage of inconveniences? How can you handle this sticky situation without alienating your relative or friend?
Drama Mama Lisa: It's counterproductive to be frustrated with a kid for being a kid. Most kids aren't in control of their own schedules -- that responsibility falls to their parents, who in this case seem at ease enough with the game or their child's relationship with you that they don't feel a need to micromanage any in-game plans or even keep up with what Junior's doing.
The other part of the problem is the uninitiated, non-WoW-playing parent. Your relative or friend may not have the faintest clue of what's involved in playing WoW. Sure, he might recognize that his daughter's hooked up with good ol' you, which obviously means you must be "playing together" -- but it never occurs to him when he's annoyed that his little princess hasn't taken the trash out yet that insisting she do it right then might actually be interrupting something the two of you are doing and inconveniencing you.
- Explain raid etiquette and demands to your young friend. Kids may not understand why you can't or don't want to answer them when you're raiding. Explain it! Also make sure she knows when you're likely to be raiding, how long raids typically last and how to check your location to see where you are before she sends you a whisper.
- Show your relative or friend the ropes. Explain how long common activities in game take, and explain the effect of constant interruptions. Don't forget to ask if there are any specific times that he'd prefer you not play together.
- Help your young fellow player figure out ways to respond to interruptions responsibly. Teach her to reply to parental demands clearly: "Sure, Dad, but I'm doing some quests with Uncle Gamer right now and this will interrupt our progress. How long should I tell him I'll need to be gone?" While you're at it, teach her not to AFK without talking to you about it first -- or that if she does, you're likely to move on to other activities in game or offline.
- Screen your whispers. While it's true that it's polite to answer whispers whenever possible, it's not a moral imperative. If you're raiding when she pings you, reply once: "Hi! Haha, that was a funny joke. Hey, busy raiding right now, will talk after 10:00 when I'm free." (Notice the concrete time? Give her an idea of how long you'll be busy; pad it, if you like.) Then don't reply again until you're out of the raid.
- Set realistic expectations. Even with improvements in the above areas, your young friend probably won't be as prompt and reliable as an adult. Don't set up a playdate unless you're willing to see it through in all its time-snarfing glory. And be open to alternatives -- it's perfectly cool to just chat (in whispers, group or on Vent) while you're doing things in game separately.
- Pass on the torch. If it looks like your young friend is really enjoying the game, set her and her parents up with the know-how to successfully combine gaming and life as a student. For parents: Share a link to our Parent's Guide to Video Gaming for Kids. And for your young friend: Share a link to The Student's Guide to Balacing Real Life, Good Grades and Video Gaming.
Drama Mama Robin: You didn't sign on to be this kid's online babysitter full time. You've got your own in-game goals and they don't include being an in-game care-giver. It's time to take back your leisure time while still spending quality time with Miss Young'un. Make a duo with her. Here are some tips:
- Arrange with the parents for one or two playdates a week -- whatever is best for both of your schedules. Tell them that this will be the only time you will be supervising little Miss Y. If they don't already know, explain to the parents that there are thousands of people playing in the same world as their child and not all of them are nice.
- Create your duo on a server different from your main. Make it one that is friendly for Miss Y's gameplay. Unless she really likes the thrill of PvP, getting ganked while leveling through busy areas (Stranglethorn Vale, I'm looking at you) will be too frustrating, so try an RP or PvE realm.
- Only play your duo with each other. This is important. The point of these characters is to spend time together having fun and it's not fun if you've decided to do some leveling on the side.
- Only play together on your duos. If Miss Y's expectations are that you will only be playing with her on your playdates, she is much less likely to bother you while you are raiding or otherwise not available for chatting.
- Be silly! Make character names that go together, like Bloo and Peenk or Hokey and Pokey. Make exact twins or make a gnome and a draenei. Two pandas are a lot of fun to play together -- that's what The Spawn and I do.
Dodge the drama and become the player everyone wants in their group with advice from The Drama Mamas Drama-Buster Guide. Got a personal question for the Drama Mamas? Email Robin and Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org.