Back in October, I wrote about an expensive lesson that my son and husband learned through Wizard101, a massively multiplayer online role-playing fantasy game. (Think Dungeons and Dragons without the multisided dice or workbooks).
Months later, my son continues to be obsessed with the game, despite my efforts to distract him. He has spent hours learning new spells, completing missions, collecting new pets and moving up the wizard ranks. He has also spent quite a few hours chasing a female friend from school around the wizarding cities.
When I asked why she doesn’t chase him, he responded “well mom, she has a horse.”
But this past weekend, as I visited Austin, Texas for SXSW, I realized Wizard101 may have a few redeeming qualities.
Each morning, before I headed out to the conference, I would log in to my wizarding account and “meet” my son somewhere in the game. Over the course of 15-20 minutes he would lead me around, telling me where to go, giving me advice on which type of spell to use to take the most advantage of a spell he had cast, and most importantly, talking – About his day, school, his sister, etc.
One day, my daughter even joined in the fun.
Later, standing in a monster line at Starbucks, I met Dr. Pamela Rutledge from the Media Psychology Research Center and told her about my recent Wizard101 activities. She then asked me if I thought that my son was gaining a new sense of confidence through his successes.
Our son has been having a great year. But as we’ve talked about all the things that may be contributing to his success – psychiatrist, reading specialist, teachers – it never once occurred to us that a video game could be part of the equation.
But I think she might be right.
So while I’m going to continue to badger him to diversify his interests a bit, I’m also going to fight his Wizard 101 obsession a little less. Because it seems to be working a special type of magic on our son.
Pictured above: I cast a spell while my dragon “Princess Sophie” looks on.