On Clash of Clans and communicating with 12-year-old boys

This week, I was accepted into a Clash of Clans ‘clan’. And yesterday I was made an Elder.

It was probably the high point of my week, since it’s the summer holidays and it was raining for about five days straight. Plus we’re saving to go back to Australia at the end of the year, so … free entertainment? Bring it on.

My Village, Day 9
My Village, Day 7

I didn’t exactly start playing Clash of Clans because of Mr2002, but I guess I was a bit curious about the rash of clan-playing that’s been going on, and it sounds (from what he’s told me) as if a couple of the girls in his class play too. (That’s one of my benchmarks for whether a game’s likely to be interesting.)

First of all, it’s quite addictive, in the sense that you get to collect gold. Anyone who knows my chequered history of collecting gold coins knows it’s a compulsion … despite the fact that I rarely spend time gaming. Nonetheless, I was thrilled to get back to filling the coffers (in Clan-Land, if not IRL).

@andrewonadventure has been very patient with my CoC-playing. You see, at night I usually have my phone either in the other room or in flight mode (you know—the EMR) but AJ has been away in the mountains, and somehow I feel better if my phone is on … just in case she calls at 3am.

AJ: Sorry, what? I can’t get away fast enough.
Me: #umbilicalcord. You’ll understand when you’re a mother.

Anyway, my phone keeps alerting me with helpful ‘reminders’ that my gold storage upgrade is completed, or my troops are ready for battle … or I have been raided by any number of 12-ish-year-old-boys during the night. (It’s mostly boys I think.) And @andrewonadventure has to endure this too.

On the one hand, I’m glad to know this information but, on the other hand, it’s pretty relentless. And I can see it could be an exhausting life having to constantly train your troops and donate troops to others in your clan … I’m feeling quite tired just writing about it.

However, there has been an up-side.

Lately, I’ve been struggling with communicating with my son. I’m trying to teach him to ‘find a Plan B if Plan A isn’t working’, but he’s nothing if not determined, and what I see as his rigidity and inability to ‘go with the flow’ is driving me potty. I start to raise my voice. I start to make threats about removing ‘privileges’. I say things just to rile him, to try to shock him out of his current mind-set.

Obviously, in these cases I need to work out what it is that’s bothering me, and whether it’s my problem or his but, in the meantime, I’ve found that playing alongside him has been beneficial to our relationship.

He has lightning-quick fingers, and he takes my phone and quickly upgrades and raids and sends messages to other clan members … before I’ve even had a chance to clock what’s going on.

I now have weeks-long virtual relationships with these kids. And I don’t even know our history. Or if I was (*gasp*) spelling stuff correctly. 

Of course, there’s a running commentary as he does this … but I’m still three steps behind.

COC dark side
Me: Holy Cowgirl. That dude’s seriously sinister. Ms1999: I told you, Mum. You’ve gone to the Dark Side. You should play Smurfs.

And yet, somehow, he seems pleased that I’ve joined the clan he’s in.

He donates troops to me when I’m going in to battle. He explains the value of wizards (they’re good on attack, but bad on defence), and he talks to me about good strategies. We discuss the value behind stealing others’ loot, we discuss the online, collaborative approach that still feels strange to me but normal to him. We talk about the whole enormous storyworld behind that one tiny screen. We even discussed what we’d do if we won 7.5 million dollars IRL. (Donate 3 million, buy a house, set up a fund for kids to get clean water in war zones …)

Of course, none of this makes it any easier to get him off the screens, but I’m learning about my kid, and it gives us a common experience, which is a pretty good outcome for a rainy week.

Does anyone else find gaming is a good way to connect with their kids?

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