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TL;DR: Question title. (What is a fair way to punish a sibling who unintentionally erases another's Saved Game?)

So this question could (should?) perhaps be posted on Parenting, but I thought users here might have some personal experience with this.

I recall two incidents from my childhood where I erased my younger brother's saved games, both times unintentionally (in my mind).

The first time was when I somehow deleted all the files for SimTown. Game files, saved games, and all. We re-installed the game, but no saves to be found. My brother was devastated and demanded my Roller Coaster Tycoon files be erased in retribution. My parents did not think that erasing save files for a game I'd played many more hours on was fair.

Fast forward a couple years and we're at daycare beefing up the kids starting lineups with the 3 starter Pokemon for Red and Blue. I was the cool kid with the link cable that let us trade, and I volunteered to get everyone set. Not even considering that there is only one save file and that to make a trade you need to save, I overwrote my brother's 100+ Pokedex to trade a Charmander for a Rattata. This horrific act again resulted in no punishment for me, but I did offer to help my brother with a new game.

Looking back, I got off easy. I would have been pretty vengeful if I had been my little brother, and maybe that's why we aren't close today (or because he lives a couple hundred miles away) and he's not the gamer type.

Still, that leaves me wondering what an appropriate punishment would have been? Is erasing the saves of the offending sibling really making things "fair?"

What would be an appropriate punishment these days?

EDIT: Just to clarify, both of these cases were unintentional. The first one due to not understanding how to properly use a computer at the age of 8, the second time just forgetting (and not reading the warning message) that you have to erase the saved game to do the trade.

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migrated from gaming.stackexchange.com Aug 5 at 8:11

This question came from our site for passionate videogamers on all platforms.

    
I don't even know what any of this means. Perhaps, a stern warning. –  Dave Clarke Aug 5 at 8:31
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@DaveClarke you're in the IT business, how do you not understand this? Anyway, how would you feel if someone destroyed a sand castle you've been building for hours? Or a snowman? Or an iglo? We've all been there, be it in real life or in virtual reality. –  Dariusz Aug 5 at 8:36
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@Dariusz: I'm in the computer science business and one core technique we use is abstraction, eliminating unnecessary details. –  Dave Clarke Aug 5 at 9:40
    
I added some context to how these happened, and 'unintentionally' to the title of the question. Those who want more details can read the rest of it as well. –  Matt N. Aug 5 at 12:23
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Anyways, 'unintentional' = accidental and rarely should a parent punish accidents. –  DA01 Aug 18 at 22:32

6 Answers 6

It's always important to make sure that discipline and punishment don't become tools that the kids use against each other. Having a punishment of one child shouldn't be a reward to the other.

The other thing that raises a red flag here is the fact that you state it was unintentional. I'm not sure that punishing someone for an accident is a proper precedent to set. Accidents should be opportunities to learn lessons and safety, being careful and taking responsibility not a place for punishment.

That doesn't mean that it shouldn't go un-addressed. Making sure that the "victim" understands that it was an accident and the the "perp" understands that there was still a loss involved should be the goal.

Lastly, from my experience with my 2 boys (3 & 8) I would want to stress that it is just a game. Not that it isn't irritating to lose your game history and saved data, but it's hardly a tragedy of Shakespearean proportion. And I think it is good to teach kids that somethings are important and something aren't.

When my family upgraded from our Wii to our Wii-U last fall, I didn't move all the game data from the old one to the new one. The first time my oldest went to play a game he didn't have his saved data. He flew off the handle. I apologized, and explained what happened but made sure that he understood that it's just a game. It's supposed to be fun, and like they say, sometimes sh*t happens. He thought about it for a little bit and then said "That's OK, now I can try and do better on all the levels".

So, I'd suggest don't punish for an accident, but help learn about the consequences of our actions despite out intentions, and in this case, stress that it's just a game.

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I completely disagree. Think how the kid who lost dozens of hours of "work" must feel. It's not just a game, it's the work, the achievement, progress, thoughts put into it. The value of those saved games is probably very high for the kid. The damage done is severe, even though it was not done on purpose. No punishment - or, even worse, no resitution - for his sibling is in my opinion a bad parenting decision. –  Dariusz Aug 6 at 5:55
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I agree on Dariusz: if you spent hours into it, it's no longer "just a game". It is nothing life-threatening and definitely no Shakespeare, it is more like drawing a huge and detailed picture for days, then someone accidentally sets it on fire and you have to watch it burn down. A hobby. –  TwoThe Aug 7 at 8:48
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Of course it is just a game! No one is hurt. And it's an accident. Punishment would not be appropriate. Chris has the right approach - a bit of chat, get the other child to apologise and move on! –  Rory Alsop Aug 22 at 12:58

Yes, a saved game might seem like a trivial loss to an adult. In fact, I purposely destroy mine after a certain point, because I enjoy the challenge of having limited resources again. However, kids use the trivial things to learn how to handle the big things. Saved games also represent a significant investment of time, so treating them as valuable validates the child's feelings.

Accidents happen, and are usually not cause for punishment (unless it was reckless), but for restitution. Think of how you handle accidents as an adult and apply the same principles to encourage the child to make it right. Additionally, you want children to think about ways to prevent it from happening again.

In the context of a saved game, I would require the offender to do as much as possible to help the victim get back to the point they were before the loss. For different games that means different things. It might be as simple as a trade, or it might mean playing on the other person's account instead of their own until they get back to a certain point. That's assuming the victim doesn't want the fun of starting over from scratch for themselves. Then talk about ways to keep it from happening again.

For example, my seven year-old son just started playing Minecraft with me a month or two ago. It's his first real video game and he isn't very good at it yet. If you play Minecraft you probably know what accident I'm talking about: a creeper explosion. They happen even to experienced adult players, and my son was blowing holes in other people's builds quite a bit. It's not the same as losing an entire saved game, but it's still a loss for another player.

So first of all, I require him to make it right. That means filling the hole and repairing the damage as best he can. Then we talked about ways to keep it from happening again. He is supposed to sleep at night, or stay far away from buildings. I built him an obsidian "danger room" to help him get better at fighting without endangering structures. I also gave him some better armor than he could get on his own, so he won't usually die and is therefore in a better position to make restitution.

Right now I am obviously giving him a lot of help, which might seem like a reward, but mostly I'm equipping him to be a more socially responsible player. When he gets older and more capable, I will require him to take these sorts of steps on his own and sacrifice more of his own resources.

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+1 "What are you going to do to make it up to your brother?" –  mxyzplk Aug 29 at 2:54
    
+1, I somehow missed this answer, otherwise I wouldn't have written mine, which is essentially identical. –  fkraiem Sep 14 at 3:00

I'd ask the erasee how much time will it take him to reach the same progress in that game, multiply it by 1,5 and make that amount of time his exclusive, solo play time. The child which erased the saves should not be able to play until that time passed, unless the other kid allowed him to play coop - but still never allow solo play even if the other kid allowed it.

The punishment should also depend on the "value" of those saves. I mean, there are some games in which progress is extremely difficult and frustrating and it requires a lot of patience and skill. If the child required a lot of self-motivation to reach the particular place in a game, the punishment for the other one should be severe. If the game was a sandbox (like Sim City you mentioned) and the cities got deleted, the harm done is probably smaller (but it really depends on the child's reaction).

I used to play Captain Tsubasa on a NES clone. It was in japanese, I had to learn the characters by heart - which does what, I mean, I never learned the language. To keep my progress, I had to copy like 50 characters to a sheet of paper and input them after turning on the console again. Losing (or improper character copying) that save was really, really, really frustrating. Had my brother destroyed it on purpose I would've been furious.

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This is exactly what I'd do as well. This is directly applicable to the misdeed, gives the offender a reason to not want to do it again (or to be more careful in the future!), and recompenses the loss to the boy who was harmed. Harm done by accident can and should still be punished to some extent; when my 3 year old is acting wild and hits his younger brother, he's still corrected almost the same as if he did it on purpose (with a slightly different focus, on being careful vs. being harmful). –  Joe Aug 5 at 18:34

In most situations, if the act is unintentional and there aren't dangerous consequences, I think the appropriate punishment is to make the kid apologize for what they did. In this case, it's just a game, so that seems like an appropriate punishment to me. It's also reinforcing the proper way to handle a situation when you unintentionally do something that would upset someone else, so hopefully in the future, they naturally apologize when such a thing happens.

In situations where the kid did something unintentionally, but their act could have resulted in greater harm, especially in those cases where the kid was being careless and should have known better, I might consider a harsher punishment. For instance, kids forgetting and leaving their toys lying on the stairs where someone could have tripped and fell.

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I'd like to point out what I think (perhaps wrongly) should be the distinction between punishment and simply taking steps to repair the damage you have done. Punishment should punish bad behavior (however the parent defines it). It seems to me that doing something involuntarily is by any reasonable definition not bad behavior, so is outside the realm of punishment.

Rather, you should have the child acknowledge that his involuntary action caused damage to his sibling, and understand that the proper thing to do when you cause damage, even involuntarily, is to take steps to repair it. Make him understand that he didn't do anything wrong, that he is not a bad person, that you are not mad at him, etc., but that when you cause damage to someone, taking steps to repair it is simply the right thing to do. For example, when you bump into someone who has his hands full of stuff at the supermarket, causing them to drop it all over the floor, you will take a bit of your time to help them gather it back. Not because you are a bad person for doing this and need to be punished, but simply because it's the proper thing to do. So here it would be appropriate for the child to give up some of his gaming time so that the sibling is able to rebuild their saved game to how it was before. Again, not as a punishment, simply because it's the proper thing to do.

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My guideline in raising kids is that consequences must feel a "natural" consequence. That is, the kid must not feel punished, but feel like that whatever hits it after it had done something "wrong" is a natural, physically deterministic consequence of what it did. Retribution has no place in this. If you cannot undelete what you have deleted by having something else precious be destroyed, then why destroy something precious at all? (Of course, that's the ideal, and I openly admit that sometimes I do fall short of this. But still, it is how I try to do things.)

In the case you mentioned, where the destruction was done accidentally, the first consequence I can think of is a very "naturally" feeling consequence: "If you are not yet experienced enough to avoid such fatal mistakes, you cannot use the machine on your own. Someone has to be there and supervise your interaction, and that someone has to find the time to do so."

That will seriously limit the amount of time the kid can use the machine, and thus be a punishing which teaches a lesson. Yet it will feel "natural", if explained as such.

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