9

As stated, my 7-year-old son is turning into a help vampire, especially when it comes to a game we are playing.

We started playing a 3DS game together but separately. There are two versions but with the same story line that is followed. I play one version, he plays the other. We both got through a good portion of the game but at one point, he got stuck on how to continue. It was a spot I had trouble with also, so I pointed him in the right direction and he was able to continue.

Fast-forward to a week or so later and now, almost at every hinge-point in the story line, he comes and asks me "Where do I go next?" I watched him as he plays and discovered that the root cause of his inability to follow the story line is that he reads little to none of the dialogue.

If you ask "well, what did this character tell you to do next?"

He responds with "I don't remember."

"Because you didn't read the dialogue?"

"...No"

So now, what's a dad to do? Do I continue to aid him in the game or do I let him squirm to try and figure it out even at a point where I know none of the key dialogue that needs to be read to understand where to go next won't be repeated by the character giving the direction?

Do I let my son continue to be a help vampire?

  • A few questions: How good are his reading skills in general? Is he a kinda anxious child? Do you like the game independent of your son's interest or is this a bonding thing? How much does he like it independent of you? (Great question, btw!) – anongoodnurse Nov 13 '18 at 2:13
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    @anongoodnurse He’s gotten through a majority of the game by himself so far, and that involves some pretty good amount of reading. He’s played other games in this series with no issues in the past starting at a much younger age. “Kinda” anxious is an understatement. He’s an extremely anxious child. I played a game from the series when I was about his age so I’ve had interest for quite a while. My recent playing has been for bonding however. He also likes it independent of me...very much so. – SomeShinyMonica Nov 13 '18 at 2:51
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    @anongoodnurse perhaps being less cryptic about the game would help but I’m trying to keep it generic-ish. It’s Pokémon. – SomeShinyMonica Nov 13 '18 at 2:52
6

A child puts effort into things that are fun to them. If actually beating the game alone and following the story is what makes this game fun for the child, he will play it the intended way.

Getting stuck in a game is rarely fun, so he asked for help, which is entirely fine. But now it seems that his biggest goal is to beat the game as fast as possible, skipping dialogs (because they don't seem interesting enough to be read) and not thinking about problems.

Maybe it turned into a kind of race for him? Seeing that you are far ahead, and he wants to keep up.

My advice would be: Play together with him on his device. Maybe read the dialogs aloud, and take turns doing it. In my experience the interest will come back again, and he can play alone again.

(Extra Info depending on the game itself "Pokemon": Pokemon is not really a game that is over once the story is done. There is still some "end game" which consists of leveling up your Pokemon and fighting other trainers. You need to know complex type advantages and it is a skill based game. So maybe he wants to get to the "fun end game" as fast as possible. Depending ob which Pokemon game you are talking about there is in modern ones a help widget on the lower screen which can flag a position on the map where you need to go, and repeats important information.)

3

I play Pokémon with my sons as well, with the same general strategy - the older one (7) plays Sun I play Moon (and the younger plays whatever he wants, he's only 5).

The way I approached this, particularly when we were starting out (at 5), was to partition my help into different "buckets" mentally.

  • Help using the interface: I would show him how to use the interface by doing the action on my device, expecting him to then do the same on his.
  • Help finding a particular person/pokemon/item: I'm the sort of person who happily consults internet sites to find out where things are, as I don't get a lot of enjoyment from the "stumble upon" style of gameplay. As such, I treated interactions with him as similar: if he asked where something was, I showed him the process of looking it up on the internet. (We generally let our kids at this age look things up freely, given we're constantly supervising them to notice anything they shouldn't be doing.)
  • Help solving a puzzle or working out a difficult solution: Here is where it gets harder. Most often, what I do here is let him struggle a bit, but keep him from struggling so much that he gives up. It's a hard balance. Mostly I ask him questions, rather than giving him answers, trying to get him to think about what he's doing; that works well with my seven year old but less well with my five year old.

For the most part, though, what worked best was letting him go at his own pace, and me going at mine, and just talking about what we were doing. With my 7 year old, I tend to be more 'exploratory' while he tends to be more "direct", which works well because it means we finished at more or less the same time. It lets him focus on the stuff he enjoys while still letting us do similar things.

With my 5 year old, it doesn't work as well because his attention span is lesser. That means he constantly asks how to get to the next place; I largely don't tell him, other than to remind him what the game text told him, and to show him the Rotom Dex. If you're playing Red and Blue or something older, this will be more troublesome; but if you're playing Sun and Moon or US&UM, the Rotom Dex pretty much tells you where to go, so you don't have to focus too much on that. If that's the part that's hard for your seven year old, you might consider going to a newer game (X&Y or newer, and particularly S&M or newer).

One other thing of note: I did trade him a few higher level Pokémon in the first playthrough (Pokémon that were just at the level cap for him at that stage in the game). That helped the combat portion be a bit easier for him, while still requiring him to actually do the combat.

We also regularly talked about what we did and why; this helped him without actually making him dependent on me, because it let me explain strategies I used (such as using particular non-damage moves that helped make battles eaiser). It also helped that he was hugely into Pokémon before we started playing, so he knew the basic matchups and things like that (fire beats grass, etc.) We also regularly battled each other, which he quickly got to the point that he could beat me regularly in, but definitely helped him learn strategies better since he couldn't just brute force his way through an even-level battle against a variety of Pokémon.

2

There are some other causes for why he might want to ask for your help. He may simply like playing with you and asking for help means he gets to spend time with you. So you may want to choose to embrace it (or embrace it to a certain extent).

This also presents itself as a chance to teach problem solving and independence. I think the best thing you can do is let him figure it out on his own, but give him the pieces of the puzzle he missed. I would assume that you can find the pieces of dialog that your son missed online somewhere (or at least find enough of a synopsis on a game guide website so you can provide him with something). Then read that text with your son and see if he can figure out where to go or what to do. Don't just give him the answer. This way you get to spend time together playing together, but you allow him to work it out on his own and show him you won't do everything for him.

Eventually he will learn to read the text and do it himself. As he does this, you may need to find some other ways you can interact with him and play together so you don't lose that along the way. Happy gaming. It's a great way to spend time together.

2

I think everything I would advise has been given here already by the other three great answers. I'm going to focus on something that was not directly addressed. In two comments, you stated:

He’s gotten through a majority of the game by himself so far, and that involves some pretty good amount of reading.

and

“Kinda” anxious is an understatement. He’s an extremely anxious child.

I may be far off track here but is it possible that he's turning to you to solve the next step for him because somehow his anxiety is interfering with him doing it the way he did before? I don't know if the game is getting harder now or what (if anything) is making him more anxious at this point. But if it is anxiety, that's a difficult emotion to deal with for most people*, even far into adulthood.

If you think anxiety is part of the issue, I would continue to help him, but playing through it with him at the time (as calmly and empathetically as if you were addressing your sever-year-old self), making him read out loud, etc. Teach him that it's just a game, and that he can relax and make mistakes and still enjoy it (basically reiterating @Becuzz's excellent answer here.) If there's a sense of competition (he wants to get there faster, because you're ahead), this is a great time to really emphasize that comparing himself to others is not a good basis on which to make decisions (like asking for help with a task he can easily do himself) and judgements (that it's "better" to be ahead.) This is no small thing.

Basically, if anxiety is part of making him a help vampire, deal with the anxiety issue as well. If he's just being lazy (not a judgement), you still make him do the work by making him go through it step-by-step in front of you. If it's the latter, he may just decide it's quicker to do it himself and will do better on his own. If it's the former, you're helping him with a life lesson.

To quote a better answer, "Happy gaming. It's a great way to spend time together."

Anxiety is a potent inhibitor of action and decision making. It has been shown to decrease 'working memory' capacity, making processing information - like doing tasks or making decisions - more difficult.

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