The other evening I put the two smaller grandchildren to bed and came downstairs planning to watch a film with the older one. She’s quite old enough and sensible enough, when she chooses, to be good company and we have had some excellent discussions of films we have watched.
On this occasion, I came downstairs to find her talking on the phone to her cousin, well, my niece’s daughter so that makes them some kind of second cousins. And, because they are teenagers, it wasn’t just a phone call it was face-timing, something rather like skyping I believe. As well as talking, they were both playing a game called “Animal Crossing” on their DS.
In fact, that was really what the conversation was about: the game they were playing and the difference between their two machines, my granddaughter’s being a more modern version. The other teenager would like to update hers to a more modern version but her machine is a classic limited edition Super Mario machine and she is loath to lose it. From time to time they showed each other the screen of the DS on the phone. I found it rather surreal to be listening to such a weird conversation.
Of course, had they been on the same room, or even maybe in the same street, they would probably have joined each other in the game by internet. But as one of them was here in Delph and the other over in Southport, this was not possible. It is what has been happening with the Minecraft game that all three grandchildren (and while he was her, our son) have been playing on iPhone, iPod and iPad, all “talking” to each other. It is sometimes quite difficult to wrench them away from this unreal, created world, based apparently on Lego.
I did lure them away from it for a while yesterday. When my siblings and I were around the age of the two younger grandchildren (they are 10 and 8) my brother had a Bayko building set. This was made up of plastic bases into which you inserted metal rods. Plastic blocks of bricks, window, doors, steps, balconies and other sorts of architectural bits and pieces could them be slid between the rods to make a building of your own creation. Even though this was nominally our brother’s, all three sisters spent hours playing with it as well.
I was reminded of it last year when I saw a construction site in Oldham that sported tall metal supports and just looked like a giant Bayko set. When I posted a photo on Facebook, my brother’s widow commented that she still had it in the attic. Christmas came along and she handed over the wooden box full of bits and pieces.
So yesterday, when the electronic world lost its charm briefly, I got it out. At Christmas it had not sparked much interest but now it was declared to be “a bit like Minecraft in the real world” and constructions were created. A different activity, using physical creative skills instead of electronic – for a short time anyway.
At the moment they’re back in the virtual world once more. For a while though, reality was enough and they seemed proud of their creations.
All aspects of life seem to have the capacity to become part of a big game. I’ve been rereading Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”. I haven’t seen the films and don’t really want to. But the eldest granddaughter tells me that a couple of young Texans are currently in New Zealand, where the films were made. They are walking from Hobbiton – yes, the set apparently still exists and has people dressed as hobbits entertaining tourists – to the mountain which served as Mount Doom, where the fateful ring of power was destroyed.
How strange is that? But it’s a real activity, not a virtual adventure. Good for them!