This is a question that keeps popping up in every game I play and guild I join — should there be age limits? Upper, lower, in between?

The younger players, unsurprisingly, usually feel that excluding them from guilds is unfair and rather discriminatory — and they’re right, it is. But game guilds aren’t governed by fair recruitment laws; if a guild wants no members under 25 or no members born in February, it can do as is pleases, provided it can actually enforce its criteria.

This is another issue I’m ambivalent about. On the one hand, chronological age isn’t always a good indicator of maturity; I know plenty of great young people and old asshats. On the other, the simple truth is that I do not always have that much in common with people 20 years younger than me. Our energy levels likely aren’t the same. Their lack of patience usually makes me want to scream, while I’m sure my plodding old codger pace and my determination to “experience” things makes them want to chew their desks. They want everything NOW or it’s not worth having, and a lot of the time they’re not too interested in the journey to getting something — screw the journey, just get me the damned item/quest/phatreward.

Some young players are giant pains in the ass (so are older ones, but usually for different reasons); the younger the player, usually, the less they mind begging for stuff in guild chat, be it items, assistance, time, attention. And if they don’t get it, they often get surly and mutter about people being mean and nobody liking them. Ah, puberty.

The thing is, etiquette isn’t innate, it’s learned, and that goes for MMOs just as much as any other social pastime. Kids have different concepts of doing and having and sharing — asking people to give them stuff isn’t, to them, a gross breach of etiquette … it’s just a reasonable request; if you have lots of money or items and they don’t, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t give them some. They’d do the same for you. Wanting things right now isn’t totally subverting the point of the game … it’s sensible. Why spend 4 hours obtaining something when someone can get it for you, or help you get it, in a quarter of the time?

They’re not entirely wrong, either. Sometimes when I beat my head against the time-sink wall of MMO mechanics, I’m sure they’re almost entirely right, in fact. They haven’t been subverted into rats running docilely through the maze they know is there, aiming for cheese that will sustain them for even less time than your average Chinese take-out.

So, yeah. Part of me likes the energy and uncomplicated enjoyment younger players bring to games, which is often blessedly infectious. Another part of me thinks it’s rather hypocritical to rail against “bad” behaviour in games if I’m not prepared to help educate newer/younger players as to what we consider “good” behaviour — while at the same time examining that etiquette for cracks or excessive nicety; not all our MMO rituals are sensible or even relevant anymore. But part of me feels that I spend enough time trying to share, enjoy, and educate in my REAL life, so that when I log into a game, I should have the choice to turn that off and associate only with the kind of people I want, whatever that may be. If that doesn’t include a certain type of person, that’s just the way it is.

However… If I replaced every instance of “young people” with “men” or “European people,” this post wouldn’t be thoughtful, it’d be petty and discriminatory. Not regulated by law, perhaps, but still unfair. I’m quite happy to exclude people based on age or apparent maturity, but I’d go postal if any guild I’m involved in suddenly decided it didn’t want women or French people in it. Isn’t that rather too fine a distinction to be making?

And if so… how am I going to stay patient when my gaming guilds are over-run by teenagers?

15 thoughts on “Youth

  1. Hmm, I may be over-simplifying, but I think the difference between saying “No Men” or “No French People” and saying “No one under 20” is that a man is a man and is always going to be a man. While a child isn’t going to be a child for long. So you’re not saying “We never want you.” but instead “We’ll be happy to welcome you in a couple years when your hormones calm down.”

    Plus, there are age-appropriate issues to consider, depending on the guild. I’ve been in guilds where the chat would sometimes take distinctly NSFW directions and I’d hate for their to be a 12 year old in chat when that was going on.

  2. You are pretty much right. I am a very impatient person, but even i pale in comparison to many of today’s youth. It is all about instant gratification, which now is annoying. Just wait until these kids start holding positions of power.

    Of course, maybe the last generation said the same thing.

  3. Eh, damn you for always making me realise what I miss out in a post! šŸ˜€

    I’m not counting issues like language and content in a guild, because to me that should transcend age issues anyway. I am not exactly pure-of-speech in real life, but I do NOT talk around strangers (and guildmates) they way I do to my RL friends. That’s basic courtesy — doesn’t matter to me if they’re 13 or 33.

    I was well aware of most swear words long before I was 13, and I am a firm believer in education over ignorance — it’s not knowing the words that will turn you into a sailor-speaking brat, it’s not knowing what is and isn’t acceptable use of said words in varying context.

    I’m veering off the point. Again. Maybe I should trademark that behaviour. šŸ˜‰

  4. Really, age is no more a valid metric of maturity or behavior than color of skin is.

    That said, there are certain things that come with age and ‘maturity’ often becomes the catch all for these things.

    Attention span.
    Abstract thinking.

    Okay, some of those don’t come with age but rather experience which is often tied to having been around long enough to experience things. Of course, you also need to have made an effort to experience things…

    Generally speaking, you know what to expect from a 5-8 year old. Things blur around the teenage years, but even then, you know it’s a time of turbulence for most people and you may not necessarily want the added weight of drama that comes around that age.

    I don’t think it’s unfair to want to play with people that are beyond such points in their life. You want to log in and play, not hear about some girl at school that they want to go out with or that rejected them.

    Unfortunately, I have a hard time being indifferent so I find it easier to avoid environments where that can happen.

  5. While hard and fast criteria does not mean that everyone that is outside of them does not have the desired traits, the intent is often maximize the chances of getting those traits you desire. Ysh, I sympathize where you are coming from and at times it’s really hard to find groups with which you fit really well with. Hope all is well and Mort’s illness is soon at an end. Cheers!

  6. Judging each person’s ability to fit in with you and the guild as they come, is likely the best practice. In my experience anyway.

  7. One of the best short articles I have ever read.

    Best = Thought Provoking, Insightful, Concise, Clear, Interesting.

    I really enjoy writers that pull me out of my world for a while until I finish reading, wake up not knowing how long I was gone, and remember I am not them.


  8. I think you bring up some very valid points involving age in games. Even without hearing a 13 year old on vent, you can generally tell that they are fairly young by their requests.

    I hadn’t really considered that they aren’t really being inconsiderate by asking for money or items — although I have known people that have continued that behavior well on through college.

    I think it’s important for the younger players to learn the value of the journey — they’ll definitely get more out of their games if they do!

    I think it is well within a guild’s rights to have an age limit, but involving younger players on a trial basis would give them the opportunity to learn some etiquette…

    The verdict? I have no idea.

  9. There’s no right or wrong here really, since nobody is advocating tying the children to a chair in another room so they can’t play with us. (Remember parents, don’t try this at home.)

    We do tend to think of kids as just smaller versions of ourselves, but they have their own values and outlook on stuff that is particularly evident in games. The “begging” is usually paired with its opposite: if you don’t have something and they do, they’ll give it to you. I think in many ways the generation being weaned on computer games has a clearer idea of what’s real and what isn’t in games, and values pixelated-possesions less than some of us old-timers do. Yes, obtaining stuff takes time and has value, but it’s wise sometimes to remember that even in MMOs, possessions aren’t what you are, they’re just what you have.

    As for learning the value of things like journeys… adults tried many a time to teach me stuff when I was younger, hoping that I wouldn’t have to endure the often painful road to experience. ‘Course, that’s not the way it works. You can be *told* stuff 1,000 times and only internalise it when you finally experience it. Just as well, or we’d all have Experience-O-Tron-2000 helmets strapped to our heads at age 13 and have wisdom forcibly downloaded.

    Bless the young. Just keep them out of my way when I’m feeling old and cranky. šŸ˜‰

  10. I would venture that part of this is a generational issue as well. I only go as far back as Asheron’s call and Ultima, but hey!!

    I do recall in Ultima, you would not be caught dead asking someone for items or money. It honestly could follow you for quite some time, and people would remember you as ‘that guy who didnt want to work for himself (socialism?! LOL). Same for Helbreath, a great game (IMO) in its time. In recent years, however, it has become increasingly more acceptible, at least amongst a guild, as it is percieved as ‘helping out a guildie!’. I still hold on to the values of 10 years ago. I still find it rude and socially unacceptable. The problem may extend as far back as World of Warcraft. Though i hate to bash the game, the FACT is that they have drawn a new crowd into the MMO community. People who before would not have even considered a fantasy MMO. As a result, we have MANY new players who have not played a MMO before, and do not believe in / follow / understand the guidelines that the rest of us have considered common sense for nearly a decade.

  11. P.S. I’ve added you to my blogroll. Dont know how I missed you or Werit. My apoligies!

  12. None needed, since I thought the same when I added you to mine. I’m trying to see if I can make a mile-long blogroll!

    And yes, begging *was* considered unacceptable in Asheron’s Call but it was still done. I remember folks standing around in Qalabar or Arwic (after they rebuilt it) or… gah, that town on the east coast whose name I’m blanking on — Eastham? — begging for money or whatnot.

    It wasn’t as common then, but I think that’s more down to the fact that there are lots more people playing now (including kids) rather than the fault of “the youth of today” — who probably aren’t much worse than the youth of my day seemed to my grandparents, and so on.

    I’m a much calmer player since I realised people usually don’t mean to offend/be idiots/whatever; let’s face it, when people *do* it’s often pretty obvious. I still knee-jerk now and then, usually to my subsequent humiliation, but not as often.

  13. I don’t much care about age when I deal with people, I just care about behavior. I can readily agree that certain behaviors are more prevalent in certain age groups, but it’s the behavior that I’ll discriminate against, not the person. My guild plays by my rules, or I toss them out. I’m not obligated to entertain any and all notions of random internet morons that happen by.

    That said, I’m happy to give people the benefit of the doubt and even a chance or two. I love teaching moments. I’m not terribly hardnosed. I do have clear rules and consequences, though, and that’s enough for me.

  14. Very soon Ysh, you will encroach on KTR’s massive blogroll waving flag. I’d not invoke the wrath of Zubon… *shudder*. šŸ™‚

    I’m all for giving a few chances myself. I generally know (in the face-to-face world) who is my cup of tea and who I’d be best to leave alone. It’s harder in MMOGs, with that barrier, but luckily Ventrilo can help there!

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