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Not Crushing the Dreams of My Young Video Game Creator

By Nikki Moffitt - 5th March 2012

For a couple of months last year my then 8 year old son had an obsession with inventing a new video game. He expected to be able to dictate to me over my shoulder for a few hours on our home computer and ‘voila!’ -  we would have a brand new highly-functioning, multi-level, multi-platform video game to distribute to the market at large. Then he wanted to be entered into the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest child to create a video game.

A few things came out of that process – I now understand what all the ‘created by’ credits are on the television shows I watch. They are the people that walk around the room spouting the ideas that everyone else writes down, puts into scripts and and and and …. that eventually ends up as a finished product. Look in the future for ‘created by’ credits from said son.

After googling ‘how to create video games’, walking him through the process of story boarding, character and plot development and creation, I thought this would help my son realise that it wasn’t going to take a day or so – it would take significantly longer (even more so if he was relying on his mother to be the game coder).  We did progress slowly through the process – and one day I came home to find him directing his father on the story board side – stretching his Powerpoint skills significantly and not yet meeting with approval from the ‘creative’.

It was relentless, at school pick up he would want to run through things in the car on the way home, after homework time when he had his one hour of chosen electronic device he would throw ideas at me as he was walking around playing, at the dinner table, at bath and bed time. All ideas for his game. I would gently continue to remind him of the full process as he was reminding me to call video game distributors to discuss terms. It became too much for him when he thought I was trying to talk him out of it, which to be honest I probably was. What I thought I was doing was setting realistic expectations for him.

"You’re just trying to crush all my dreams’"

Not what a parent wants to hear –  and not when said with such emotion and despair.  Parenting is a precarious process for which there are no guidebooks, training or licensing. Hands up who now regrets not having a year or two of child psychology thrown into their post-school education?  I bet I’m not the only one.

He is a fan of dramatic words and phrases.

When teaching him how to ride a bike: "This is a ridiculous vehicle, you are trying to kill me, I am your only son and you obviously don’t want one"

Christmas morning 2011 at 5.15 a.m.: "Mum, there is no way I can make it to 7 a.m., the anticipatory excitement is killing me"

A new chocolate: "Have one of these, your taste buds with explode with astonishment"

And later – same chocolates: "I’m exploring my teeth for some tasty toffee morsels"

Our son turned 9 years old yesterday and has a diagnosis of Aspergers and ADHD.  While we’re talking labels he is also a TCK (Third Culture Kid) meaning every few years we pack him up and move him to a new country, he’s on his third one right now.

The fact that he has these labels is partly helpful and partly difficult and sometimes confronting, like when his diagnosis had to be included on the medical forms that were submitted as part of our recent visa extension application.

Not long ago on Twitter I read something that resonated with me “High functioning autism means your deficits are ignored & low functioning means your assets are ignored”

In many ways he is like any other little 9 year old boy and those that meet him casually may not see anything ‘different’ about him. In fact I am sure that some of my family and friends often think I am overstating the issues when I talk about him.

People have said to me:

"Won’t he grow out of it?"– Um, no.

"But he looks fine" – Yes, he does.

"He’s so handsome, he will be alright’"– I can never disagree with the handsome part, I am his mother after all, but being handsome won’t help him suddenly discover an understanding of when to stop talking about his favourite video games or stop the pacing and arm twisting while walking on his toes that relaxes him when his mind is racing.

Even in our parenting we often impose NT (neurotypical – luckily there are labels for the rest of us too) solutions to behavioural issues that most likely require a different approach, because sometimes it's hard for us too, to know what to do. In these cases parent and child are often bewildered about what has happened and what not to do in the future, and sometimes we end up right back where we started. We’re all learning together.

2011 was such a big year for him, he made amazing progress at school in both his written work and his social skills, mostly due to the amazing teacher’s assistant that worked with him each morning. He now has friends in his class and just last week had his first sleep over at a school friend’s house, whose parents we don’t know very well. It was a success *cue sigh of relief*.

During the recent summer break (7 weeks) my mother told me to try and enjoy the school holidays rather than resent them. As a former full time worker moved to full time parenting with the last country change, school holidays and I are still coming to terms with each other.  I decided to try to take her advice and embrace rather than rail against each day as it came – I had a mixed bag but I worked hard on not crushing dreams.

Samurai versus Zombies - Level 1

We reinstated the video game development, we are only up to Level 1 (apparently there

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will be 10) but all characters have been developed by the creator himself after we watched some YouTube videos together on how to use the tool we found to make a simple game. Time has given a perspective that allows him to see we cannot get from a to z in a day or two.

We are also in post-production on a horror movie, which he created and scripted and included in the cast his sister WAFYO (the world’s angriest five year old – more on her another time). We just need to find the right scary music as it's an old style movie – music and no words. It didn’t all follow the original plan as we had to change the cast at the last minute but most of the key players were involved and I was very happy to be mentioned more than once (unrequested) in the credits page.

The film credits page: some names deleted to protect those actors who are underage starring in horror films
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Eighteen months ago the school wanted him to move to a keyboard because he wasn’t progressing with his writing - now he is writing for fun.

After recently watching an episode of Top Gear with a hypnotist on it, our next assignment is to study hypnosis, the list of things he intends to get people to do is intriguing to say the least – tips anyone?

image at top freedigitalphotos.net Stuart Miles

Other images owned by Nikki Moffitt, all rights reserved

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