CNN – Before the pandemic, video games were a weekend-only activity in our house, allowed for one hour a day, Saturday and Sunday.
It was a compromise that worked for our family. My 7-year-old had a chance to dig in to his favorite games, and we parents felt like we were putting reasonable limits on an activity about which we were somewhat ambivalent.
But now he's playing them daily — and I wouldn't have it any other way.
In this lonely pandemic world, we still want our kids to get together to play, and they do, too. Unlike us boring grown-ups, they don't get much out of chatting in group texts or through FaceTime (or even those work Zoom meetings).
They want to enter collective imagined spaces and discover the elastic possibilities that await. Only there, somewhere deep in the unreal, are they likely to start exploring, creating and, importantly, connecting.
Like most kids around the world, it's been a long time since my son has been able to battle bad guys, travel to faraway lands or rescue animals with his friends in person. But, thanks to video games, all is not lost.
Nearly every day for an hour, he joins his friends online to explore, create and connect in video games like Minecraft and the nonviolent, more adorable Animal Crossing.
These aren't the prescriptive, goal-oriented games from my youth, in which there were levels and a single objective (think 1980s-era Super Mario Brothers). Instead, they're "sandbox" games, in which players have freedom to roam around extensive worlds, figuring out their own goals and finding their own way.