Online game helps family bond but brings out undesirable traits in children

Online game helps family bond but brings out undesirable traits in children

SINGAPORE - Online game Growtopia helped my family to bond but then my child started to display undesirable traits.

My family stripped naked for a family photo recently. It was a rare moment of impulse and we did it for fun.

All four of us - me, my wife, our 17-year-old son Daniel and nine-year-old daughter Deborah - took off our clothes for a photo.

Thankfully, our act of abandonment happened in the online game Growtopia, not real life. It was our characters in the online game that stripped naked, not us.

Growtopia is a quirky online game where players grow and trade items to build worlds.

The game does not have a clear goal, except the competition to build a world that is so attractive that it draws the most visitors in a day to be crowned "world of the day".

Played mostly on smartphones and tablets, it has graphics that are hilariously cartoonish, appealing primarily to players under the age of 12.

Growtopia was launched two years ago. My daughter started playing it last year after her friends in school introduced her to it.

After she started playing, she coaxed the family to join her.

"It is very fun, trust me," she said.

Daniel was the first to join his sister, after completing his O-level exams last December.

I yielded partly to get Deborah off my back, but ended up playing the game with her during weekends. We even created our own world called "DadAndDeb".

My wife was the last to join the game last month. "Now the whole family is complete," Deborah remarked.

The game mirrors real life. All characters start the game naked and have to collect items. Clothes are obviously the first priority.

And how we dressed reflected our personalities. I wore a simple brown shirt and red shorts, my wife a cheerful purple dress, my son a silly rooster hat and my daughter's clothes were completely mismatched.

After getting clothes, we each built a house and started exploring other worlds. We also traded items with other players online - extra clothes for seeds in order to grow new things.

The game bonded my family. We laughed over silly moments like the naked family photo.

When Daniel and I were in Bangkok for a short holiday last month, we even logged in and played the game as a family. It did not matter that we were in two different countries.

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