Relationships, the xbox and birthdays

Over at Microsoft SAF this week in San Francisco and among many great conversations was one I had with a delegate about how the xbox is allowing him to engage more deeply with his teenage son.

When my wife gave birth to our first daughter my wife’s father said “ah, one of the benefits of having a daughter is that you’ll always receive a birthday card”. This thought has stuck with me as when I look at myself and males in general our ability to communicate and stay in touch is often very poor and underdeveloped.

The xbox and more generally the world of internet gaming as a whole has received much bad press in recent times being blamed for breeding a generation of kids who are “locked in the bedroom” and unable to communicate other than through the actions of some online avatar.

However, the discussion last night changed that for me as it became clear that through the common platform of gaming this father was forging a much deeper and stronger relationship with his son of 16, just at the point where many parent-child relationships are starting to break down. Such that he is in messenger contact throughout much of the day here using his windows mobile and his son with his xbox.

The key thing here for me was that the relationship here is very much different to that of their physical parent-child one. Their virtual relationship is more of equals, friends. The style of chat is casual, whitty, about the moment. The type of stuff which creates strong and lasting friendships that then has the opportunity to re-enter the parental “real world” relationship, strengthening that too. Such that, maybe, just maybe, the father will get to benefit from at least some type of virtual nudge, wink or IM on his future birthdays.