In the screenshot of above of my son and I, in transit to a mission, he’s the one determining which mission to go on, while I stand looking on off the left.

“Get a cup of Liber-TEA,” yells a Helldiver as he flings a grenade into the oncoming horde of mechanicals. Yes, I have joined that group of people playing Hell Divers 2, a game that smacks of Starship Troopers (the movie). See the game play in this video:

The game is engaging and becomes better after you buy better armor and weapons, although not required. Last night, I had the opportunity to play with my son and found it a strange experience. Before I share about my Hell Divers gameplaying experience with my son, allow me to reflect on a gaming experience long ago when he was but a boy, 20 years ago.

Teachable Lessons from Game Social Dynamics

In Enemy Territory, which I found myself playing in my thirties, my five year old son joined me in this team oriented game. We were both on the side of the Allies, fighting against the German soldiers. In an act only my son can explain, he started shadowing another player on our team who played the role of engineer. As an engineer, the player could plant mines. Unfortunately, with a little effort, my son’s character was exploding the mines without suffering damage due to friendly fire. This meant that the extensive minefield laid down by a teammate was for naught.

The admin booted my five year old son from the game. I had been on another part of the map, and had not seen why. Neither had my son told me he had been booted, but I noticed his absence and that he had moved from the converted bedroom into an office into the playroom. He was, uncharacteristically, silent. When I found out what happened from him, using it as a teachable moment for him to admit he had been wrong to blow up a team member’s mines, I corresponded with the game admin and explained the situation.

A father himself, he understood and allowed my son back in the game.

Hell Divers 2

In a strange role reversal, I found myself huffing and puffing (my character, not I) behind my son, trying to keep up as he effortlessly wiped out the robots coming to attack us and block us from achieving our objectives. I called down cluster bombs and orbital fire, only to accidentally wipe out my team mates and myself. The other players complained through group audio chat of my actions, and my son made light of the matter, taking action to allow me to respawn (to reinforce in gamespeak) in the game.

As it happened several times, it was quite simple for me to see the stunning change in roles. Where once I had been the expert, the intermediator to explain away the mistakes of my son, now he did the same for me.

It was a touching moment and I will treasure it.