Hiding amongst the Penguins

At the weekend I watched my older two kids do something fascinating. They played hide-and-seek. They’re nine and eight so they play hide-and-seek all the time. This time, though, they were playing in Club Penguin, a slick, Disney-owned virtual world for kids. Hide-and-seek isn’t a game offered by Club Penguin, though. There are lots of other games but not hide-and-seek.

So my kids here in the house and another nine year-old friend in his own house five miles away improvised a game in the busy public spaces of Club Penguin. Of course, they didn’t think this to be in the least bit remarkable.

So, to get started, Billie stood in front of the computer in the kitchen, closed her eyes and counted to twenty while Oliver, at a laptop in the living room and Joseph in his house waddled off into other Club Penguin rooms to hide. Of course, Club Penguin would have allowed Billie to find both of her friends at the click of a mouse via her buddy list – so the kids invented a ‘no buddy list’ rule – and they stuck to it.

The seeker wandered from room to room, peering into the crowded spaces for her friend’s avatars. And since avatars in Club Penguin are all… well… penguins, this was definitely not easy: it was all down to accessories like scarves and hats. Billie eventually found both of her penguin friends and then it was somebody else’s turn. What should I conclude from this observation? I guess kids will treat these environments much as they do the real ones they play in every day and will adapt them to their needs just like the real ones.

Nocturnal logic

Four O’Clock this morning. Olly, our 4 year-old, wakes for a half hour tantrum. Nothing will quieten him, nothing make him happy. Everything is wrong. Nothing can make it right. If mummy tries to help he wants daddy and vice versa. He wants to be in our bed until we agree to let him and then he wants to be in his own… until I try to take him there. He wants a drink until I try to go and get it. He yells ‘go away daddy’, heartbreakingly, until I go away, then he wants me back. The whole thing is a lesson in the implacable illogic of a small child. I suppose this is pre-rational behaviour – primitive, unarguable, terrifying. Discussion is pointless, reason redundant. Right now, the least helpful question in the world is ‘what’s wrong?’ but it’s all you can ask.

In the end, it passes, like it always does, and he’s sleeping again. In the silence I wonder how on earth human beings ever jump the giant gap from scary, tearful there to happy, settled here. Or if we ever really leave it behind.