YPT’s n00b Explores Video Games and Kids

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Video games and gaming, for many kids it’s just another apart of their world yet for parents it can be a form of fear and worry. Christopher Duthie’s one-man show n00b explores the fascinating world of gaming through the eyes of a 15-year old boy and his dad.

The simple stage of cubed platforms recalls the game Minecraft, something not new in our home. Beyond just a platform for Christopher, the writer and performer, to act out the various scenes, the cubes also used to evoke the environment through the use of projected images and videos. I liked the simplicity of the set, leaving the mind to focus on the story versus design details.

The story transitioned randomly yet pretty smoothly from the boy’s online and offline worlds. We moved from conversations with his dad to interacting with his online teammates as well as a few individuals in his offline world. Although I could pick-up on these changes and the jumping storyline I was worried my 9-year old son attending the play with me would be lost, unclear as to whether a certain part was taking place in a game or in the boy’s home but he followed the story perfectly. I guess as a video game player he grasped the idea of switching from different worlds in minutes.

I thought Christopher did a great job showing a somewhat balanced perspective to the story, helping us to understand why the gaming world was so important to the boy while seeing his dad’s legitimate concerns. As a video gaming family, I was pleased to see the play didn’t come out judging, telling the viewer that gaming was wrong or that parents don’t care or  understand.

n00b also touched on the issue that online personas for many are very different from their offline personalities, as the boy discovered when he went to meet-up with one such online character. The play could have taken a very dark turn but it steered clear of the worst case scenario. I was surprised at how the gaming portion of the play, when the boy slipped into his gaming world, really affected me. Christopher used games he was familiar with, such as first person shooter games, and although you didn’t see any detailed video in the projections, the sound really gets to you. This aspect of the play may be disturbing to younger viewers, thus the nine and up age recommendation.

I did find the parent’s role in the play, the boy’s dad, somewhat weak even as a supporting character but maybe that’s because I’m a parent. I also found the ending a little rushed, like the author felt a need to wrap everything up quickly. It was a little disappointing after where Christopher had taken us up to that point.

Overall n00b is a great play for video gaming kids (and their parents) to see. It opened up a great opportunity for my son and I to talk about online identities, communication between parents and kids, understanding someone else’s perspective, appropriate game play and time. All three of my kids and myself included, play video games at home regularly and talk about the world of gaming often but n00b is a great starting point for families that may not be in the same mindset, looking for a way to understand each other. Young People Theatre also provides a great teaching guide with questions, discussion topics, as well as exercise aimed at teachers but families may also find this useful.

n00b is playing at the Young People’s Theatre in Toronto from February 11 to the 20, 2014 with special activities planned on Family Day, February 17.

Image coutesy of Young People’s Theatre

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