My husband and I try really hard to understand the games my kids are playing. My ex-husband plays a lot of games with them, even incredibly absurd ones, and I watch a lot of the let’s play videos with them.
I’ve listened to probably a hundred Sky Does Minecraft videos. (Ten million subscribers.) I’ve watched all the Game Theory videos. (Fascinating, even for adults.) And I’ve seen PewDiePie (and my kids died of happiness when an Australian newspaper listed me with him as an Internet celebrity you’ve never heard of.)
Something I’ve noticed is that my older son wants to consume content, but my younger son wants to create content. Which makes sense: my younger son is a musician, and he loves working with his hands. He sees making a YouTube video as something similar to playing music.
He wanted to have a channel on YouTube, so he started out for a week posting one video a day. It was a lot of work. He cried one day and I told him I know how he feels—I’ve been posting once a day online for almost ten years. It’s a lot of pressure. “You get used to it,” I told him.
He told me he has a lot more respect for me now that he knows I post every day. And then he quit his channel.
But there was this guy he bought his YouTube intro from. (The YouTube intro is to Generation Z what the domain name is to Generation Y. It’s an identity statement and you can never have enough.)
There’s a whole economy in YouTube that is people buying and selling services related to video games. My son asked around and decided he needed Cinema 4D so he could make his own intros.
When the software was too difficult for him to learn himself, he asked one of the guys selling intros to teach him how to use Cinema 4D. The guy said my son was too young.
So my son went to elance.com, which he has heard me talking about when I’m doing career coaching on the phone. He found someone who does Cinema 4D and I sent an email to ask if he would teach my son.
My son is so excited to be part of the YouTube economy. He is not so much excited to learn software as he is excited to sell something for real money.
This reminds me of the study at Stanford about writing—kids learn to be better writers writing online than writing for a classroom because online, thousands of people see what you write and you want to persuade them what you say is good and true. When there is only one teacher, it doesn’t nearly matter as much.
The same seems to be true of learning digital animation. My son wouldn’t sit still long enough to learn any sort of game. He has no patience for days and days of solving a problem. But he is happy to be part of the economy, being valued for the work he does with his hands.
When he asked me who Vim Venders is, I told him to look it up on the Internet. He didn’t. He is not lazy, but he doesn’t care enough. On the other hand, when he needed to set up a store to sell his YouTube intros, I told him to go to a site called 1&1. “I know them,” I told him. “You can set up a store there.”
My son didn’t say, “I don’t wannna!” And he did’t say, “Show me how.” He said, “Thanks.”
Which is not like him. And then I realized that the fact that he can be part of a real economy at such a young age drives him to find and refine his strengths faster to get him where he wants to go.
For better or worse, kids know that society values people with money. And it’s not just adults who want to feel valued. So I’m excited that my son doesn’t have to wait until he’s older. The only thing that’s stopping him from making money is whether or not he can tough out the steep learning curve of Cinema 4D.