My 10 year old son likes to play an Internet game called RuneScape. No, it's not a total waste of his time. It teaches a few things about life, such as money management skills (saving up for quite a while to get something that will produce more money for you in a shorter amount of time), and protection of assets.

Over the past few weeks, about an hour a day (which is what we allow him on computer games), he has been building up his RuneScape character, working the mines to extract coal and other precious metals to get gold coin. He would save and save this money in order to buy, for example, the best pickaxe which enabled him to extract more metals in less time.

For example, buying this pickaxe would cost him $50,000 in gold coin and it took him an hour of play just to earn $5,000. For a kid of ten years old, this took a lot of time and patience.

Today he, like many traders, experienced a total loss in a very short time. He had entered a realm which allowed him to play with the "bigger" boys, those who had amassed large sums, weapons, tools, etc. But by entering this new realm he would be able to make that $50,000 in a third of the time. Of course he was going to join the bigger boys. That's why he was playing!

As he explained it, he began to mine some metal when some other character approached and asked if he could borrow the axe for a minute and he would give my son, in return, half of the metal he extracted. My son, being 10 years old, wanted to make friends in this new realm so he let him borrow it. The character started to mine, and my son decided to look around this new place, which took the other character off the screen for but a couple of seconds. When my son returned to the mine the character was gone. He could not find him anywhere.

Then, as he was walking around trying to find a store to buy a very cheap axe, he was attacked by two characters who completely stripped him of all his assets. He had nothing left after about 15 minutes in this new realm. He burst into tears after realizing what had just happened, all the weeks of work and saving and building up his assets, down the drain in a matter of minutes. He now had to start all over.

Last year I had my trading account up nicely, and decided to venture a little bit. Not into another market, but trade using riskier methods in the market I was familiar with. Soon I was almost completely wiped out. I sat and looked at the screen and it hit me that I had to start over, and it would take me a long time and a lot of patience to do it. I was exhausted.

My son's experience was just as devastating to him. I saw him, after a good cry in his room for about an hour, come out with both barrels loaded, and he went back to work. He learned that he could recover what he had lost, but also he could learn new skills that could help him when he ventured out again into that other realm. His confidence returned and I saw hope in his eyes. Perspective is relative, as life seems to offer the right amount of bumps and bruises to equal the capacity of the recipient.

James Lackey adds:

My 11-year-old and all his friends play the same game. For the first time since he was four I’ve had to limit him to computer time. Keep in mind we have always had computer games PS 1-2-3 hand held. It’s never interested him so much that he would play more than two hours. There are so many other things to do.

A couple weeks ago I asked him how long he was playing RuneScape. He said a few hours. My kids are so busy, I can never really give them a hard time. RuneScape is an escape for him as the kid begs for time to relax. That was my dad's gift to me about being a parent. "Take them to the park and run them."

Well today it was 99 degrees. We played baseball for 30 minutes before we gave in to the heat at 11am. Went to YMCA shot some hoops, went to store cooked lunch. The point is that games must be fun/addictive. Even PS3 after Xmas, or on a rainy day. Never have I had to tell him to quit for the day. 


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