Yesterday I spoke with my nine-year old son, who is spending the summer in Kiev. He spends every moment he can with his cousin Bogdan, who is the same age as he is.
"Dad," he said, "I'm playing a great game on the computer with Bogdan!"
"What game?" I asked.
I had played Fate with him one summer, and found that it was a good way to connect with him. We always played on the same side, battling hideous creatures and collecting heaps of gold. No competition, just a lot of discussion and planning. He still talks about it.
"It's really great. It's called World of Warcraft."
I was silent for a moment. I've heard about this game, some kind of alternate world. An online game, right? I once read that people in poor countries can make a good living by playing it full-time, creating objects that they can sell for real money to Westerners. I've never played it, I've never even seen it, but I imagine that it's violent and full of women wearing almost nothing.
"Are you playing online?" I asked. I imagined pedophiles lurking there, waiting to lure unsuspecting Ukrainian boys into their traps.
"No, it's on a disk."
Excellent. One less thing to worry about.
"What are you guys doing there?"
"We're building a zoo for the undead."
"A zoo for the undead."
Ever since he was born, I've wondered how long it would take before he started talking about things I don't understand. That day has come. I don't know what a zoo for the undead is. I know about vampires, but I'm not sure why you'd want to put them in a zoo. Aren't you supposed to hammer wooden stakes through their hearts? Or shoot them with silver bullets? Or does he mean zombies? How do you kill a zombie anyway?
"That's great," I said.
"Can we buy the disk?"
I didn't know what to say. Should my boy be playing a game like this? Should I buy the game first, check it out, and then decide? If I disapprove, will this lead to a lifelong rift with my son, leading to huge therapy bills?
"Sure," I said. "When it's your birthday."
I'm not stupid, not yet. I have a little more time to figure this out.