Episode 3: Meet The Guardians

Listeners meet GuardianGamers Alex Cridlig, Coen Poelmann, Ian Cory. They learn about the different kinds of Guardians they can hire.

 TJ: Hey! I'm TJ Mick, What you just heard was the sound of Cato and Adrian -- two middle-school aged children -- breaking me out of jail and escaping in sports cars and helicopters in one of the Roblox games called “Jailbreak.”

Jailbreak, if you don’t know, is a kind of a 21st century videogame version of cops and robbers, if you will. You start by choosing between either the cops and the prisoners, and it’s a lot of fun. I was there playing with them as their online Guardian during a casual play session -- although in that clip, they were, for once, kind of showing me the ropes, a little bit too! I’ll be honest, it was the first time for me playing that one!

But, like the other Guardians you’ll hear from in this podcast episode, I grew up playing all kinds of games. I started playing video games when I was really, really young, starting with role-playing games.

I started playing Dungeons and Dragons when I was about 14-years-old. And I was lucky enough to be introduced to a circle of older mentors that showed me the game.

I’ll always remember those mentors and the lessons they taught me even during playing the game. They took me under their wing. We played and had a lot of fun together. That’s kind of why I’m passionate about our company’s mission to safeguard and mentor the next generation of gamers in online games.

So GuardianGamer is an online chaperone service. We also do project building and game coaching as well, where we connect parents and kids with vetted gamers, so that kids can game in a safe environment and develop skills.

In this episode, you’ll hear from a wide variety of Guardians. Each one fits different kinds of needs -- from a classic kind of online babysitter who will build worlds with your kid in Minecraft to your pro-gamer who will teach your kids very specific things, like showing your kids how to optimize their gameplay by tweaking settings.

Or other guardians, like Alex, who love role-playing games and using his imagination to help kids build scenarios and worlds in Minecraft.

Hi everyone! This is Heidi -- GuardianGamer’s founder and the mother of four kids. Two of them are gamers.

I just love to listen sometimes to their stories, and hearing TJ explaining the nuances of what they are doing makes me feel I understand their adventures even better. YOU ALSO HEARD THE KIDS COACHING THEIR COACH! THAT’S PART OF OUR MENTORING PHILOSOPHY. WE BELIEVE KIDS NEED TO HAVE SOME SENSE OF AGENCY IN THEIR PLAY.

Our goal is to foster the next generation to become mindful and respectful online -- whether they are planting a garden or blasting away at an opposing team.

And our Guardians will also help you to foster a closer relationship with your kids because you’ll actually know what happened during each play session.

And though you weren’t there, each Guardian compiles notes on their activities with the kids during their gaming sessions. So now you can ask your child more  questions about their gameplay and elicit more than an eye roll or a grunt in response.  

And without further ado, here are the voices of some of our Guardians.  Gamers. Enjoy.

Alexander: My name is Alexander. Alexander Cridlig. I'm from San Diego, California, Southern California. I'm 16, nearing 17. My birthday is in October.

I'm currently a student at San Diego High School. It’s a high school in downtown of San Diego in my junior year, a rising junior, so I guess senior year.

I enjoy playing games of all kinds --  video games, I guess is what is specifically here.

But I enjoy playing many things, and definitely with other people. And I feel like it's definitely a positive experience that brings people together, and I would be glad to do that for any kid who wants to learn how to interact with others, learn how to deal with failure, deal with success and how you enjoy a game and make sure that everyone else enjoys the game.

I like all of my subjects, but history is definitely first place. I’ve actually studied a lot of English history. I find it a really cool country, a really cool people and I don’t know -- there are so many invasions that go around England over history. I mean England invading somewhere else, England being invaded.

I once counted it with my Dad who does a bit of history. It’s something like six successful invasions of England, over, over the millennia. Yeah something like that.

So I guess in terms of games I play board games like to play, like non video games or dungeon dragons, and there's also a similar game to it, called Pathfinder is one I play a lot. There's a couple kinds of games so definitely the game, you know that I would play with kids, the most would be Minecraft. You know you can do a lot of things in, there's the creative component where you create stuff for for yourself for just to test yourself out your your skill. There's a more skilled component where perhaps you fight other people or perhaps you just test yourself trying to use the mechanics of the game to do something.

Then, another game that I play which is possible is Crusader Kings. It's a game where you play as a monarch during medieval Europe, and you try to try to maintain your country, throughout, you know, Europe's turbulence.

And the AI for that game is very well crafted as well. And every game turns out differently, which is one of those unique things. Like, sometimes you'll like sometimes a kingdom -- an AI-created Kingdom just spawns out of nowhere, and then you have a new threat to deal with and there are so many ways to deal with these things, like you can perhaps make them alliance with a different country being allied to that country. It's even possible to cause like vassels to cause places inside of their country to try to revolt against them.

Um, and then sometimes you just, you lose. You know, you're face to face with overwhelming difficulty, and you get pushed back it's remake yourself.

Games are enjoyed for different reasons. Just because there's the surface level violence -- just because there's a surface level anything -- doesn't mean that that's why the games enjoyed. Like Minecraft for instance, my dad really doesn't understand why people enjoy that game.

He just sees the pixelated blocks, sees what looks like a crude world, and writes it off as being poor graphics and a game that’s loved for some reason that you can't understand. And the reason that you can't understand, is because it's just so [sighs] it's possible to do so many things, it's such a flexible world to act in.

It’s an open sandbox -- that even though it just has blocks -- I mean it’s just blocks -- makes it easy and simple to understand, makes it easier to, to get into it, to start messing around to start creating, or to start to creating what you like.

And that really applies to many video games, that depending on their surface don't perfectly -- look like they look like they might be enjoyed for the bad …  or for the wrong reasons.

But I feel like that's something you should ask someone -- why do they like this game? And the answer might surprise you.

COEN POELMANN : My name is Coen Poelmann. I'm 18 years old and I live in California Saratoga, and I'm shooting to go to college in Oregon, so I've always been playing video games from a young age. So playing around four or five years old and I remember having like a little Nintendo which is like super hot at that time. And then now I'm 18 years old, instead of four and I still love video games, and now I play all types of games on my PlayStation or PC, and anything that games I'm into, like, all sports type of games like fortnight or Roblox or Minecraft or Apex Legends, and then a lot of games such as like single player games as well. Also, not just on PC, or like a console but I like playing Nintendo games as well which is like Mario's type of stuff and racing.

Well, if someone books me, they would, yeah they would expect a lot of fun. And also not just fun but also trying to get better at the game, while being safe and getting all the hate, away from you, because one thing that I was, I would say, kind of proud of was that, not just in Fortnite but also EA games or which are all this for games is that they, when I was playing Fortnite and EA, I would have, oh, try and be pretty good at the game or just have fun at the same time, and I would have pretty good stuff so two clubs, emailed me about it and they would be. Do you want to be in our like clinic or in our club. So it's basically, with a contract so it was like, I would play video games and tournaments for them, and make you know earnings and especially in fortnight. I was really good at it and I would I would play tournaments and help other guys in the clinic get better at it to you know get money as well. Well yeah, another thing is that when people are bad at games or when people are trying to get into games, a popular thing to do is watch Twitch streamers are YouTube, like I said gaming's about the actual interaction and stuff like that you're getting, like, you know, the experience of it. So, if you're watching on YouTube and Twitch you're seeing other people do stuff that normally you maybe you can't do or you're trying to do and stuff like that.

It's not just a good way of getting the hang of actual stuff. And wouldn't it be better if you're playing with someone trying to actually get the hang of it, you know, having fun at the same time rather than watching someone do that that you're not that you can't do?

Sam :Hi, my name is Sam Walker. I'm a game designer, a gamer for life.

And I'm also now a GuardianGamer here to help shepherd the next generation of gamers into understanding sort of like the complex and sometimes unlabeled map of what gaming looks like, and what gaming communities look like, and things like that.

So I graduated from college in 2010. I went to a private military university.

In my opinion, I got an education in how to ask good questions, and how to sort of find the trees in the forest maybe, or how to pick out discrete concrete ideas from like large data sets, or large blocks of noise.

So if you were to book me for your child as a Guardian, I think my specialty would be strategy games, teaching teamwork and co-operation and building an architecture maybe? That’s not so much expressly having a skillset as just a product of me having a love of mid- modern architecture.

Games are very, very woven into who humans are, and they give us an ability to explore things I think, in a very safe context. They give us the ability to explore things that we cannot physically do.

So on the one end, you have gaming is a human activity, very deeply woven into history. I want to say at the 5000 years ago, you start seeing the first board games. You start seeing the Royal Game of War in Sumeria, and you Senet in Egypt.

There will always be someone in a game almost regardless of the game that is trying to have fun by ruining the fun of others. And how to deal with that is important, because that is bullying, to a certain extent, right?

Having kids be safe, or navigating spaces like this, or grow into adulthood is, in my opin ion, teaching them to be well-rounded human beings, right? I’m sure there’s … a, a lot of, function [sighs] maybe, utility in teaching children how to react to these specific situations, but I think that arming them with knowledge is the best thing you can do, and doing that in an environment which is safe for that to occur. We talked about in my military school experience was … my instuctors intentionally causing us to fail -- so we could fail in a safe environment, and not in a dangerous military context, not in combat, right? And I think there’s something similar to that with GuardianGamers and children, right? So we will do our best to keep children away from these dark, awful places of the Internet and away from these malicious people, these rogue actors in these communities. But at some point they have to be exposed to the sort of like, softer end of things, like people will tell you to ‘git gud,’ and stop being a ‘noob.’ And the most important part of experiencing that like in a safe context is having an adult around saying: “Look, that guy is actually not mad at you, right? He’s just upset that something has happened in a game, and he’s venting emotions in a way that makes him feel better. You are a recipient of that, whether he’s correct or not that it was your lack of “goodness” -- probably spelled incorrectly too -- that led to this, so …

League of Legends is a pretty fun game in that it’s a player-versus-player game, where two teams of five choose from a roster of like mythic champions that have unique skillsets and I found that my specialty, like in most games, but particularly in League of Legends, is being a support character.

Sam: I think one of the very first fundamentals, you should sort of discuss what people are buying into this is, is this notion of METS.

SAM : So there's this concept in the military called METS, M-E-T-S, which is short for Mission, Equipment, Team, Self. Aand it's something like a priority framework, or like teamwork foundation, foundational cornerstone sort of thing.

And it's the idea that when you were involved in team activity, or a mission, or something like this, you should look at these things in this order to sort of do like a priority triage.

So the first thing you should look to on a mission is the mission. If you're if you're not there to succeed at the Mission you've been given, the question is: “Why are you there?”

After this, you should look to your equipment, because if you don't take care of your tools, they will fail you at the most inconvenient possible moment you can imagine. So make sure your pack is tight. Make sure your boots are laced, stuff like that. And that is not just for you, like, not your equipment but the equipment for the mission.

Once that's all squared away, you look to your team you look your teammates, you go see if there's some kind of activity you can help us right, as far as chores are they have to. If there’s an onerous job, you go help them.

If you can cover for someone so that they can get an hour’s nap, go cover them.

Look after your team, third. And then once you've ensured your mission is on track, your equipment is ship-shape, and your team is happy, healthy and productive, You look after yourself, and for me that usually means you know, like checking in with your mental health. Is there anything you can do to help make yourself feel better or help make yourself more effective for the mission.

And it's, I find them to be a very useful framework, because it helps people understand that achieving success and victory isn't about ego, it's kind of the opposite.

It's about coming together as a team and doing what needs to be done instead of trying to be the sort of rock star, GI Joe kind of character, running out there and trying to do it yourself.

Sam : And one of my favorite things to do in like high stress, really demanding work situations in a team environment is to, when things go wrong, one of my go to sort of moves is to pull aside -- and whoever has the problem particularly with me, right -- or whoever has a problem that's affecting the team -- is to pull them aside and be like: “I need you to understand this isn't about us.”

And even if things are getting heated, like “I'm not taking this personally.” The thing that we need to focus on is what we're doing and our team. Because if we don't put those first, we'll never succeed. If we put ourselves first, all we’ll succeed in doing is doing the best to protect ourselves at the expense of everyone else, which to me is the definition of anti-social, right?

Sam: So there are games, League of Legends being one of them, that has a code of conduct, their’s is “The Summoners Code,” and it really clearly lists like “these are acceptable behaviors,” and that game, particularly in its infancy, it was frequently cited as being a very toxic community, but after The Summoner’s Code, I found it so much easier to navigate than many of my friends did who didn't make use of “The Summoner’s Code.”

Sam: This is something you can practice in any game-07 And what I would find a lot, a lot of times in games, particularly as a support character,

Sam: This is something you can practice in any game-11 someone will have difficulty perhaps with “the carry,” right? Like they make some mistakes or something, or they're not used to that character and they're having a bad time, and they'll start blaming it you, and they'll start saying “well you should have done this.”

And one of my favorite things about The Summoner’s Code is that “no backseat driving,” is all you say to that person. “Backseat driving” is against The Summoner’s Code: I don't want to hear this.”

Sam: This is something you can practice in any game-15: Without fail, that person shut down and stopped harassing me. So I had to say is, like, “This is against the rules. I will report you, as I did not invite you to do this behavior.”

Ian: My name is Ian Corey, I'm 17 years old. I live in Escondido, California, and I play Valorant, Overwatch, Teamfight Tactics, and Legends of Runeterra competitively.

I started playing around five or six. I started getting competitive gaming around when I was 9 or 10 years old.

Once I got a couple a little bit older, like I think it was around third or fourth grade, I got introduced to Counter-Strike, and my career kind of just soared from there.

And I just put enough time into it, like climbing ranks and stuff like that, to the point where I got recognized by a couple of players, and they wanted to put me in trials for teams and stuff like that.

I’ve hit rank one in several games I’ve hit in: Legends of Runeterra and Teamfight Tactics. Valorant, I think I finished top 100 last season. I think people really underestimate what it takes to get there.

Overwatch is a six v. six class-based shooter where there's different heros and each hero has their own abilities, weapons, all, everything and your goal is to find a team comp that works to beat the enemy team comp and complete objectives. I think there are four different objective types. So those payload, which is where you just push a card to the end of the game, control, where you take over the point is just kind of hold the point, TCP where you attack two different objectives, and then assault and escort which is where you attack a point and then you push a payload.

Valorant is ready to take on a tactical shooter. It has heroes so it has abilities for different characters but you, but all weapons can be reused by every single character because there’s an economy system where you have to balance your money, and try to figure out how to …. What weapons would be the perfect time for, or what would be the perfect time for the game.

I enjoyed how it felt to coach people so I eventually started moving on to more and more people I just started doing individual coaching and team coaching. I have coached people from ages six all the way to 27.

For that, it was just, I kind of just had to be extremely patient with them, and just like show them my, like, not really small details because they're not going to memorize all the tiny details, but just show them big things that they can do and learn about.

I think the first thing that I would do would be help them optimize settings. For example the mini map default I think in valorant is very very poor, and with a couple of changes of settings you can make it give you just so much more info and be so much better for utilization, minor things like turning down graphic settings to get more frames to play better things like turning off the dead bodies because that's more resources  from your PC as well as it covers a more screen space when they're there.

Basic, minor details like that seem like they wouldn't matter too much. But, for example the mini map one, it defaults to search focusing on new meaning you can't see the other side of the map. If you put it to non-central map, you can see the entire map and you just get so much more information from being able to see the entire map than just having it on you.

I've met a lot of people who don't like talking in voice chats or stuff like that because I think they're gonna get like yelled at over how like they play. I also think, when you get coached and you feel more confident by your play, you're gonna be more confident in game and that leads to, like, life as well, which sounds like a very strange connection to make. But, you know, if you're feeling better by yourself in one aspect of your life you're gonna feel better and almost all of the others.

People look at something like Counter-Strike and Overwatch, and they just see people killing each other. And if you look at it from more than surface level, right, you're constantly having to think about what the enemy team is doing, how you're going to beat them in doing it, what's gonna work best for your team, and all these small details of working together and finding a way and  … critical thinking -- just finding out ways that you could do something better than the other team.

[I] don't recommend watching Twitch streamers as a good source, if you're newer because, to understand and take apart what they're doing in games, and just noticing all the intricate details, you already have to have a certain level of understanding of the game.

There's always going to be those jerks online who are going to do things just to mess with people. But I think you also just have to like, have the mental like, the mentality of, “Yes this will happen occasionally.”

But you can't really let it get to you and you have to kind of look at the things that are more positive about it -- like I've made more friends online that I have dealt with haters.

HEIDI: Thank you Ian. Luckily, there is hope for us, don’t you think, T.J? And also, thank you to Alex, Coen and Sam. What I hear them saying is that almost every game requires players to collaborate in order to succeed. As it also happens, this is a quality that most emPLOYers want: They’re looking for people who can work well together in teams.

TJ: Yes, yeah that's what I heard from the Guardians too. They also talked about how players need to step outside of themselves to analyze gaming situations so that they can take responsibility for their actions if needed. They can’t just blame others for team failures. This requires them to think fast, and strategically about complex situations.

Heidi: Ian also reminded us that you actually need to have the right game settings and equipment for doing that. That is a helpful pointer to parents. They play an important role in setting their kids up in gaming systems, and thinking beyond basic security settings -- also super important. You better know when your kid starts a new game!

TJ:  Guardians like Sam can work with kids and parents to create the optimal environment for positive gaming. You’ll hear more about how this works in an upcoming episode, where we show you how GuardianGamer is a tool that parents can use as a conversation starter with their kids about their gaming lives -- and you’ll hear from the kids themselves, of course.

Heidi: Yeah, and speaking of tools, if you’re concerned about some of the toxic behaviors online, there’s an entire academic report categorizing and modeling these anti-social behaviors. IT’S A USEFUL DOCUMENT TO SHOW US HOW WE CAN ALL WORK TO IMPROVE THE GAMING ENVIRONMENT.

It’s called “Raising Good Gamers,” and it’s by Katie Salen TekINbas, professor of games, design and learning at  U.C. Irvine. You can find a link to it in our show notes.

Also in another upcoming episode, Dr. Kat Schrier will also talk to us about her new book “We the Gamers.” The book examines how games like Animal Crossing, Fortnite and Minecraft can inspire learning, critical thinking and civic engagement. Your kids might already have experienced Kat’s work if they used Brain Pop at school.

TJ: Finally, we hope that when you listen to this episode, you'll see the connection that the Guardians formed with their own parents, or mentors, when they played video games together.

Our Guardians will help you form better connections with your kids when you're too busy to engage in these games yourself. The post-game reports that they generate from their sessions with the kids will fill you in on the details so that when you sit down to dinner, you'll be equipped to engage in the small talk that leads to stronger bonds and clearer insights into your kids’ imaginations.

Heidi: Our guardians can’t wait to meet your kids! to sign up for a session, go to Guardiangamer.com, create an account. it’s a super simple, one-minute  process. from there, pick a coach, day and time, and then you’ll receive a confirmation email with information on how to proceed.

In the meantime, do you have questions about Guardians -- any of the games -- or do you have any cool or interesting anecdotes about gaming with your children? Please feel free to get in touch with us at Guardiangamer.com. Share your stories. Or get in touch with us through email  or online. Leave us a voicemail at Anchor or tage us  with us, and we will get in touch.

Share your stories and get in touch through email or our Website. Leave a voicemail through Anchor or tag us with #GuardianGamer8 on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

TJ: Yeah, stick with us: We’ll hear more about this from some parents and their kids themselves in upcoming episodes. I’m really excited about that! We’ll see you next time, and happy gaming!

Heidi: Changing the view on gaming!

TJ: What she said!

Production notes:
This episode was written and produced by Sarah Lai Stirland and engineered by Gabe Grabin.
Music: The Fortnite Song (Lucas Fader Dubstep Remix.) Lucas Fader: https://soundcloud.com/lucas-faderhttps://www.youtube.com/user/LucasFaderOfficial, Distância, The View, by Pyrosion, https://soundcloud.com/pyrosion, Constantinople, by Vendredi, https://soundcloud.com/yt-audio-library/constantinople-vendredi-audio-library-release-free-copyright-safe-music, Sneaking, by jiglr, https://soundcloud.com/jiglrmusic/sneaking and Cloudy, by KODOMOi, https://soundcloud.com/kodomoimusic/kodomoi-cloudy

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