"I communicate with my children in the game": Mediated Intergenerational Family Relationships through a Social Networking Game
AbstractHow might social networking game playing affect intergenerational family relationships? Motivated by this important research question, we examined game-based communication patterns among family members. We investigated QQ Farm, one of the most popular online games available on a Chinese social networking site. Participatory observations and semi-structured interviews were conducted with sixteen pairs of Chinese parents and their adult children. Our analysis shows that game-based communication does not replace face-to-face or phone-based communication. Rather, it adds a new layer to the existing family communication patterns, which enriches the other forms of family communication and provides a new means for intergenerational family members to stay in touch. Game playing provides a light-weighted and relaxed environment for intergenerational family members to stay connected. It serves as an “I’m safe and well” message board for family members to stay connected without imposing an undue burden for anyone. Moreover, game playing implicitly conveys caring messages to family members. It becomes a new communicative topic to promote the mutual shaping of online and offline intergenerational family communication.
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