"I communicate with my children in the game": Mediated Intergenerational Family Relationships through a Social Networking Game

  • Yunan Chen 1 Department of Informatics University of California, Irvine Irvine, CA 92697, USA
  • Jing Wen 1 Department of Informatics University of California, Irvine Irvine, CA 92697, USA 2 The State Key Lab of Software Engineering Wuhan University Wuhan, 430072, China
  • Bo Xie College of Information Studies University of Maryland College Park, MD 20742, USA
Keywords: Older person, Social Networking Game, Intergenerational Relationship, Communication

Abstract

How 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.

Author Biographies

Yunan Chen, 1 Department of Informatics University of California, Irvine Irvine, CA 92697, USA
Yunan Chen is an assistant professor in the Department of Informatics at the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Irvine.  Her research interests are in human-computer interaction and computer-supported collaborative work, specifically in the areas of patient-provider relationships, chronic care managements and care coordination among family members. She earned a PhD from iSchool at Drexel University and a bachelor of Medicine degree from China Medical University.
Jing Wen, 1 Department of Informatics University of California, Irvine Irvine, CA 92697, USA 2 The State Key Lab of Software Engineering Wuhan University Wuhan, 430072, China
Jing Wen is a doctoral student in Department of Electronic Engineering at Wuhan University. She was a visiting student in Department of Informatics at the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Irvine from 2009 -2010. Jing is interested in computer mediated communication, online game design and family relationships.
Bo Xie, College of Information Studies University of Maryland College Park, MD 20742, USA
Bo Xie is an Assistant Professor in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. Dr. Xie’s research focuses on older adults’ learning and use of information and communication technologies, specifically lifelong learning of technology for information, communication, and relationship development. She has 30 publications in these areas. Her research has been supported by federal funding agencies including the National Institutes of Health and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Published
2012-02-04
How to Cite
Chen, Y., Wen, J., & Xie, B. (2012). "I communicate with my children in the game": Mediated Intergenerational Family Relationships through a Social Networking Game. The Journal of Community Informatics, 8(1). Retrieved from http://www.ci-journal.net/index.php/ciej/article/view/802