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DragonBox: Secretly teach algebra to your children (dragonboxapp.com)
249 points by rkda on May 1, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 100 comments

Hello HN !

Thanks to the nice comments here. Very appreciated!

To add a bit to the discussion: we made 3 games so far, 2 versions of our algebra game and one about geometry (Euclidian geometry proof really).

We also co-organized Algebra Challenges with our research partner the University of Washington. As an example, one of those events, in Norway last year, gathered 36k students from ages 7 to 16. They solved almost 8 million equations in under a week.

We are not just app makers, we are more focused on providing tools and social innovations.

We would like to do coding one day, but first things first! Our next games are targeting younger kids and number sense.

Feel free to ask questions, or take contact!

Jerome, head-nerd @ WWTK :)

My daughter (9) started playing a couple of months ago, but got bored after several levels (about 30 minutes of play) and hasn't gone back to play yet. She didn't get stuck on a difficult problem, she just was finished playing that game.

I've occasionally asked if she has played any more DragonBox, but she is continually uninterested. I'm not sure how to encourage her to make more progress at this point.

Feel free to take contact directly with us if you want to discuss this further ! Thanks :)

I've recommended dragon box to quite a few people- it's really done gamification right. It's simply an app to aspire to for other educational game developers; there's often times where I wanted my own lightbot to 'be like dragon box but for coding'. Amazing work guys!

I loved dragonbox and so did my daughters. I just bought lightbot jr for my 4 year old and tweeted a pic. He's currently muttering to himself and it's cracking me up - "Oh this one is hard. All you have to do is put an arrow. Now let's turn the other way." He's debugging! Thanks a bunch!

Thanks, very appreciated !

I am downloading lightbot right now. Will test with kids during the week-end :)

Hi Jerome, DragonBox has been great for my kids, but honestly I just enjoy doing recreational math myself sometimes, and DragonBox provides a great interface for doing it. Any chance you can continue to release more levels?

Adding more levels/features to the Algebra game is in our roadmap. Right now we are heavily focusing on the coming products to take the company to a new level :)

I can attest that the methodology really does work - at least for my son. I bought it when he turned 6 and he was able to learn with just a tiny help from me. Thanks for building a great learning experience!

Please please say you'll make one for statistics too. I'd totally buy even though I'm not your target audience. :D

Don't tell that to our CEO, he'll make us alter course !

More seriously, we would like to cover all the big ideas in math. And statistics is one of them. It's in the big plan.

Looking forward to your future games then :)

This is awesome. Thank you for making these tools! Any ideas when the other two games will be available on Windows?

Soon :) You want to beta test ? Take contact.

Yes please! I will send you an email now.

cto@wewanttoknow.com bounced. :(

try contact@

My daughter played all 3 games and really enjoyed them, starting around the age of 7 I think. Elements was really a tour de force. (Great name too.). At the top levels, it got pretty hard and you had to think ahead. Kudos to you and the rest of the team.

How did you land on $5.31 for the price on the Android store?

My first guess would be currency conversion from whatever the Euro price was initially.

Almost that :)

We're currently based in Norway (with part of the team in France). We use the Norwegian price in NOK as basis.

We used to have these nice per-country-almost-rounded-prices, like 4.99$ etc. But the latest European laws affected the Play Store and caused a price change. We didn't really bother trying to round them properly again.

Is the current price really too odd ? ;)

What's your inspiration for the game btw? Also, how did you design it? :D Any advice for people who want to make similar games? :)

Here are a few words from my colleague JB https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_QWyRxj_og

Advice: focus on the kids, test test test

My son loves Dragonbox and Elements. They're absolutely fantastic! Keep up the good work.

Special request! A game that teaches the category of sets as a road towards a more intuitive understanding of category theory.

Hey Jerome, grats on the HN feature! =D

I expect I'm too late to the party for this comment to be noticed, but I thought I'd add something.

Some three years ago when a Wired article about this was submitted[0] I wrote an extended comment[1] expressing some concerns about this. The Wired article has since gone missing, but the HN discussion remains.

Let me say from the get-go that anything that helps get over the barrier for playing with, experimenting with, and generally messing about with algebra type stuff is a Good Thing(tm). I'm really pleased to see this here and doing well.

There is a comment here[2] that gives an instance of exactly the sort of thing I'm worried about. Kids could play the game for a bit, decide they've had enough, and then move on. The question is: will the things they've done in playing the game have a positive effect?

I can envisaged the possibility that kids that have played DragonBox and then moved on with get introduced to "proper" algebra later and not even bother trying too hard, because they'll think "I've done this, I don't care any more."

So let me say that I think it's important that these things exist, and I think it's great that they are being developed, and I really want them to succeed in their own right. But having said that, I'd be reluctant to herald games like this as the future of teaching math.

I'll finish here by quoting the last paragraph of my previous lengthy reply[1]:

    ... I think this is a wonderful tool, and it has the
    potential to be a fantastic aid to learning.  I am
    deeply uneasy about the further divorcing of algebraic
    manipulation from any sense of meaning, but I look
    forward with interest to see if it can be used in a
    meaningful way.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4105397

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4106567

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9472466

I just downloaded this for my soon-to-be seven-year-old, to experiment. ($5 for a shot at making math easier is a no-brainer bet... if he takes one look and rejects it, well, $5.)

My goal is not that he literally walks away knowing algebra. My goal is that his brain gets primed with the patterns he'll need to learn algebra. Even if he never consciously puts the two things together, it can only help to have pre-burned neural pathways for the sorts of otherwise counter-intuitive manipulations that algebra calls for.

My feeling is that the exact opposite of what you fear will happen; children with prior exposure will find algebra simply easier, and in so finding it easier are far more likely to engage, even with the shit school curricula for algebra we have.

I hope that happens - I really do. We need kids not to be afraid of just playing with stuff, including abstract stuff like manipulating and rearranging equations. I see too many kids paralysed when faced with a problem, unwilling or unable to do anything because they are scared that what they do will be wrong. They don't know the right thing to do, so they don't do anything. There's a chance that games like DragonBox will help fix that. I'm just aware that there are other ways that it will play out for some kids, because not all kids are the same.

I'd be interested to see the results of any research into Dragonbox.

To me it feels like purely rote learning. Children learn mechanical rules to manipulate things but (at least up to level 3) I'm not sure they're getting any understanding of what those manipulations actually mean.

HN seemed to really like a math teaching app that ended up being used in Malawi.


I got downvotes for suggesting it was expensive https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8282644

And I got an upvote for finding the research (not linked in the submission and for pointing out that the expensive app provided limited learning - "counting to ten" isn't somethig I want to pay $24 for.

Edutainment is always iffy business. The problem with this is it is trying to make a game out of doing algebra. In the end the only point of this is doing algebra.

Contrast this to something like Kerbal Space Program. This is a game about shooting rockets to other planets. In playing KSP, I've learned a bunch about orbital mechanics, which is the quite obvious result. If you were making an edutainment game to teach about how to work with orbital mechanics, it would look like KSP.

But the secret thing that the game has done is make me revisit calculus. You have a rocket that has a certain force at sea level, a certain force in the upper atmosphere, you have a mass that is a full tank of fuel, and a mass that is an empty tank of fuel. You have aerodynamic drag that changes with the density of the atmosphere.

It gives you some information, and you can go and get mods which give you more information (and expose you to more of the math, but at your own request). Or you can do what I did and take experimental data and build your own model.

But when I'm doing this it's not to balance an equation. It's because I want to get a rocket to the Mun, it's because I want to build the cheapest ship that can take space tourists up and down to fund my space empire. It's because I want to build a base on a distant planet. It's just that in order to do that, I learn me some calculus, and some orbital mechanics, and some other things until I can break some of it down in my head, until I'm talking about thrust to weight ratios, delta v, specific impulse etc. like they're no big deal.

A game like dragonbox falls into the edutainment trap. It's a game about balancing an equation on either side of a playfield. It's too abstract. It's just doing math problems with pictures.

It's like all the different typing tutors that we were given in computer class when I was growing up. Even the most gamified ones like mario teaches typing, or later typing of the dead, were still typing tutors.

But what really improved my typing speed more than any typing tutor out there was when I started playing Everquest online, and later World of Warcraft. Because in those games, before voice comms were common place, you had to be able to communicate reasonably effectively, but quickly, and in the middle of doing other things.

I wasn't typing to get points typing. I was typing on the way to do things that I enjoyed. Nobody would sponsor a World of Warcraft class to teach typing, first of all it wouldn't necessarily be effective, how much you type depends on the individual, plus it wouldn't be particularly fast, and it would be impossible to test on.

But we don't learn things well by learning them fast and then dropping them. We learn things well by being engaged in them and repeating them frequently over a long period of time. KSP will do good things for my calculus, because there's a lot of space to cover in that game and it's fun to explore space. A game like dragonbox is not interesting enough to say a year after finishing the challenges "Ah man, I really want to pick that up again and play through it again." it doesn't engage your imagination, it doesn't give you any context except "Solve this disguised math problem and get a gold star"

edit: All that said, I'm still happy the program exists, and I hope it does well. I do think it takes the wrong approach, and I do think that edutainment in general really misses the mark, as does the current "gamification" trends we're seeing around other places. That said, I don't think it would do harm, and it will definitely expose kids to algebra in a way that could definitely help them.

I guess my point is more that sometimes the better way to teach is to do it more indirectly. If another game that was really interesting on its own merits allowed you to excel by figuring out algebra, that game is a more organic way of learning, and it also makes the subject matter more meaningful. It's also incredibly hard to measure or predict it's efficacy, so you can't really sell it to parents as a way to teach algebra any more than you could sell WoW to parents as a typing tutor.

There's a related thought I have with this whole idea, and it's that these types of tools mainly end up used for "circus math". Math that once may have been useful, just as slide rules were useful, but in modern times have much less direct value and seem mainly to be for show. When you're revisiting calculus in order to accomplish some goal, are you doing everything by hand or are you leveraging software like Maple, Octave, Wolfram Alpha, Python, Julia, or a plain TI-89? Do you derive or memorize or keep a handy table of integration/derivative formulas? Do you ever do integration by parts and show all your work? Where there are nth order DEs, Laplace Transforms can be very useful (and lead to the tremendously useful Fourier Transform), but do you do partial fractions by hand so you can get an expression to something you can easily invert by inspection (with a handy table reference maybe)?

I wonder if there's not some way to skip a lot of the tedium of algebraic manipulation that is forced upon students, such that students can learn how to use algebra as a tool to solve problems, rather than as an interesting written dance where each step is shown that they must perform for points. These sorts of games may make the tedium go by quicker, and there is something to be said that understanding can come through rote, but once a student grasps the meaning of these things, I think we should immediately encourage that student to avoid as much tedium as possible and move on to higher subjects instead of more and more worksheets testing knowledge of process rather than knowledge of usefulness.

I occasionally link back to this text (ignoring the controversial remarks on violent video games): http://www.theodoregray.com/BrainRot/ In short, if you think of the brain as a limited resource, then all these numerical and analytical methods that were needed before computers have a cost -- one which our intelligent ancestors paid for out of necessity, and it's foolish to suppose these things don't require significant amounts of brainpower or cognitive resources. Is this cost still worth it for most of them, is the amount of brainpower in fact trivial despite our ancestors' struggles, were they just stupider back then? Do our children have enough resources that they can learn all they knew, at least until the final exam, and then all we've found out about higher levels of math and about automated computation this last generation? I don't think so.

This is a point of view that I'm hearing a lot now, mostly from technically capable people who know that computer algebra systems exist and are more reliable than doing everything by hand. And there is merit in the argument, but I've always felt uncomfortable about it, as if something was missing.

More recently I think I've identified what it is, and I included a little rant about it in my blog post about the birthday problem[0].

In particular, you've said:

    > I wonder if there's not some way
    > to skip a lot of the tedium of
    > algebraic manipulation that is
    > forced upon students,
I'd like to compare this with the idea of missing all the tedium of practising the cross-court forehand drive in table tennis. And the answer in that case is no, not if you want to be a top flight player. You need your body to recognise the shot automatically and play it without thinking, so your brain is released to do the higher-order stuff necessary to work on the problem, not the detail.

But more than that, sometimes it's the hours of practice in algebra (or similar) that means that when something turns up in disguise then you still recognise it, and still know how to torture the equations to twist them into the standard form.

It's really hard to explain. Sometime I'll have another go at it, try to put into words the meta-intuition I've developed over the past 40 years. In the meantime, the side-box with the rant is the best I've managed.

[0] http://www.solipsys.co.uk/new/TheBirthdayParadox.html#toc_na...

i totally agree with you, let s engage the imagination of kids, let s create situations where kids want to learn by necessity and own interest and drive! deeper learning! that said, once you are motivated to learn, you still need tools to get fluency and learn conceptual stuff rapidly. Although i love that you make me think about what i m doing, i m still convinced we need specific tools. We need both approaches i think!

I don't know about this particular software, but I'm not too sure about this whole "giving my kid an advantage in life early on" business.

I think there was a study done [1] that showed that love and security and the availability of parents and family mixed with a certain degree of freedom were more crucial to success later in life than skills such as math. It allowed children to explore the world on their own, but if anything bad happened they could always rely on parents to be there for them. To tell them things would be fine, or to put a band-aid on their wounds. This allows children to develop trust in others, self-confidence and a positive outlook in life. While at the same time motivating them to explore the world.

However, another very important thing was allowing the kids to join in when the family (or other kids) were solving a problem. This could be anything from helping with cooking, fixing something in the house or collecting firewood. I assume the benefit of this was not only practice of problem-solving and social skills, but also allowing them to develop a sense of self-worth.

(The problem is, I guess, that our modern world is solving all our problems for us. We don't repair, we replace. We buy solutions for things that we'd had better dealt with ourselves. And so forth. And that we put so much emphasis on self-reliance, which seems to be a good thing but in reality has serious disadvantages. I believe this is one of the big (root-) problems of our modern civilisation that nobody seems to be talking about, but I might be wrong.)

Furthermore, the ability to work on a specific problem _with others_ is a different from being able to do maths alone. It teaches all the right things in life.

So I guess the point is: If you want your kid to succeed, be there for and allow it to take part in life the way he or she choses to (all within reasonable limits of course, you still need raise your kids to be decent etc.), especially with others.

[1] wish I had a link.. :/

I agree with everything you say. Personally I work on mobile apps for a living, but our family does not own a tablet and we seldom allow our 2 daughters - ages 1 and 5 - to use our phones.

But! As a parent, there are times when you need to distract the kids for a few minutes. My main goal during those distraction times would be that they are distracted sufficiently, and enjoy themselves. If they happen to also "learn Algebra", well I don't really have a problem with that. So I see this as something that is probably worth having on a tablet instead of the completely made-up-off-the-top-of-my-head Disney Princess Tea Party App.

    .... love and security and the availability of parents
    and family mixed with a certain degree of freedom were
    more crucial to success later in life than skills such
    as math.
So let's suppose you have all that stuff and then add math as well!

designer of DragonBox Algebra here... 0- i totally agree with your post : ) 1-the game was never conceived as a headstart product! 2-our goal is to deliver products that introduce the big ideas in math in an engaging and efficient way, because math can be such an unnecessary pain for many children 3-we recommend to play DragonBox with family members : ) 4- your reference [1] could be about self regulation (social interaction primarily) and academic achievement: http://people.oregonstate.edu/~mcclellm/ms/Morrison,%20Ponit...

> 1-the game was never conceived as a headstart product!

True that may be, but the blurb on the "DragonBox Algebra 5+" product on the linked page says:

"It’s perfect for giving your child a head start in mathematics and algebra. "

interesting point. It was not conceived as headstart, but it is sold as headstart. I want it as a real game, and i want it as an efficient learning tool. I want it for discovery and shared learning moment, and i want it for avoiding math challenges later. I want it for pleasure and i want it to teach very difficult stuff quickly. Seems like many contradictions here. arghh u revealed that i m human i guess : ), with incompatible goals and complex realities. At the same time, this complexity and contradiction makes it a very interesting challenge : )

Is there something like this but for code?

I can imagine having some visual blocks and wires to get a wanted output image, and then gradually it could use symbols or function names instead of the pictures, or you could even go deeper into the blocks to get down to more lower level instructions...

Like Blueprints in UE4 : https://docs.unrealengine.com/latest/INT/Engine/Blueprints/G...

Spacechem http://www.zachtronics.com/spacechem/

It's not intended at all as a programming education product but I think that's what's so great about it.

Plus one to spacechem. Not only does it teach the basic programming elements, it goes really deep into handling concurrent operations.

I can't recommend it enough to help explain programming concepts, and as a brain teaser for my colleagues.

A friend of mine created the board game Robot Turtles ("programming for preschoolers"), which has a bit of that goal. It's a parent-child(ren) thing rather than a solo activity, mind you.


None of the apps suggested actually help learn to think logically like you do when programming. There is ONE app I found that does just that and nothing more.


Kodable. It's free but more importantly, it teaches kids about loops and sequencing commands - things you do on a day to day basis while programming (unless you're a functional programmer haha).

I guess it comes down to what it means to "think logically"? If you can solve previously unseen algebra problems, and improve your understanding you're having to "think logically" - you're not just randomly button pressing, you're seeing the pattern.

I just got my 7 year old daughter started on the http://code.org/ exercises. She completed the hour of code, got her certificate, and is now always saying to me "Daddy can we do some more code"?

That's awesome!

ScratchJr for tablets (iOS, Android). It is much better than Scratch for young kids (the mouse and keyboard are from the 20th century): http://www.scratchjr.org/

> It is much better than Scratch for young kids (the mouse and keyboard are from the 20th century)

As a father of two young boys, I don't think that "tools are from the 20th century" is the reason that it's easier for young kids. It's more about touching and pointing being more intuitive than typing and using a mouse. Kids will adapt to whatever tools they are given. The fact that most of us these days will put kids in front of a touch-enabled device before a keyboard doesn't mean that the keyboard is any less useful or important. It's still going to be a while before touch-and-gesture will be a better tool than typing for writing code.

Please take it with a pinch of salt. The keyboard and mouse are not obsolete but when you see a young kid putting so much energy in learning how to drag and drop objects in Alice ( http://www.alice.org/index.php ) instead of creating things the multitouch devices bring a solution.

Check out the following all based on the 'connect the puzzle pieces' UI of App Inventor:


https://blockly-games.appspot.com/ (transitions to JavaScript)


https://www.makewonder.com/ (physical robots)

I really like Cargo-Bot for the iPad: http://www.fastcodesign.com/1669821/cargo-bot-an-addictive-i...

Got Robot Turtles for the kids (4 and 7) and they got bored pretty quickly since there's only so much you can do (move, turn, shoot).

That would be awesome. I like CodeCombat but it's still direct coding. It'd be nice to learn variables, control flow structures etc but visually. The same way that DragonBox doesn't make it explicit that you're actually learning algebra.

For Doctor Who fans, there's always this one from the BBC:


scratch.mit.edu is not far from what you're describing.

You mean like Scratch?

Dragonbox isn't just for kids! My sister was studying for the GRE and struggling with the math section. For people who aren't as into math, there are a lot of things you forgot, and probably a few you just never learned right (for her it was fractions/division). She gives DragonBox a lot of credit for helping her boost her score, and she still plays with it from time to time just because it's fun.

DragonBox is the best. I have bought literally everything this company has created... and I will continue to do so.

Take a look at this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLA-fde2eR0

That is the typical response to the game... My own boys were solving equations within a few hours... This is clearly how math should be taught...

There was an interview with the guy who made it on Quartz this week: http://qz.com/390854/the-video-game-that-teaches-algebra-to-...

Apparently it became so popular in Norway that it actually beat Angry Birds there. Granted, that was in 2012


Interesting. There must be something unique about the market for apps in Norway as I managed to hit a similar milestone [1] (outselling Angry Birds in Norway for one day) in 2011.

[1] http://trimensional.com/blog/2011/05/23/trimensional-is-1-in...

There is also this one from Forbes. It claims it only takes 42 minutes, but that depends on how you define "learning algebra", i guess. Still a great game that both my kids loved.

Can you post the link to the article? Thanks!

Edit: Found it!


Funny coincidence - I was just reading about DragonBox this morning in The Game Believes in You (a new book by Greg Toppo about educational games) and here it is on HN! The book is a good read (so far) if you're interested in this sort of stuff.

Wow, I am working on something very similar... still in beta... it's here: http://magako.com/exercise/symbolic/eng

This is brilliant. My kids at 7 and 5 loved it.

Do they still play it or have they outgrown it now?

My daughter and I were discussing middle school (she will be in 6th grade next year). She said she wanted to replay DragonBox to help get her ready for algebra class. She mastered the game in a day last year and still recalls it as her favorite game "that actually taught her something".

Our child is older and he loves the 12+ version. Made him do a little bit every day, he thought it was a treat and I was thrilled to see him gradually absorbing the concepts of algebra.

Not sure whether it's connected but he now says he likes maths at school :-)

Yeah, my kids went all the way through this at 5. It's amazing.

I gave it to my 5 year old and she loved it. The best part was after a few sections, I wrote out simple "x + 5 = 7" type equations and she had no trouble figuring them out. I try to get them to understand the same for other things. A billion plus a million is easy, it is similar as an orange plus a pear.

It's so awesome to see their eyes open up at these things. My younger daughter has been going on for days about powers of two. She doesn't know how to multiply, but exponentiaton just tickles her. I showed her some of Vi Hart's videos, and now she's in love with hexaflexagons.

It's so wonderful to see the beauty of math, and moreso when a child is discovering it.

I have used this game with my 5 yo (now 6), and I can say that it is done really well, and kept him engaged. YMMV, but this seems like the right approach for math/edu apps.

I interned with these guys back in 2012 when I was a student. They are a really great team with an inspiring vision. So glad to see them here on the front page!

I wished my kid never touched iPhone before the age of 16, but that is impossible. However this app justifies iPhone usage by kid, for a little bit.

Excessive screen time is a real challenge for this generation that's been born to it.

We (SO and I) have a newborn, and I often use my computer or phone around him. We think it might be detrimental to his development if he used electronics as much as I do, but I am not a good example to him.

Our strategy for balance is to (1) provide a lot of alternative means for engagement like outdoor activities, excursions, and interesting physical toys; and (2) provide many useful learning apps like this one that will harness healthy, natural interest in electronics with added developmental and educational benefits.

Growing up, I always sought out electronics and gadgets, from Gameboy, to Palm Pilot, to iPhone. But I think we are well past the tipping point where moderation is easier than excess with mobile devices. Adding more of the "good" stuff, we hope, will crowd out too much of the "bad" stuff.

Yup, in our case strict private catholic school is not an option.

Wish more elearning games were like this. Ones I had were terribly boring.

For younger kids, like preschool age, we had pretty good luck with games from Thup Games[1]. The sounds effects from the games will drive you nuts after a while (so headphones are handy), but I recall my kids learning a lot of reading skills from these apps.

Haven't had as much luck with educational apps now that my kids are post pre-school, so I'm very glad to see the recommendations for Dragonbox.

1. http://thup.com/

Don't have kids yet but I'll bookmark this for when the time comes. Thanks! ;-)

This appears to be good. Worth a try.

This looks awesome, but unfortunately I made a rule in my house that says "You can't play a video game in this house unless you are the one that invented it", so now I am quite conflicted...

I feel for you. In our house computer games, like Minecraft, began to consume all our children's (12 and under) time and attention --- they wanted to do absolutely nothing else. So, we made a rule, no computer games, except on what my wife and I called "Technology Tuesdays." At first the going was really tough, but it seems to have worked. The children now enjoying playing computer games on Tuesday (which turns out to be only a few hours after school on Tuesday), but are back to pursuing other interests the rest of the time.

On the other hand, for truly educational content, like Khan Academy, they have unlimited access.

I grew up with a softer rule... gaming limited to an hour, unless it was something I created.

The bad things about these kinds of rules, around this age, is that it provides strong incentive for kids to learn to lie and hide things from you.

Just curious, what's with the rule? Also, do they know how to code already?

And how would they possibly create a good game without playing one?

The rule excludes video games at the childrens house. The rule says nothing about playing video games at a friends house or board games etc. at home.

poor kids

I wasted most of my youth sitting in front of the TV, I don't want that to happen to my own children. I'd rather them do something more constructive with their time.

Do you like the person you are now? How do you know TV didn't help shape that person.

There is wisdom to be had in learning first hand why a bad thing is bad, rather than just being told it is forbidden.

There's little value in introspection if there's no frame of reference.

Could you expand on this comment? It seems to agree with what I said.

Yes, it does :)

The thought process was that it's hard for me to _know_ why drugs are bad other than what I've been told and other outside knowledge sources (anecdotes, wikipedia pages, etc). However, wasting time on videogames is something I do often, so I can draw from my own experience in what is "too much" and what the deleterious effects are. It's a much more valuable lesson, because I know exactly what my situation is instead of trying to place myself in a hypothetical.

> There is wisdom to be had in learning first hand why a bad thing is bad, rather than just being told it is forbidden.

If people believed that, drug law would have a three-strike policy. So you see why I'm skeptical when people say what you just said.

Maybe you really believe what you said but don't fool yourself into thinking you live in a society that does too, because we don't.

I think it might be useful to distinguish between playing video games and breaking drug laws.

Tell that to the person that conflated the two when they said:

> There is wisdom to be had in learning first hand why a bad thing is bad, rather than just being told it is forbidden.

"a bad thing" is a variable. It's generic enough that it allows for both "playing video games all day" (which is a bad thing) and racist drug laws (which are also in the same category of bad things).

That's why I said people that say that usually don't believe it, as you've just shown. When it comes time to test that hypothesis by filling in the "a bad thing" blank, then you want to change the rules and say "well not EVERY bad thing, racist laws aren't bad in the same way playing games all day is".

If that's the case, then just don't say silly generalizations like "there is wisdom in learning why bad is bad"; instead, think before you say something, so we can have constructive conversations, and not conversations where your side is always backtracking and changing the meaning of basic things such as "a bad thing".

Because when you say "there is wisdom in learning why bad is bad" you make it sound like there is an underlying principle you believe in, but when I come in and test if you really have that belief, then it becomes clear you just wanted to make it sound like you had a principle behind it, but really you just winged it and pretended there was a principle, and when confronted about it, instead of admitting and saying "I shouldn't have phrased it as if I thought it's a principle", you want to argue with me how there really are two different categories called "a bad thing" where "playing games all day" and "racist drug laws" can't co-exist because you said so, without providing a reason.

>If that's the case, then just don't say silly generalizations like

The context of our conversation was video games. No koan, maxim or quote contains the unquestionable logical truth in all applications.

Ultimately your video game restriction might not even matter. If the kid goes through any kind of teenage rebellion from your strict rules, that will be a "bad" wisdom gaining experience itself. The only real choice you might be making is whether to deal with confrontation in small doses or in one major flame out.

Rather than banning it completely, why not set some limits? Also kids learn by modding existing games, see the recent Minecraft / Visual Studio news.

I agree, wasting time on shooters probably isn't a good idea, but there are very good story driven games (monkey island type of games) or strategy games (sim city etc) that kids could get inspired by.

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