I have lost count of the number of times Mind Candy, the company behind Moshi Monsters, gets mentioned in the business press as the great hope of UK business.
Apparently 75 million children have signed up worldwide, and there was its founder filling the 'business person' slot to comment on the final round of The Apprentice.
Well, I'm not a fan. In fact, this is the kind of blog post you can only really write over the age of 55 (which I now am) so please be understanding as you read it - but my feeling is that, if something quite so vacuous and ephemeral is the great hope of UK business, then the situation is worse than I thought.
Let me give a bit of background. I rigorously control the amount of time my children spend online, and will continue to do so until I lose the ability (my oldest is nine). I'm not the only parent to worry about what constant screentime does to their creativity and imagination, but I also resent the waste of time spent fiddling with computer games.
Yes, I am puritanical about that, but I'm not puritanical about everything.
I also resent the complexity imposed on them by companies like Mind Candy. The alphabets of different passwords and screennames, the screeds of personal data they require, the irritating way in which they stop working unexpectedly. The way they leave my children in tears of frustration every time they are allowed to waste a bit of time on them.
Do I fit the profile of somebody the geeks really love to hate?
But then, can you find anything exciting about Moshi Monsters? They are one-dimensional characters, with no development, no imagination, no scope for offline play. The whole caboodle is set up to encourage passive consumption of the most mindless kind. Strip away the first layer and there is nothing there at all. It is a glitzy, shiny vacuum.
It is fake fake fake, designed to keep my children passively indoors, dreaming of spending money. The great hope of UK business, at the expense of my children's lives? What does that say about us?
I also resent the way the schools force my children online, to do their homework or read books. I understand that this may be a way of getting boys to read, but has it occurred to the educationalists that boys are not reading because they are already spending too much time addicted to online games?
I don't want to sound self-congratulatory about this. It isn't easy. I'm not even sure I'm right about it. But I did have a peculiar experience last week which made me think about it.
I was visited by two very nice ladies from the BBC to interview me in the middle of the huge Spa Hill allotment site. "So this is where you live your Swallows and Amazons life," said the producer, as she came in.
An hour later and a great deal of verbiage from me had gone on their recording machine, and we were making our way through the gate. There was a little scream from the producer, and a flurry of sticks, and there were my children, leaping out of the long grass, their faces painted, wielding bows and arrows.
I was cross with them for shooting at guests, but I thought about it afterwards. I'm glad at least that they weren't indoors, wired into Playstation 3 or struggling to remember their tenth password for Moshi Monsters.
The first night of Oliver!
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