Guest Author – Paul Peterson
Raising a gamer
The holy grail for any parent who is a gamer is for their children to also fall in love with games. We look at gaming icons such as Tom Vasel and his daughter Melody or Wil Wheaton and his sons Ryan and Nolan (both of whom have appeared on TableTop with him) and we want what they have. We think about how great it would be to have another opponent who not only lives with you, but who’s allowance you control.
I am no different. My oldest daughter is 5, and I’m doing everything in my power to bring her on board. I’m employing a number of strategies, which I thought I’d share with you.
one – Attack on multiple fronts
In our modern world, “gaming” goes far beyond any one definition. There are board games, card games, role playing games, console games, social games, mobile games… the list goes on and on. And while your goal may be to raise someone who loves Napoleonic miniatures as much as you do, it might be a lot easier to get them into a village sim on a tablet. My daughter loves playing games with me on the phone or a console, and the more she gets exposed to them, the more she likes games in general, so when I pull out Candy Land or Don’t Break the Ice she’s excited. Also, she’s learning a lot of the language of gaming, like “taking turns” or “score” that translate across genres.
two – Ease them into it
This one is fairly obvious. Three year olds can’t really handle Eclipse. There are so many good games for kids, though. Memory, Don’t Break the Ice, Catan Junior. Find what’s appropriate for your child’s age and interests and ramp up over time. Also, if they love simple matching or hidden object games on a tablet, you can start introducing more “gamer” fare to them over time. Things with more rules, like simulations or puzzle games like Scribblenauts (which I am convinced gave my daughter her love of reading as much as I did.)
three – Relax the rules
This one is especially important when they are young. Young children do not like to lose and they will often cheat to win. They are also not particularly subtle about it. They’ll dig through a stack of Candy Land cards to find the purple one and then move three purple spaces instead of two. This is normal, and there’s nothing wrong with letting them win and laughing about it. It teaches them that games are fun and that it’s ok to play the game the way that you want to. However, they also have to learn to be a graceful loser, so it’s ok to make some of the sessions (especially with short games) be “by the book.” And you can set a good example by playing by the rules even when they begin to bend them. Playing electronic games will also help them learn about rules because they can’t cheat at them. The game wont let them.
Along with this, you should feel free to strip out rules to make the game more fun and easier for them. I played a game of Rampage with a 5 and a 2 year old. We didn’t track teeth or when meeples left the board. We just dropped monsters and threw trucks and picked up meeples and it was amazing. Easily the most fun we’ve had at a game and the next day they were asking to play again!
four – Show them some context
Take your kids to game stores and to conventions. They wont have a lot of patience for it at first, so you may want to limit how long they are going to be there, but it will help a lot to show them that gaming is not just something that daddy or mommy does, but something that a lot of people do. Point out kids playing games, and pay attention to the games they are playing. If your kids see a game they like, get it!
How about you? What tips do you have to help raise a gamer?