Raising Baby Gamers


  • Pitcrew

    Perhaps less "baby gamers" so much as a new generation of tabletop roleplayers.

    My life has become pretty intensely mixed with stress and responsibility of late, but in the midst of it I've found something that I'm really enjoying and thought I would share for the entertainment of it as well as because I'm curious if any other folks have really spent time sharing roleplaying games with a new generation?

    We've started up a kids roleplay club out of the library where I work, specifically for kids in 4th - 6th grade where we had been playing more specifically "kid friendly" RPGs, such as Hero Kids and Little Wizards. About a month ago, a handful of those kids talked us into running a D&D (5th edition) game for them through the summer. There is a table of 7 kids who have met once a week to play, just for a couple of hours - which always goes over just a little bit, and they are really-really getting into roleplaying. Things are being kept pretty simple and straight forward, following pre-planned adventures, but the notion of being in-character and interacting with one another (and using "voices" and playing characters that possess character quirks), it is all coming very easily to these kids.

    As an example, this afternoon's game ended with the group going into a large town to an inn and the course of RPing between themselves and the GM towards the goal of getting rooms was hindered by the fact that one of the people in the party has a very low charisma. He's decided this is because he smells bad and is known to eat and smoke weird things. This hindrance was overcome by another of his party choosing to cast "Charm Person" on him to convince him to take a bath which he was refusing to take. He failed his saving throw and got a bath and the party got their rooms. And all of those kids were laughing and having a great time.

    That's a pretty good feeling.



  • This.
    Wow, magnificent seven is a whole lot! Kudos!
    That they all get in character and sit it out at the table is totally amazing.
    Simple is good. You divvy spotllight time by seven so complexity is a tricky beast even for adults.


  • Pitcrew

    @Woragarten Great video, thank you for that!

    There are a few differences between our set-up for gaming (in the library) and the FNGS mentioned in the video, most of these kids already knew one another so the concept that everyone at the table is on the same side and works together wasn't even actually one that had to be covered moving into D&D. They want to work together, even when they break off into pairs to accomplish something they have yet to even look too closely at "You don't really have the dice for this so you can't help me." that I've seen on occasion with adults.

    Of the kids, two of them had a vague awareness of what RPGs were (One of them is my youngest son, so he knew from being present in our house when gaming was happening what it was, but he had never played.) but for the rest of them this was entirely new for them and their parents. In all of those cases I also had to give the parents a very basic primer for it and have them sign a permission slip acknowledging that "Yes, my kids has permission to play D&D." so that there are no pitchfork waving bible beaters coming into the library.

    I've found that the best tips I've accumulated so far are:

    1. Keep the sessions on the short side. 2 hours at a table "in character" is a pretty long stretch for a kid's attention span outside of school.
    2. Provide snacks! (But not a bunch of sugar, because once they start going wild it's hard to reel them back in.)
    3. With this # of kids, have 2 GMs. The head GM runs the story, but with the kids there are questions that can be answered to keep things running smoothly and the assistant also has a quick review with each kid individually before their turn in initiative that starts with "What do you think you would like to do?" and looks at their sheet with them to see what they can do. It's helped build that notion of planning what you are going to do before your actual turn happens, to keep things happening at a good pace.

  • Coder

    @2mspris

    Are you planning on archiving the adventures? I think we, and even a lot of people not here, would love them.


  • Pitcrew

    @Thenomain We've discussed doing that yes, we're trying to decide the best way to do it. There has been talk of videoing the sessions so that they can be viewed by other people. We've also talked to the kids about them doing journals about what their characters are doing. The idea of giving the kids something to motivate them long term for playing, as well as making something that they can look back at, especially if they keep with the hobby is appealing.

    I'd originally tried to build a gaming group of local teens but while there was a lot of talk from teenagers wanting it, motivating them to come in and participate was a struggle. They weren't already hooked to make it any sort of priority. So by starting younger this might make it a higher priority to be involved with as they grow up because they will have a familiarity that the older kids lacked.

    I'll let you know what we come up with though! We did come to the decision today that among the various "I participated in a summer reading program" prizes that we'll give to people at the end of the year through the library, we're going to have a drawing that one of these kids is going to win their own copy of the D&D 5th edition Player's Guide. We have copies that they use through the library, but there's something to be said for having your own gaming books.


  • Pitcrew

    This post is deleted!

  • Pitcrew

    Ooops, I deleted my post instead of editing it. Sorry!

    I think teaching kids rpgs is awesome. As a teacher who has taken too many classes about how developing minds work and what is 'good' or 'bad' for them, I'm super pro. There are a lot of skills that are developed in tabletop gaming that we grown up players don't think about. Mathematics in various levels of complexity. Strategy, which is -huge-. Social awareness beyond being kind to each other but in the game itself, figuring out who does what or who should do which role in some big battle scene requires presenting your case well, and sometimes yielding to someone else's better idea. There are a LOT of complex learning tasks that go into things like gaming that are oft derided as wastes of time or conjuring satan or whatever.

    I am wondering people's thoughts on kids regarding online roleplaying games. My daughter went through a phase where she was obsessed with this game called Animal Jam that is run by NatGeo but also has a heavy social component...throwing parties and decorating your little animal. There are several games like this that are geared towards kids and that have moderation, some pretty heavy. I first had her set up so that her 'chat' mode only allowed her to click on certain choices and responses to things, single-player rpg style. She really, really wanted to just type what she wanted to say, so I eventually changed it. The system has a whole list of words, swear words and also just words that are mean and insulting, so she was reasonably safe. (Though upset when she saw someone say 'a**hole', some young protege who figured out how to curse with symbols.) We've been looking at some others, she's playing something called Amazing World now and I have similar control of her settings/experiences.

    I'm torn about it though, she's 8 and to me that seems so YOUNG to be getting all obsessively into gaming, but I guess there are thousands of kids similarly obsessed with their consoles so I'm probably being overly neurotic.

    What do you guys think? Anyone allow their child to play online 'social' games as I do? Anyone who absolutely forbids it? Why? (to either question). If you don't have kids pitch in with your opinions anyway, we all know games.


  • Pitcrew

    I have presented to other librarians a few times (I did a webinar on the topic and a few panel discussions, my next one is going to be participating in a panel of Indiana librarians about gaming in libraries at GenCon.) about the benefits in development of children (and even teenagers) where it comes to learning to play roleplaying games. Those are all things that are included in the discussions that happen over the course of the topic. But I've also found the strongest support for it comes from something summarized very well by Ethan Gilsdorf's article from a couple of years ago: 'All I needed to know about life I learned from “Dungeons & Dragons”.' It makes for a list of compelling points to support teaching kids the hobby.

    @Gingerlily I have had a good bit of experience with that as well and honestly I think it depends upon the kid, it depends upon the game and it depends upon the parent(s). I have two sons, the oldest of them has always been a bit of a computer nut. When he was about 6-7 years old he was already into MMOs, specifically he got into one called Toon Town (No idea if that game is still around these days or not, we let him play it off and on with close supervision for about a year before there started to be some things that caused us to take it away.). If you can find an MMO that has a closely monitored age limit and is meant to be a kids game, that's great, but it's not a guarantee that there aren't adults creeping on the game. That son is now 16 years old and running guilds on numerous MMOs, while his younger brother (who's 10 currently) is allowed online social games - but only when he's playing with a member of our family or is being closely monitored (plays it sitting in the same room as one of his parents or his brother) because he's far more trusting of people than we're comfortable with him being online.

    Meanwhile I also know people who absolutely refuse their kids anything to do with the internet, games or not. And we got quite a bit of flack from family for how much gaming we allowed our oldest with it often being presumed that letting him do some things must mean we weren't watching or aware of what he was doing.


  • Pitcrew

    @2mspris

    Yeah my best friend is a granola gal who does not allow her children to drink juice (too sugary) nor have any screentime during the week. They watch a family movie on the weekends. She knows how much my kid is allowed and has never -said- anything to me but I can read a shocked expression when I see one.

    Still both she and I have advanced degrees in teaching and child development, so criticizing each other's parenting would never happen.

    There is an amazing book called "Smarter Than You Think" by Clive Thompson and it puts a whole new perspective on 'screen time' and the stigma it has and whether it should. Highly recommend.


  • Pitcrew

    @Gingerlily I've always backed that adage that to become an expert with something it requires "10 thousand hours" of experience with it. I wouldn't be surprised if my oldest son hasn't had that amount of time or more towards computer use/building/repairing and coding. There's a reason that he's the "go to" kid at his school when people have a computer issue - and that I once had to go into the school to tell the administration that "No, the teachers at the school cannot send their laptops home with my kid for free computer repairs." after he kept bringing them home. That is his skill set and what he's good with, I would no more cut him off from that than I would tell the prospective future athlete that he can't play the sport he loves - or tell the future scientist he can't do science experiments.

    My parents used to regularly send me news articles about the dangers of "too much screen time" when he was little. It's possible I sent them one back, with relish, when they released findings about the benefits of a lot of computer game play.


  • Pitcrew

    @2mspris

    Yes yes. And while the 'Smarter Than you Think' book isn't just about games and gamers, (that's just one chapter, the rest is about technology effecting society in other ways, but all of it fascinating and useful and backed up by scientific studies) It does spend a -lot- of time discussing the 'down with screentime' mentality that pediatricians and teachers (some, not me!) and parenting blogs, and how they are not necessarily based in truth.

    Obviously children need time actually playing with toys, and friends, and outdoors. But that does not mean that screen time isn't ever acceptable of even valuable. The games around presently are not the original Nintendos we were raised pounding the controllers on. They require strategic thinking, planning, comprehension skills, and so much more. And I'm not talking games marketed as 'educational'. I'm talking your regular rpg or Minecraft and all that. Just games. My daughter blows my mind with the elaborate stuff she builds on Minecraft, her visual-spatial skills are on point, I don't think I could make stuff that neat if I tried and she's 8. And yeah sure, she could build stuff with legos, but legos can actually be super frustrating as a fine motor task and lose their appeal from that.

    When they get old enough to actually start messing with code...I mean wow. It's fantastic.

    So yeah, I'm a primary educator with 15 years of experience and certifications in early childhood and English language learning and special education...and I am totally good with screen time. So long as once in a while they get some Vitamin D from the sun, and hit the playground to keep their physical health handled...screen away.


  • Pitcrew

    Double reply but just adding this because it is also relevant:

    I've been reading studies and articles lately about neuroplasticity, because after the years of migraines and medications I want to get my brain 'back in shape' so to speak, and they mentioned several means by which to improve the healthy functioning of the brain.

    One was mindfulness meditation, which is pretty predictable and now recommended for all kinds of things, so that's cool.

    But another was video games. Not specific stuff like Luminosity or whatever marketed to improve brain function. Just any video game.


  • Pitcrew

    I once got the hairy eyeball at a parent ed talk about screentime when I commented what a classist and somewhat racist bunch of garbage this "Screen time is ruining our kids! They should be playing with legos and running around outside!" stuff is.

    You can play minecraft on a computer, which is often used by family for many things as a communal resource. Legos are pretty much only toys (unless you have an adult hobbyist) and are extremely EXTREMELY expensive unless you get lucky on craigslist.

    Being outside is great! Do you have enough land/a useable backyard? Does your city have enough money for park upkeep? Do you have a car/gas money? Are the outdoor/common spaces accessible by bus if not? Will you get CPS or will your children be harassed while at the park if you don't "look right" for the neighborhood?

    How many jobs are you working? Are you home during daylight hours when it's safe to walk/are you comfortable with your latchkey kids going out while you're not there?

    I do limit my kids screen time and kicked them outside of the house in the summer when they were younger to go play outside until a certain time. BUT we have an awesome property, with lots of wooded areas and even a kind neighbor who allowed the kids to play in the creek that's on their side of the property line. At the time all our immediate neighbors were old school elderly people who enjoyed seeing/hearing the kids run around (and often would give them old junk boards and nails and tools they didn't want anymore for my kids to build forts with). There were also 3 of them close in age, and pack safety helps. Also it helps that they look 100 percent white. :P So no one questioned our belonging in any neighborhood park pretty much anywhere they showed up. I always had access to transportation. I didn't worry about some idiot calling CPS on me (though I had plenty of people clutch pearls because I allowed my children to play outside on our completely shielded from traffic wooded property BY THEMSELVES where I could not always be there to make sure they weren't kidnapped by the white slavery pedophile ring.)

    Now I see my teens laughing and chatting and playing games with friends both online and when they get together at our place (which often involves RPGs and board games as well, in person). They are silly computer game and magic dorks. It's very sweet, and goofy, and social. We can't afford $1k per kid to have them do sports teams and all the stuff that is the rage, and that's fine.

    And all of them have perfectly good working brains (as annoying as they are sometimes) despite having watched TV now and then and played computer/console games.



  • @mietze said in Raising Baby Gamers:

    Being outside is great! Do you have enough land/a useable backyard? Does your city have enough money for park upkeep? Do you have a car/gas money? Are the outdoor/common spaces accessible by bus if not? Will you get CPS or will your children be harassed while at the park if you don't "look right" for the neighborhood?

    This. My parents own the last two remaining vacant house lots in our neighborhood, and while the house lots in this development have enough space for some yard stuff, they aren't all huge. Two full house lots is pretty big, and they're empty (gardeny/grass kept up, not asphalt or anything) so while there are no young kids in the family, it's on record as being 'safe space' for neighborhood kids to play if they need more room for something like soccer practice or whatnot.

    This has also led to serious weirdness once in a while, like finding a random ski pole in the yard when the snow melts in the spring... (we live on a hill, we never thought anyone would get that adventurous until we saw the actual ski tracks and couldn't stop o.o-ing), but the above is exactly why we've always committed to allowing folks to use that space (provided there's an adult supervising or an older kid in case of accident/etc. for their own safety).


  • Coder

    @2mspris

    I wonder how much circulation our D&D books get at the library. I should check! Running a gaming group might be a good idea. Thanks for these posts. I just put Smarter Than You Think on hold, too.


  • Pitcrew

    I put in a request for Smarter Than you Think, too! Hopefully that'll be in soon.

    I was recently referred to the book Dragons in the Stacks: A Teen Librarian's Guide to Tabletop Role-Playing which I've also requested, mostly for curiosity sake. I've had mixed results with librarian reference material like this, usually I do better going with personal experience but it's always good to get more perspectives!

    We don't actually circulate our D&D (and Pathfinder) books, they are kept in the library as reference materials. It hasn't saved a few from being stolen in the last couple of years, but that happens.


  • Pitcrew

    Woot to 'Smarter Than You Think' I hope you both love it. We can have a book club thread when you are finished reading. There's a lot of cool stuff in there.


  • Pitcrew

    I thought I would share a bit of the latest from the little Dungeons & Dragons group I had previously mentioned.

    This particular roleplaying group (of 4th - 6th graders) has dubbed themselves the H.A.K. Club (Heroic Adventure Kids). We're up to 8 players now, an even split of boys and girls, though for the last couple weeks they aren't all there at once - so adventures happen for the characters who are there and they are all part of an adventuring company that works together. And I can tell you that these 8 players have rounded out 8 very unique and entertaining characters.

    Gandalf the Brown - A human male wizard who likes to chew on mushrooms, smoke strange things and while being very smart has a charisma of 8 (because he smells bad).

    Bob - A human female druid, one of the co-leaders of the group, she's never met a captive animal she wasn't willing to turn loose (which works out great in the wild but less so in town).

    George - A human male fighter who is very likable, incredibly clumsy and thinks he's a great tracker. (He isn't.)

    Puff - A dragonborn female fighter, she is the sworn protector of Bob, doesn't really talk much at all and is the group's "tank".

    Seth-Shadow - A male half-elf bard, who is more of a jester than he is a singer. He tells jokes and puns almost constantly and now has a chicken animal companion because he cast "speak with animal" on it so many times, and kept feeding it, that the chicken now loyally follows him everywhere and even tries to defend him in a fight.

    May - A female halfling ranger, the group's other leader, a position she earned by being the one who would IC jump in to talk and take charge during the games so it just kind of fell to her. (This is the youngest player in our group but one of the one's who has really jumped into this. She started writing "journal" stories about her own character after they would play.)

    Raid - A female halfling thief. She's very loyal to the group, but very much one of those "not exactly a good thief". (She is our oldest player, and to a tiny extent she has her own agenda, but she plays the character as also kept in check by May and the bard.)

    Merlin - A male dragonborn sorcerer with wild magic. This is the newest character to join the group and in today's game, the very first roll for a spell he did went wild and he ended up with a third eye opening up in his forehead.

    We're still working out how we want to chronicle the adventures these kids have - blog posts and some youtube videos is the current preference of the kids, but a final decision hasn't been made yet. In the mean time, the library where I work ended it's summer reading program for this summer (and started the kick off for a "year round" program, which is why this was such a short summer) which always ends with prizes given to people who participate in things. One of the prizes that I was able to arrange is a D&D 5e Player's Guide went home with the player of May the Ranger. You would have thought that little girl won a trip to Disney World. She squealed, jumped into the air and then hugged that book all night after it was given to her. Her mom said she kept it with her everywhere she went and today when she came to the game, she marched in carrying that book of hers.

    It was another one of those "good feeling" moments.


  • Pitcrew

    @mietze said in Raising Baby Gamers:

    I once got the hairy eyeball at a parent ed talk about screentime when I commented what a classist and somewhat racist bunch of garbage this "Screen time is ruining our kids! They should be playing with legos and running around outside!" stuff is.

    You can play minecraft on a computer, which is often used by family for many things as a communal resource. Legos are pretty much only toys (unless you have an adult hobbyist) and are extremely EXTREMELY expensive unless you get lucky on craigslist.

    Being outside is great! Do you have enough land/a useable backyard? Does your city have enough money for park upkeep? Do you have a car/gas money? Are the outdoor/common spaces accessible by bus if not? Will you get CPS or will your children be harassed while at the park if you don't "look right" for the neighborhood?

    How many jobs are you working? Are you home during daylight hours when it's safe to walk/are you comfortable with your latchkey kids going out while you're not there?

    I do limit my kids screen time and kicked them outside of the house in the summer when they were younger to go play outside until a certain time. BUT we have an awesome property, with lots of wooded areas and even a kind neighbor who allowed the kids to play in the creek that's on their side of the property line. At the time all our immediate neighbors were old school elderly people who enjoyed seeing/hearing the kids run around (and often would give them old junk boards and nails and tools they didn't want anymore for my kids to build forts with). There were also 3 of them close in age, and pack safety helps. Also it helps that they look 100 percent white. :P So no one questioned our belonging in any neighborhood park pretty much anywhere they showed up. I always had access to transportation. I didn't worry about some idiot calling CPS on me (though I had plenty of people clutch pearls because I allowed my children to play outside on our completely shielded from traffic wooded property BY THEMSELVES where I could not always be there to make sure they weren't kidnapped by the white slavery pedophile ring.)

    Now I see my teens laughing and chatting and playing games with friends both online and when they get together at our place (which often involves RPGs and board games as well, in person). They are silly computer game and magic dorks. It's very sweet, and goofy, and social. We can't afford $1k per kid to have them do sports teams and all the stuff that is the rage, and that's fine.

    And all of them have perfectly good working brains (as annoying as they are sometimes) despite having watched TV now and then and played computer/console games.

    This x1000. Looking down on parents because of the screen time they allow their kids is both racist and classist. I go on home visits for my pk students (all of them under the poverty line to qualify for services) and often there is a large flat screen and people watching it. I get enraged when people bitch about 'poor' people buying TVs. That's their entertainment, they can't buy theater tickets or take their children on vacation, this is what they do to unwind. Everyone is entitled to downtime and relaxation.


  • Coder

    @Gingerlily said in Raising Baby Gamers:

    Looking down on parents because of the screen time they allow their kids is both racist and classist.

    This caught me off guard because I was allowed a ton of screen time as a kid, and I'm middle-class white from a nice safe neighborhood. This was back when TV Was Ruining Our Society.

    It's Calvin & Hobbes.

    Did someone look down on my mother for it? Probably. Did I hear about it? Never. I grew up in a suburban neighborhood that was under development. The worst we were worried about was getting home by dusk and getting beat up by the older kids.

    Nowadays? Even in the same area I wouldn't give my kids that freedom. My 11-year-old-nephew has a phone just for the ability to track him, and they live in a fantastic neighborhood with lots of open space. He's also white (mostly, 1/4th Korean).

    If the parents are treating this as a class issue then they're dense (edit: though I can see how class and income gives you more leeway for limiting screentime). If they're treating this as a race issue, this baffles my everloving mind. I mean, do white project-kids get less crap for screen time than black project-kids? And if so, where to I pick up my 2x4 and get in line to talk to these people that these things are not related.

    Thanks.


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