My 5 year old son’s first visit to the local gaming group was described here. He could barely contain his excitement as his second outing approached. I was pleased to take him again, giving him a well-deserved reward for a week of good behavior and school performance.
We joined three other gamers who were still deciding which game to play, from a selection of Dominion, Endeavor and Citadels. I should have realized that the other three did not expect my son to play independently (Dominion is at most a 4-player game). They seemed especially keen to play Endeavor, so I agreed, even though my previous single play of this game had been disappointing: not bad, just bland.
With the benefit of hindsight, I should have spoken up and suggested that we play Citadels instead; the night was still young, my son knows the game, and they could have moved on to Endeavor afterward. I can understand why they might assume that my son was not there to play games in his own right, so it was my responsibility to make clear that he was.
The evening was not a complete loss, far from it. Although I judged (correctly) that Endeavor was too complex for my son to play on his own, he understood enough to play under my guidance and he even suggested some very sensible moves. Despite making some glaring strategic errors (actually, I made the errors and my son helpfully pointed out the mistakes after the fact), we managed a late surge and a tight win. The game ran a little longer than expected due to all players being affected somewhat by analysis paralysis. Overall, I must admit that my son was a little bored, although he conducted himself impeccably throughout.
A good parent never stops learning. Tonight we had a good time, but if I take greater care, next time we’ll have a great time!
We haven’t really discussed it at any length, but Meng’ story reminded me of a very important point. How much the parent controls and creates a constructive and welcoming learning environment is more important than the game itself. I have heard of cases where the very same experience Meng has described goes terribly wrong because the gaming table is not welcoming to the child. Believe me when I say the little geeks can “feel” the displeasure.
As fathers and geeks, we never, ever want our children to associate negativity with games as a whole. This completely defeats the purpose of what we are attempting to accomplish on many different levels. So, before you rush out and take your little geeks to your gaming group too, make certain you have paved the way like Meng has. Talk to your group and make certain everyone understands you are bringing your child or children; don’t surprise your group with little geeks in tow. That is not fair to them or to your little geeks. Provide some suggestions on what games could be played and invite others in your gaming group to bring their little geeks, too!
Skill and ability can be taught in time, but all it takes is one negative experience to throw everything back.
Excellent article, Meng.