Friday, November 18, 2011

Teach Kids to Game Week - I think we have it backwards

There has been this thing happening, because games are always looking to swell the ranks (a laudable goal), where people are talking about how we need to teach kids how to game.

Despite what the title says I think this is a great idea. There are many cool boardgames and card games out there that are fun, educational and a family event. I believe that teaching these types of games help build things like literacy, math, problem solving, co-operation with people you are competing with, and how to be a gracious winner or loser.

Wait ... you meant teaching Roleplaying too.

Oh, right. This is where the title comes into play.

Kids already know how to roleplay. They do it all the time. What they don't do is roleplay like "grown ups." They don't take their rule books, and their supplements, and their dice and sit around a table waiting for someone to entertain them. Nope, they are active and engaged with their game. They want to tell stories with each other, and they aren't afraid to act them out too, in case LARPers were worried that they wouldn't be represented.  They want to do cool things, and crash hard only to get up again and defeat the odds. There is also that one kid who does nothing but want to play the bad guy, but I digress.

I know there is a knee jerk reaction, frequently found in many RPG books including my own, that talk about how RPGs are just like those halcyon days of playing pretend except with rules to prevent any arguments. Though I just laughed at that inside, but more on that later. You know, it is like playing Cops and Robbers except that there was no arguing about being got by someone's gun.

I am here to say that it is a load of hooey, or any similar word my Autocorrect feels like inserting. Those arguments do happen, but they are not the game under that we all make it out to be.  I have seen games grind to a stop because some obstinate grown up believes that the proper interpretation of the rule on page 162 of the third player's manual burner than I have seen kids fight over who got caught by the cops.

The reason for that is that kids are more interested in playing and adapting to situations than grown ups are. They are willing to go, 'oh. Okay" and move on rather than have to rely on a rulebook and a randomizer. Not that doing so amid a bad thing. Sometimes just the rolling of dice and seeing what comes up is great for rattling my imagination as an adult. However, I think that the conceit that we *have to teach roleplaying to kids* should be re-examined and possibly taken down a peg or two.

My hope for this week is that you played some great games with kids and that they taught you some things you have forgotten, or don't even think about.


sevoo said...

I've never understood the claim that kids RP, only without rules. I've watched my kid and as soon as she and her peers got old enough that they were playing together, instead of side-by-side, they started making rules. Lots of rules. Her favorite phrase is "no-no-no-no you have to..." and she's remarkably consistent, though not always able to coherently explain what she means.

What strikes me as the biggest difference between kids roleplaying and adults -- at least in the case of the preschool/kindergarten age range -- is that the kids aren't so goal-focused. That little kid with her pretend rake doesn't care that she'll never rake up the forest full of leaves. She just wants to be a person who is raking leaves.

And *that* has been something really useful for me to bring into roleplaying as an adult.

Jonathan said...

That is something to think about. I know that kids do love making rules, when my daughter was in the midst of her drama class they wanted to talk about rules that involved missing future classes.

I do believe that you have nailed the crux of the difference though, and with a bunch of homeschooled kids in the grade 7 to grade 9 range of ages, that the lack of goal-focus doesn't really shift all that much when they're on their own. They may not be happy being the person who is raking leaves, but they're interesting in living the lives of people and if that involves a whole lot of doing mundane things then so be it.

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