Christmas update

Despite having some kind of rotavirus/stomach flu ye olde flux & emesis* pass from my daughter, to my wife, to me in succession, we all managed to be healthy on Christmas Day, which was great. We alternate between my side and my wife’s side each year, and this year was with my side, so the first of the games I made went to my niece.  She is “that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys’ games and books” (to use H.G. Wells memorable phrase). Actually she has long been interesting all things fantastic and fantasy-oriented, but I was afraid I may have gotten to her a bit to late, as she is just now approaching her teen years and, I feared, was ready to put away childish things. I turns out, not so much.

She really seemed to get into the “adventure” and cared about her figures, being a bit bummed out when her elf was hypnotized by a demon. She had chosen the elf to be her “personal” figure (the rest of the adventurers are henchmen) because it had the ability to cast spells and shoot a bow — sound gamist reasoning, I think! We only had about 45 min. for me to teach her the game and start playing (I had her do all the rolling and look up all tables), and there were some interruptions, but she seemed to get it and I’m sure she’ll do fine once she reads through the rules herself.  One nice thing that happened was that she thought to put her elf to sleep while the rest of the party defeated the demon, and at that point I realized the rules didn’t really say whether the hypnotism spell would be broken when the caster dies. It gave me a natural opportunity to explain that the rules are always “incomplete” and you have to make common-sense decisions…which of course will be useful for RPGs should she progress to that.  Another encouraging sign was that she mentioned one of her friends would “really like this” too — so perhaps that is an RPG group in the making.

As I expected, with my niece and presumably more so with the nephews who I expect to see at New Years, the big competitor for attention at xmas time  is the video game.  In fact at one point while I was getting some coffee in the kitchen, my niece programmed her Hall of the Giant adventurers into her DS unit (sort of a tiny console game, shaped like a laptop computer) in a weird game (Scribblenauts) that involves writing words and having them appear in the game.  She’d spent quite a bit of time earlier with my brother testing out different creatures (the game knew what orcs, hydras, and a variety of fantasy creatures were, although griffins were identical to hippogriffs…).  She was pretty quick to put it away, though, when I got back.  Overall I think it was fairly successful at sparking her imagination a bit and possibly encouraging her down the RPG path.

The game was ended when the whole family gathered to watch the George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol, which was sort of terrifying to the younger kids!

Good times.

*Flux & Emesis would be a great name for a band, or some henchmen, I think.

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Published in: on December 28, 2009 at 2:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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  1. Mike,
    Cameron loved her gift. It is SOOO cool, it almost (almost) tempts me to play, too. She did, indeed, share it with her BFF. They spent hours at my kitchen table playing it over the break. I’m not sure I should thank you for that, but I know she certainly would. Biggest clue to me that she treasures the game? It got a place of honor on her bookshelf of horrors. And you are right on the money, she is a very young 12-year-old, in many respects, with very rich imagination. I can only hope she stays that way for a little longer, at least. 🙂 Thanks for all of your hard work. You made her very happy.

    • Great! That really does make it worth the effort!

  2. The funny thing is that Scribblnauts really got me thinking about imagination. On one hand it was total awesome to type anything in and have it appear. Later I thought video games are going to kill RPGs. They are much easier. Turn on a computer and you can be immersed in a fantasy world. It is self contained and so much easier for the player. No spending hours coming up with stories and trying to find a time when you can get a bunch of friends together. That to me is very sad. But things change.
    More than that, I think that they will kill imagination, because you are playing in the creator(s) imagination not your own. I wonder if many kids play “in a dinosaurs stomach” like the three of us did? ( I am really talking about our families but families where the TV video game is the baby sitter.)

  3. Tom,

    I think RPGs are almost dead already, in the sense they’ll never be the big fad they were in the 1980s. But they’ll survive as a hobbyist pursuit, like wargames and chess. But…

    Yesterday I was playing cards with Riley (Go fish and a Rock-Paper-Scissors card game) and she said that cards are now her favorite game, and specifically said not Leapster any more because that is something she can only play by herself. She still likes her electronic games but playing with another person wins out if there is a choice. I know that online computer games offer a virtual multi-player experience, but maybe there is still hope that kids these days will continue to prefer face to face games.

    You’re probably right though about imagination being killed off. Consider the Peter Jackson LOTR movies — right now there are fans creating “fan films” (The Hunt for Golem, etc.) and they are obsessively trying to match the art/production of the Jackson films. There will be at least one generation that reads Tolkien and imagines the Peter Jackson version, and I fear that could be the last generation of readers of Tolkien! Now that D&D has a set “look” and “published world,” I think D&D can’t last either. WOTC have decided their imagination (or rather a focus groups’?) is what people should imagine while playing D&D. The art in the new D&D books has a unity that today’s audience might see as “high production values” but now it is so uniform… in the old days they had completely different illustrations from one page to the next — Dave Trampier (the wood-cut like pen drawings), Erol Otus (cartoony surrealism), Jeff Dee (comic book style) all in one product. I can almost guarantee you won’t see that any more either. But all those different versions of what an elf might be fueled imagination too. You only see that sort of thing in the self-published “Old school” products, and they will live on as a very small ghetto of a shrinking hobby. 😦


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