Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Gaming and Children

Since the boy's arrival 6 months ago, I really haven't had much time for gaming with other adults. Instead, I've been trying to corrupt Haruko, my 7-year-old daughter. She loves Flux, and I've recently introduced both her and my wife to Faery's Tale.

If you haven't seen it yet, Faery's Tale was written by Patrick Sweeney, Sandy Antunes, Christina Stiles, and Robin D. Laws. It is specifically designed for children ages 6 or older. You take on the role of a pixie, sprite, brownie or pooka, and head off for adventures in the Brightwood.

My wife is also a newbie gamer, and I thought the comparison between their reactions was interesting.

Both floundered about in the beginning, not really knowing what to do. I call this the "what can I do?" phase, where players are really too timid and afraid of doing something wrong.

My wife soon got into the swing of things, however.

Not surprisingly, Haruko had more trouble. She loved the game, but she was really most comfortable when she could follow her own little script. Every scene was the same. First she'd look for someone to talk to. Then she'd search for clues. It reminded me of the good old days...

GM: You come to a door.
Me: I check for traps...Wait, I listen at the door...OK, I try to pick the lock...

Ah, I can smell the cold pizza and flat soda, as if it where yesterday.

I suspect the open nature of the game is somewhat hard for Haruko. She'd probably love it if the game consisted of nothing but "choose your own adventure" style decisions, combined with a heavy helping of railroading to keep the plot moving. Which was hard for me, I'm all about character empowerment.

Still, I'm glad she had a good time. I'll try to make the next adventure a little more structured, and we'll see how that goes.

Has anyone else tried gaming with small children? I'd love to hear about your experiences.