Mark Johnson's occasional & opinionated podcast about family strategy boardgames

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

BGTG 72 - Oct 10, 2007 - Where are all the kids?

Here's one of those shows I recorded long ago, this one back in April. I went over to David Gullett's house, and we played some games with our kids. And that was also the subject of the podcast--playing games with kids. Over a year ago I posted an earlier podcast with Davebo about Gamer Dads, meaning the games we play with our own kids. This time, I tried to discuss a slightly different topic--playing games with other peoples' kids. Put another way, how come so few of the people I play games with are parents, and why don't we involve our kids in game parties & events?

The conversation meanders around that point, raising a few points that I'd love to receive some feedback about.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't have kids myself but it seems boardgaming (as it is known to us) is today what the Tiki lounge in the basement was in the 60's, i.e. it's that sacred place for "adult time" spent with other adults without kids around. It's really only weird because it happens to be an activity that kids *could* join in on. Maybe adults have just gotten lamer(?) :p

8:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In case anyone's interested, there's a discussion going on BGG regarding our topic.

2:26 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I had a little preview of this show and it was fun to finally get to hear it.

I need to look back at my recorded plays but I think I'm running pretty close on 'games with my kids' versus 'games with adults'. My kids know that at any time, if you ask Dad to play a game, he'll jump up (away from the Internet!) and play. I think that helps motivate them. They love 'these games of ours' but have come to dislike the American games. For example, my son Alaric was just given a copy of Trouble - a game I haven't played since I was a kid - so we gave it a go. They HATED it. My son said it was too random (this is an eight year old) and my daughter said it was boring (six year old) and kept asking if we could stop and play Igloo Pop instead. Do I get a prize for Gamer Dad of the Year?

There should be a Talkshoe show on this one. I think it would be a great discussion.

P.S. When I went to rate the reviled Trouble on BGG (a "1" - playing with kids, we'll give it a "2"), I noted that the illustrious Mr. Arnott rates it a '9'. So much for his credibility.

4:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a gamer dad as well. I have two kids who are ages 9 and 13 and both are girls. I have all of the same problems you talked about. My daughters really don’t like board games but every once in awhile I can get my youngest to play a game with me. I would love to bring them to a kid friendly game day but I would never even think of bringing them to any of the gamedays and conventions that I go to for all the same reasons you mentioned.

I really don’t have much to add to your discussion other than I am planning on starting a gameday at my Church. This would be a family oriented gameday in a good environment for children. My hope is that this works out well and will encourage my children as well as other to play games.

5:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been wondering myself forever why kids in the States don't like playing boardgames. Originally coming from Germany this really puzzled me. Then I saw the boardgames available in the stores around Xmas time - all packaging and no substance. My son (back then 5 yo)wanted to have a new game for Xmas. He played whatever he got maybe once or twice and then switched back to the good old games from DE. To me it was a real culture shock when we had guest over for the first time and I whipped out a game ("Linie 1"). You should have seen their eye go wide! :) Folks humored me and later said how they enjoyed it but even to this day I haven't found anyone who is willing to play a boardgame after dinner. My American hubby enjoys playing certain games (Ticket to Ride, Expedition, Linie 1, Settlers dice game, Cafe International cards game) but over time a lot of my old favs just made it to Goodwill. :(
Now to your question why Germans seem to enjoy these European style games much more...
Maybe it's about the social value of quality and following rules. Most games are beautifully produced and are worth collecting. Just touching some of the game pieces and admiring the art work (and discussing this with friends) can be great fun. Rules are there to be mastered and children usually get great satisfaction out of it when they finally "get it". Following rules in general society is expected to ensure everyone gets their fair share. That's opposed to the American way of "let me express myself even if it hurts someone else". It's just a different set of values - not better or worse.
How my family played: School was usually out around noon and my mom always played some type of boardgame with me around coffee time. Friday evening was always time to wind down after a long week and we all played several games... sometime for 2 - 4 hours.

Hope this provides another perspective :)


10:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I was listening to your latest show on parents and kids. Now that is a subject that really matters to me.

I am a gamer. And I am a dad. I´ve been playing before I got kids, and I’ve been playing with my kids since they were able to. My two sons are now 7 and 5 years old.

We play regularly at home, and I can sometimes convince my wife to join in. I also try to play with my friends at home, and then we usually play on or two games together with the kids, before we shift gear and play more demanding games.

I think this works quite well. And I do like to stress that games play an important part in raising the kids.

You know the list:
• Follow the rules, wait for your turn, focus on gameplay
• Accept defeat, be a gracious winner
• Counting, reading, geography, history
• Curiosity and a need for wanting to learn more
• And a social context which is safe and yet memorable

The worst problem is the lack of time. I live in the land of double income and high taxes; Sweden. So both me and my wife work a lot. And there is soccer trainings and homework that need to be done.

That leaves me with not that much time for Gamer’s gaming. But I still try to raise gamers and we have recently gone from kids’ game, to lighter family games.

We play Pickomino a lot right now. We also play TransEuropa, Diamant and Ave Caesar. The first three games are a challenge, for me and them. Ave Caesar I am still better at.

Regarding conventions and game nights/weekends, I found the attention span to be a problem.

While I could perfectly be gaming, if not 24/7, maybe 16/7 without losing interest, my kids want diversity. They need to do something else from time to time.

That is why it is a good idea to game at my house. The problem with other kids is that they are not properly trained in the same manner. And no kid wants to play a game which they do not recognize or perform bad at.
And with more kids at the table, the need for a parent to attend is larger.

I still hope that my soon to be teenagers will be able to host gaming nights with their friends. And maybe I could sneak in too.

One last thought: My dad is from German origin and came to Sweden as a refugee after WW II together with his mum and his grandparents. They used to play cards during evenings, so there is a tradition of “generation gaming” in my family. My dad still loves to play game with his grandsons ,and with me and my friends as well. We always play a game of Jambo when we meet (My parents live 5 hours away from Stockholm) and I think he is proud that I keep my German up to date with reading the rules.

Thanks for a great show and I hope this feedback will be of any interest.

/Patrik Strömer, Stockholm Sweden

12:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trouble! Yes! My credibility? Burgess, you are raising your kids to be snobs!

Okay, I'm kidding, of course. Hey, I openly admit in my Geek rating that my 9 is artificially high, but what can I say? I really like this one. A HUGE part of that is nostalgia, I'm sure. Unlike your kids, I LOVED this as a kid, and was shocked to find, well after college, that not only were there others who also liked it when they were kids, but that we still enjoyed playing it now! Again, there's a large kitsch factor involved, but fun is fun. And this game still provides us fun. And I also think it's a solid little game.

Oddly enough, I never cared for Sorry! or Parcheesi, but I really like Zapp Zerapp. Go figure.

Back on topic...

I think Evil Timmy is onto something with the basement Tiki lounge thing. Maybe a part of it is that as much as Gamer Dads want their kids to play, too, they also fully understand that people's gaming time is often their only... er... "break" that day. It's their entertainment, their chance to relax and have fun. And almost all parents understand that their kids, regardless of how great they may be, might - might - do something to dampen that experience for that other person. And that they, as parents, would bear that responsibility if it happened. Regardless of how unfair that may be.

I think it comes down to interactivity. Look at some other social events: if you take your kids to the movies or the theater, or you take them out to a restaurant, sure, there can be trouble (no more so than with adults, by the way... I've seen far more grown-ups talking during movies than kids doing the same), but your kids are involved in the social mix with very limited interaction. They are part of the whole, but in a passive way.

Gaming, though, is totally active interaction. So it comes down to rules, doesn't it? Social rules, I mean. And that's the crux... on both sides. Sure, there are people who'd rather not play games with kids, not because they dislike kids, but rather they nervously anticipate that kids will not be able to participate in the specific social interaction that they are seeking. The kids won't "get" it - not the game, necessarily, but the whole experience.

And they could easily be wrong, these people. The kids may be great, better than them, even :) But it's that *possibility*, I think, that makes them unable to enjoy the experience, even if it's great. And makes them shy away.

On the other side, I suspect a lot of parents overly fear this. That they project this attitude on other gamers when it may not exist at all. It's much easier to be responsible for yourself than for someone else.

Hmmm... how's this for a potential fire keg? I wonder if we don't have a lot of women in the hobby for a similar reason? I wonder if women feel - falsely - like they won't be able to play at the same level, and rather than try and see, they just take themselves out of the equation.

And how much do I love this from Mr. Gullett: "Dads tend to be uptight about looking stupid." I got news for you, Dave, being a Dad has little to do with it. I think men, in general, cannot bear ridicule. It's a weird cavemen face-saving thing. Having a kid may amplify that, but us singles - yes, even the wacky creative ones - are not immune.

6:43 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

LOL - what can I do? Osmosis!

11:27 PM  

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