Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gaming With Children, an Update

Yesterday, I got a call from one of my face-to-face players. We talk fairly frequently, so this was unexpected, nor was what he had to say. He wanted out of the game, at least for the time being. I had a pretty good idea that this might be the case, and I knew why. What it came down to was that gaming for him was about being able to hang out with his friends--i.e., a bunch of 30- and 40-something dudes who don't pull their punches when it comes to verbal banter. Eleven year old girls don't really fit that bill. Let me be clear: He was extremely polite about this, and was extremely hesitant to say, "I'm not going to play if I have to be in a session with your kid." In fact, I'm not sure he ever actually came out and said it. I think I was the one who did. I wasn't offended by it, and I actually was glad that one of my friends would actually make an attempt to talk to me about it instead of, say, bullshitting me about it, making up excuses about how "busy" his life is, or whatever. I really appreciate that kind of honesty. He said the breaking point was when he caught himself being snarky to her in an intentionally mean way, and that he didn't want to be "That Guy." I feel ya, man, I really do. So, we won't be having her back to the table, at least not for our regular game. I do intend to explore other options, though, to keep her involved.

Also, truth be told, I'd already seen the writing on the wall. The dynamic in the game was very, very different with my baby girl present. I love her, but I don't like kids, myself. Does that make sense? Every once in a while I meet a child who is really, really great, and easy for me to be around, but generally I find kids sort of annoying. I guess I'm just that big a prick, or I'm just wired that way, or whatever. I even told my wife, before we got married, that I didn't ever intend to have kids. Clearly, I changed my mind later, but my overall attitudes toward kids are not much changed. Yes, they exist. Yes, they are sometimes cute and can be pretty cool. Also, yes, I prefer to spend my time alone or with other adults.I'm not big on dogs either. Perhaps I'm a reincarnation of W. C. Fields?  I feel like a complete dick for saying this, but it's the truth. 

So, going forward, my daughter will not be playing with my face-to-face group. It was a good experiment, but the gaming group has been together for going on four years now. We've played a lot of sessions, and it's an important part of all of our lives (to whatever extent). I'm committed to maintaining my connection with these guys. Also, it's not uncommon for people to play with new people on a probationary basis, so I don't feel like it's unprecedented to say, "Sorry, but you're not a good fit for this group." It's not pleasant to have to say it, but sometimes it needs to be said.

So, I'm not feeling like Father of the Year right now, I guess, but I'm also still interested in getting my kid to continue her interest in gaming. I'm hoping that eventually I could run something just for her and her friends. I'd approach it a little differently, sure, but I'm certainly not opposed to such a thing. That, however, will have to happen under other circumstances. I'm okay with that. I just wish I didn't have to break the news to her. Even when there's a good reason to reject someone from the group, it's still not nice for either person in that conversation. I'll have to be honest with her. I can't be anything but honest with her. "Lucy," I will say, "I think it's great to have you gaming. Here's the thing, though... You can't game with my regular group."

That's where I get stuck, though. While I could go on and on about group dynamics, shared traditions, experience levels at gaming, the presence of inappropriate subject matter at many of our sessions, the fact that my players have a hard time dealing with her approach to gaming, etc., I know that at least part of what she will hear is "I don't want you. I reject you." I never want that to be something my kid hears from me. Despite being a mediocre father, I do love my kid, so very much. I don't want her ever to doubt that.

So, it was a decent experiment, but it didn't work out. I'll just have to make sure that I create other opportunities for her.


  1. What about, instead of making it be that she doesn't get to game with *the guys*, figuring out a way to flip that logic around so the *the guys* (as you present this to Lucy) don't get to game with her? Something like, "Hey Lucy, I had so much fun gaming with you that I thought it might be really cool if we try to work up a game with some of your friends so that they can have that fun, too. What do you think?" Put her in control and make her feel like its a reward for being awesome because it kind of is. You had a blast gaming with her and want to do more of it, you're not just reinforcing gaming behavior but reinforcing awesomely creative play, so I don't feel that is disingenuous at all.

  2. I guess that's a good idea, but it does sort of feel like I'd be fudging the truth. I really hate lying to her, even when it makes it "nicer." I think probably I'd be more comfortable telling her both things. (1) I don't think this is the situation for her, but (2) I really enjoy gaming with her and want to figure out a way for that to continue.

    Also, I think it might be good for me to teach some lessons like, "you don't always have to kill the person. Sometimes it's okay to use other skills, like talking." and "Just because there's treasure doesn't mean you get first choice. You have to "share" with the rest of the party."

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  3. Great post about a topic I've begun to ponder now that my daughter is getting close to gaming age. I would never bring her into my regular group because of our adult language and content. Starting a game just for her would be awesome. I hope to read such a post in the future.

  4. I had many great years gaming with my kids (alone) and bringing them into the larger adult group occasionally. The best thing about gaming with your kids, is that they live with you and they're ALWAYS ready to play. At least until they become teenagers :) The bad thing, at least for me early on, was all the extra paperwork... I had to keep their characters updated, etc. Not a problem anymore...

  5. Yeah, Paul, I think it's all gonna work out for us here. She's still interested and doesn't seem at all pissed off about it. We actually just had a conversation about gaming. It was about how one of my characters died on Thursday (We'll miss you, Xandra!). So, she's thinking on it. I also have her reading Ginger Haze and Girl Genius, and she loves that stuff. Girl geek in the making.