Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog dedicated to my experiences raising a child in a gamer family.
This is an article I started a long time ago. I wanted to do some research on it before putting out completely false information. Also, I had a hard time getting my thoughts down in a coherent manner, so I apologize if parts of this make little to no sense grammatically.
One of the biggest questions I see asked on forums is “what game is good for age X?”. Which leads me to think most gamers don’t trust the age ranges on the box. Though I can’t fault them on that assumption in some cases. I mean, really?- “Ages 0 – 99”? I don’t think so. All right, maybe there are a few games out there that are approachable for really young kids, but intriguing enough for a mature mind. But on average that just isn’t the case.
However, there is a lot that goes into deciding an age range, including government regulation. I use them as a guide when we choose games for Yog (to ignore…). A game designer tests the game many times prior to release (in a lot of cases anyway) and knows who their target audience is. One assumes that various ages have played the game and suitable range was chosen.
On the legal end of the scale the US Consumer Product Safety Commission requires third-party testing for any product marketed to a child under age 12. There are several tiers with even stricter tests the lower the age bracket, however the biggest distinction is for lead content. Some paints contain trace amounts of lead and the younger the child smaller amounts can have a negative effect on them faster.
For toys targeted to children ages three and under the tests even tougher – they need to be tested for choking, aspiration, and ingestion potential. Basically the CPSC has a tube and if the toy fits in the tube, it’s not allowed to be marketed to children under three. They also beat the toys up in a way it is presumed a child could and any parts that fall off are stuck in the tube. So even though a toy looks like it should be fine for a toddler, it may not be. When you see a product marked “not intended for children under 3” that is usually because the manufacturer can’t guarantee that pieces won’t be broken off and become choking hazards.
Of course all of that only applies if you want to market your game to people age 12 and under or if your game is considered a kids product by the government.
What is considered a kids product? Well, that’s not as easy as it sounds. A deck of cards, while appropriate for children is most often marketed toward adults. Therefore, it is generally considered a “general use” item. However, take that same deck of cards and slap a Paw Patrol theme on it and it’s suddenly a children’s product and subject to more rigorous testing.
Age labeling is generally up to the manufacturer, however the CPSC will determine what tests to require and use the most stringent testing on the product. They will determine this by the labeling, child development information, and common opinion. So it’s really important for the manufacturer to accurately label their product. Mark it for an age range too low and you may find yourself paying for a lot of unnecessary tests. Mark it for an age range too high and have the CPSC tell you to test it anyway.
If you really want to know the ins and outs of product safety testing the Consumer Product Safety Commission has this .pdf to answer all of your questions.
It’s a bit fascinating. For a while. About fifty pages in my eyes started to glaze over. Which is probably why I’m not in this industry. The document breaks toys down into several categories and, yes, games get their own section, though they are basically subject to the same rules as toys. Each section is then broken down by ages, months and years for infants and toddlers. Though to be fair, for some categories (like sports) the data for infants is “N/A”.
All of this is to say that age ranges on games, while sometimes seem to be useless, kind of aren’t. You’ll get an idea of how rigorously the game was tested for safety. It’ll also give you a base idea of who the creator believes will play the game. They make that choice based on averages. So if you have a child that excels in a certain area, it makes total sense to age up.
For example we chose to play Guess Who with Yog at age 4. It is rated for ages 7 and up. So we know that there are pieces in it that pose a choking hazard to anyone under three. This is a game to put out of reach of toddlers. We also know that it was tested for other factors that a game for someone over 12 wasn’t tested for. We can also assume that the game designer thought that the skills needed to play the game effectively were more likely to be seen in kids seven and older. To fully play the game (to be able to identify the names) reading is a needed skill. However, Yog knew her alphabet, so in lieu of reading the names when she guessed we would have her spell the name to us. We would then say the name back to her. She wasn’t completely proficient in the game, sometimes flipping down the wrong characters or not flipping down a character who should have been flipped. She also had a tendency to use the same questions over and over. However she enjoyed the game and would play several times in a row.
I will say though, that it’s really frustrating to lose to a kid who decides with four characters left to choose when her tactic is to randomly guess until she gets it right. And I still had ten characters left. But then I got to model good loosing.
So the short version is – use the age ranges on the box a guide, knowing that a part of that is safety, but read the game play description and make sure you adjust for your kid’s skill in that genre.
Sorry for the delay on the October post, the end of the month managed to sneak up on me. Luckily this means you should get two posts in November. You know, unless I forget that time doesn’t stop and November is as sneaky as October.
Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gaming family.
This time last year we started a new tradition. We went to a local farm, wandered the corn maze and bought a pumpkin for carving. This time this year we continued the tradition that has now managed to span two years, which for us is an achievement.
We enjoyed the corn maze, but…
We didn’t necessarily enjoy the company of the others in the maze, or those who came before us.
What does this have to do with gaming? We followed the rules of the maze and used the map to navigate to the check points inside the maze. It was a challenge like a puzzle game is a challenge to us. We saw goals to be accomplished. Maybe others already knew this, we discovered it this year. Despite the fact that my husband and I have been doing corn mazes on and off since college. Sometimes the obvious thing is hard to see…
To some, the maze was just a walk through a corn field. And honestly, I’m all right with that. My favorite part about the maze is spending time with my family while getting a little exercise, so I get it. What I don’t get is being disrespectful to the owner/creator of the maze and fellow maze goers.
Within the first five minutes of being in the maze we caught up with another, rather rowdy group. I have no problem with rowdy people, I am often that person. The problem I had was that they were throwing dried corn cobs and had one not been intercepted by one of their party Yog was in the path of the flying corn and could have been hit. Dangerous? Kind of. Rude? Yes. Against the rules laid out for using the maze? Definitely.
And that’s where I realized the biggest problem we had with how others were using the maze. We saw the experience as a game with rules to be followed. Others did not. And in and of itself that is not a problem. Except when it was. See, the weather in the past two years has left some pretty fragile corn stalks for maze building at the end of the growing season. So sometimes when navigating the maze you can see through the maze and spot the check point post. Instead of figuring out how to get to the post, some people walked through the corn (against the rules of the maze as well). Again, not in and of itself something I care about. If they want to spend the same amount of money just to walk through corn that I spent for a challenging experience, it’s their money. However, remember the fragile corn stalks? They don’t survive that kind of abuse for long. Which means that when many people decide to cut through the corn instead of sticking to the path, the corn falls down. Which makes the path hard to find. Which makes the map almost useless. And makes it less of a maze. And now the choices of others is impacting my ability to enjoy the game I came to play.
So I came to play a game, but had a hard time doing so due to others playing the game by their own rules (or not playing at all). We were reading a map, and figuring out the puzzle. In one section of the maze, literally. This maze had a “find the clues” game. These posts were not marked on the map, so you had to first find the sign post. On the sign post would be a picture with a suspect, location and weapon. You would mark off those items. The idea was process of elimination – whatever was left was the solution. I loved that it was completely done with pictures, making it possible for Yog to solve the puzzle on her own. Mostly. She was too short to see the pictures without being picked up. Lucky for us she’s still light enough for that. Yog loved playing the game and whined less in this maze than in the other two (this location has three separate mazes). She discussed it at length, making predictions as to who she thought committed the crime (it couldn’t have been the doggie…maybe it was the pig…). Once we figured out who the culprit was she wanted to discuss that topic. At length. Loudly. We tried to explain to her that since we were near the start of the maze this line of conversation could ruin the surprise for others who hadn’t done the puzzle yet. She didn’t get it, so we ventured back into the maze (we did the “find the clues” maze in the middle) where hopefully her little voice would be covered in the rustling of corn stalks. Or she would move on to her second favorite topic of the day – how tired she was from all the walking. Unfortunately for us it turned out to be the latter, but we weren’t surprised.
Despite our worries about our maze mates and whining child, we still had a great time. Though my husband probably could have done without me randomly walking quickly through the maze without looking at the map. I wanted to distance myself from those enjoying the maze in a different way than we were. I justified it by saying I was increasing his challenge level.
We ended the trip with ice cream (what happened to fall?!) and picking out our pumpkin.
If you have the chance to try out a corn maze before the end of fall (some operate until mid-November), I highly recommend it. Enjoy an active, outdoor gaming experience that’s easier than an Escape Room and slightly less physical than boffer larping. Then share your experiences, especially if you find a maze you love. Let us all know where you like to visit.
Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gaming family.
Let It be.
Or Let It Go.
Keep Calm and Game On.
Whichever song title or meme works for you.
I have seen multiple online posts and had the same conversation with my husband way too often. When can I play games with my kid? What games can I play with my child who is age (fill in the blank) that aren’t going to bore me to tears?
I get it. You love your hobby and you want to share it with your child. Trust me, every parent ever who has loved any activity ever feels the same way. When you’re passionate about something you want to share it with those you love and even more so with your own kid(s). The thing is you’re just going to have to be patient.
And maybe just let go of the dream that in some part you cloned yourself. And I know. I have wanted to throw Yog into dance classes from the moment she could walk. But maybe that’s just not who she is or what she wants to do. So she didn’t go until this year when she asked me if she could (you know, to be honest about the fact that I got lucky and she wanted to get involved in something I am interested in).
Sure, kids can follow directions at an early age. They may even enjoy doing so for a short period of time, when it’s a new skill and before they realize they CAN say no. Some rare children may actually be playing games by age three. From everything I’ve read though, most kids don’t have the mental maturity to really sit down and play a game until they’re closer to seven. And that doesn’t mean that on their seventh birthday they magically become gamers. Some kids will be able to sit through a game sooner. Some later. Remember all of those milestones you sweated over in infancy? They’re not gone. There a ton of emotional, physical, and psychological milestones that get completely overshadowed by the focus on infancy and puberty. Not that those stages aren’t important, but I bet if most parents knew as much about their child’s developmental patterns as a little kid as they did about infancy and puberty we would all think differently about how our little kids act. Not that I’m an expert in child development or parenting.
I remember when I started this blog. I wanted to write about our amazing gaming child. I called it a blog about raising a gamer. Then Yog started making her own choices. We had to focus less on nurturing a gamer and more on how we could continue our hobby and support her in her own pursuits. Kind of like any parent ever. It hasn’t happened to us yet, but I’m sure there are afternoons at the sports field or at dance performances in our future. Time that we might want to spend gaming (or doing anything other than sitting in the sun on the sideline of field), but will spend supporting her. There may come a time when instead of packing her off to a gaming convention with us, we’re packing her off to a weekend at her grandparent’s or friend’s while we go to the convention. Or having to take her to a weekend event instead of going to the convention. Maybe we’ll also start choosing purchases differently and consider portability and small play space so that we can bring a game to said event to play while waiting. Because, let’s face it, the parents get there when they drop their kids off, an hour before the event. Then what do you do? Play a game on your phone? Maybe. But as board gamers we have other options.
And all of this is fine. The thing is it took me time to get there. I feel like it took my husband a little bit longer. But he’s much more of a board gamer than I am, he plays solo games because it’s too hard to get even me to the table as often as he would like. I’m more of a larper. And unless you want to spend your in-character time being a parent AND you can find a larp that will welcome a child for the weekend, larping together is something to save for when your child gets older.
I think the only topic I see on forums more often than “when” is one asking for game suggestions for (fill in the blank situation here). And even those tend to be “what can I play with my three-year old?” Unfortunately and fortunately the answer to these tends to be “it depends on who your kid is”. It’s unfortunate because obviously the parent asking is having trouble locating appropriate games. It’s fortunate because there are a lot of smart people out there who know that no two kids are the same. I recommend starting with the age range on the box. Then read the description. You might find that a game rated for an older child might be playable by your child, maybe with a few modifications.
My experience with Yog was that she wanted to “play” games in her toddler years and then in pre-school that fell off. My uneducated guess as to why this happened? Developmentally in her toddler years she wanted to mimic what she saw the people around her doing, which was gaming. That’s how toddlers learn to human, they mimic what they see the people in their environment doing. In pre-school she became aware of herself as an individual and wanted to find ways to assert that. So she became “the kind of girl who doesn’t play games”.
Maybe someday that will change. Maybe it won’t. My job as a parent is to help her be the best her she can be.
Until then my husband and I will have to negotiate gaming time around her needs.
And appreciate the fact that she still has a really early bedtime.
Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gamer family.
This edition is going to be less about the child and more about the parents. Sometimes getting a babysitter so that you can game is totally worth it! And this time it was a pretty quick turn-around – we had one hour to complete the game.
My awesome gaming group, along with a few of our other gaming friends recently did an escape room together. We had one team member who had done one before, but the rest of us were new to the experience. We were all familiar with what might happen in an escape room on various levels. Obviously this form of entertainment is the new hot commodity, so if you’re on the internet it’s hard to have not heard of it. My husband and I watch Escape! on the Geek and Sundry YouTube channel (Yog often watches with us and is fascinated with it as well). Some of our group are larpers (though I am the most avid larper in the group), we all play table top rpg games and we all love doing puzzles. We felt we were well equipped to rock the room. Though we had one big shared concern – that we would over think the room and fail due to making a simple task complex.
We arrived about fifteen minutes before our scheduled slot and were greeted by the owners. We all then had to sign waivers, just in case we did something stupid (like walk into a wall while reading a clue) and got hurt. They had a table with a bunch of locks connected to eye bolts in the lobby and we were invited to try them out as they would be the types of locks used in the room. That way we knew how each lock functioned prior to going into the room. Once we were signed off and knew how to work the locks we were briefed and led to the room.
We played a pirate themed room. The story was that we found a treasure map in our great grandfather’s house (Goonies anyone? SQUEE!) and chartered a boat to take us to the site. On the way there we were captured by pirates who threw us in the brig. We had one hour to escape with the map before the pirates came back to decide our fate.
This was all explained to us before entering the room. Then we were escorted to a room, given a few last-minute basics and locked in. The last-minute basics were the location of a screen that had our countdown timer and would be where clues would pop up. During the game clues would randomly be given, unless we asked to not receive them. The cool thing is that since the clues were only displayed on the screen we could simply not read them. It sounds like it would be hard to not read the screen, but once we got into the game no one even looked at the screen until the end. We would be alerted to the presence of a clue by the sound of clashing swords.
Once the door was locked there was a threat made by the pirate captain over the speakers and the timer started. We could see the room we were in and another room that we could not access because it was gated off. In that room was a door. We figured out how to get the gate open and got into the next room. We started working our way through there and when we found the key to the door we thought we were so smart! We had managed to get out of the room in record time! Nope. Beyond that door? Another room! That was the first time I looked at the screen. I wanted to know how much time we had left. We had about twenty minutes (which means that even if we had escaped we wouldn’t have beaten the record of about 34 minutes) left to complete the room.
It was in that room that we asked for and used the only clue we needed and only because we were going in circles and were afraid there might be another room on the other side of the door.
After the game my husband I talked about how we did. We got out, with eight minutes to spare. So we were really proud of that fact. We also only “needed” one clue. We think we may have been able to figure it out, but “would have, should have, could have”. The funny thing I noticed is that everyone in our group kind of had their role to our success. I was really good about going into a room and finding clues and puzzle pieces. I had no idea what to do with most of them and maybe figured out one or two puzzles. Others in our group were really good at putting the concepts together that allowed us to move on. While others were really good at manipulating things to complete the puzzles. All in all I think we had an awesome team.
One of my favorite moments was when we were getting out of the room – I had the key in hand was trying to get it in the door…and couldn’t. “We made it this far and we’re going to fail because I can’t work a standard key!” I cried. Then I got the key in the lock and we made it out!
This will definitely not be our last escape room. The location we went to runs two scenarios at a time and they rotate their offerings, so we have a local option. A quick internet search showed me several other options not too far from home.
Talking with the owners of the place we went to I got a suggestion for a kid’s escape room! It’s recommended for kids 8 – 12, so it might be a bit too much for Yog, but I kind of want to try it anyway.
So get a babysitter, a group of people with whom you can work well and escape to an escape room!
Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gaming family.
DEXCON 20 wrap up time!
As always I am going to try to focus on how Yog was integrated and impacted the convention experience. However, this convention was AMAZING! Seriously guys, I love this convention series and have had some great experiences in the past, but this one makes the top ten list easily.
Our original plan was to get to the hotel about an hour before check in. That got derailed quickly. We had planned on packing on the Monday before since we were spending Tuesday with friends for the July 4th holiday. Then we got a request for a house showing Tuesday morning. So instead of packing on Monday, we prepped the house, which meant that ALL the packing had to be done on Wednesday. Yog chose to make this one of the rare mornings she let us sleep until 9 am, which was awesome, but got us a late start. Then we had a leisurely breakfast, because vacation. Then the process began. I needed to make sure to have costumes for the three larps I was playing, all black clothes for the larp I was NPCing for, AND all the props and costumes for the larp I was running. Oh. And all the board games I had listed in my event description for The Family Game Table. And that was just the event specific stuff. I still needed to consider other clothes and needs. I managed to pare down on my packing by deciding that living in pieces of larp costumes was a good idea. It turned out to be a very good idea, since I didn’t have much time to change or not be in costume anyway. All in all it took us two hours to pack, with Yog’s assistance. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but SIX IS AWESOME! I was able to give her directions and I didn’t have to pack for her. She got all of her essentials together, which then my husband went through to make sure she had everything covered. He was also my clothing wingman as I gathered costumes together and decided what pieces could be re-used. Just having his presence helped keep me focused as I was definitely feeling overwhelmed. I had created a check list of things I needed to run the children’s larp, which I was really happy for as it was one less thing to think about that morning.
Then we needed to get everything in the car. We asked Yog to hang out in the living room and not make a huge mess while coordinated and she obliged. My husband lugged bags out to me and I figured out how to get everything into our car, as I’m a better Tetris player than he is. It was a tight fit, but we made it. The large orange ball I was bringing for the Escaping Steam was precariously perched, but that would only serve to entertain us during the drive as it rolled on top of Yog while she slept. She didn’t admit to sleeping and couldn’t figure out how the ball landed in her lap!
Check in went smoothly, a fact we (my awesome friends roomed with us) were all thankful for, and we got our connecting rooms. Dinner was had and then we lined up to get our badges. Which is when we noticed that some of the event spaces had been re-arranged. The one that had the biggest impact on us was the Con Suite, which was in an open area instead of a room. It felt more accessible and like it was a part of the activity instead of being a space to step away from the activity. I can see where that would be a negative for some people looking for a quiet space, but when Yog wanted to hang out there we didn’t feel as removed from the action.
Yog got her badge and had it laminated with the rest of us, then we shuffled her off to bed as it was already past bed time. This was a rough night for us. She fought a bit about getting into bed. Then kept insisting that she “just couldn’t fall asleep”. My husband was staying in, but I was heading off to the Larp Bazaar at 10 pm. I wasn’t sure if I had been assigned a space to represent Escaping Steam and wanted to be there to fill the space had one been provided. Also, it’s a great place to say hi to a lot of my friends. I had to put my foot down on the talking to get her to finally fall asleep. She slept through the night and I managed to not watch the sun rise. This is a real struggle with me and conventions.
I was grateful that the convention organizers had asked to move The Family Game Table
to the 11 am to 1 pm slot (I had been requesting the 9 am to 11 am slot). I was able to sleep in a bit and feel more relaxed going into Thursday. Yog opted to not wear her Wonder Woman costume, as she had worn it a week before and had to ask me to get her out of it, she just wore the headband and belt. I’m not sure if it was because of the later time slot or not, but we had one group join us on Thursday. We played Flash Point Fire Recue. Well, the other group of three and myself played. Yog played with bubbles and Jenga blocks. My husband also joined us as he had the slot open. He didn’t play initially, but as always he was helpful in explaining rules. And he was a total champ, jumping in to fill in for the little girl, when halfway through the game she decided that blowing bubbles with Yog looked like more fun. We also found out that the little girl would be joining us for Escaping Steam.
After that event we did a quick run up to the room to drop off our board game stash, eat a quick lunch and grab our props for
Escaping Steam, the children’s larp we were running. We had two children (with their adults) and one adult player. I had spoken with the adult player before to prepare her for the game, as I knew she was an avid larper and I was afraid she would be bored. Despite the axiom of “no plot survives contact with the players”, this event went very smoothly for me. I had plenty of wonderful help setting up and NPCing, so I could focus on making the game go smoothly, coaching, and playing Steam at the end (as per Yog’s request). Yog was really into helping out, which I was really grateful for. There was lots of adorable during the game. The kids loved making their super hero vests, seemed to get the simple rules quickly and dove right in. I didn’t have them do full character creation, instead allowed them to play themselves as super heroes with super powers. At times they were so involved with the puzzle they were solving they would forget where they put their bubbles down. I had worried about that prior to the game and considered making a way to attach the bubbles to them, but figured that might lead to kids covered in bubble soap and ditched the idea in favor of having the bad guy NPC hold back as needed. I had set each room up with supplies enough for ten kids. One puzzle involved putting stickers on a grid. If they had gotten one grid between all of the kids that would have been enough to consider the room unlocked. However, the industrious pair, along with Yog, loved the grid puzzle so much they did all ten grids before moving on! This caused a slow down for the adults, but since the kids were having fun and we had plenty of time, I let them go. They were completely prepared for the final showdown with Steam and even improvised their own ways of showing her that they wanted to be friends and not steal her treasure. When the game was over I gave each of the kids a paper lunch bag and let them take home some of the props. Clean up turned out to be an easy process since the kids had emptied some of the spaces claiming their treasure. I have several title ideas for other potential games in this vein, so we shall see if I’m able to do this again. A lot of it will depend on Yog wanting to be a part of the process. It definitely won’t happen until next Dexcon, for many reasons.
We packed all the Escaping Steam props into the car to give us more room in the hotel room, then headed back to the room to grab dinner. Since I was running my larp character seminar in the 6 – 8 dinner block and it was such a crazy day, we chose to move our typical pizza night to Thursday. I got dressed for my 8 pm game, ate, then dashed off to run my seminar, followed by said 8 pm game, leaving Yog in the hands of our friends.
Friday was much quieter. Yog let us sleep in a bit again. We grabbed breakfast then headed off to our event space for the last event we would be running for the weekend, another run of The Family Game Table. We were joined by the other child who played Escaping Steam and his mother. He and Yog played with the cards from Memory and the Jenga blocks. I introduced them to Ice Cool, which ended with the kids practicing flicking the penguins around. Then his mom and I played The Magic Labyrinth, followed by a game of Feed The Kitty with her and her son. We also spent a lot of time just chatting about games and kids. We wrapped up and the kids parted as kids almost always do – with the resolve that play time couldn’t be over yet.
My Friday afternoon time with Yog was when I planned to go to the Dealer’s Room. Of course she declared shopping “Boring” (her new word for whatever she doesn’t feel like doing) and refused to go. Of course I didn’t give in. We struck a deal that she could sit in the hall outside the Dealer’s Room blowing bubbles while I shopped, with the understanding that I would be spending more time in the room because I had to check on her than if she would just come in with me. We found her a spot behind a table positioned next to the security guard outside of the Dealer’s Room. I would spend a minute or two perusing a table, then go check on her. The security guard was really sweet, he kept telling me she was fine, but I still wasn’t going to just leave her there. I bumped into some friends and chatted for a while, then checked again. I was in the middle of deciding which pair of horns I was going to purchase when little hands wrapped around my legs. Luckily those hands belonged to Yog. She decided to come check on me this time. Then she decided that she too needed a new set of horns. I told her that she would have to use her birthday money. She tried to talk me into buying them for her, but I held fast and she came out with a new pair of horns on her head.
We tried a new to us restaurant Friday night and decided that next time if we go there we’d order for delivery as the shop was tiny and with our whole group it was a bit crowded and there was not enough seating. We wound up taking our food back to the hotel and eating in their outdoor dining area. I had dressed for my 7 pm larp prior to dinner, and had to run off before everyone else was done. Their games didn’t start until 8. So I have no idea how things went with Yog after dinner, she was asleep when I got back to the room way late in the night.
Saturday morning’s schedule was a negotiation between my husband and I. Everyone had a game they really wanted to play. When that happens either he or I give up our game. Since the game he wanted to play was one he has played online with the person running the game at the convention since Dreamation, he let me go to yet another larp. Unfortunately this ran almost back to back with the event I was NPCing and helping to set up. So after the larp I ran up to the room to change out of my costume and devour some food. Larping always makes me hungry. That event ran late enough that I sent the group to dinner ahead of me and I met them at the diner. By now the long weekend was beginning to show on Yog and dinner was a bit of a trial. Once again I was running behind schedule, so once we got back to the hotel one of my amazing friends took care of getting Yog ready for bed while my husband and I ran off to our 8 pm games.
All of our friends had to leave earlier than we had, so Sunday morning was really quiet. We packed up the car, checked out of the hotel, got our prize points, perused the table and headed out. The drive home wasn’t bad, nor was our usual lunch at the diner, despite how tired Yog was. Despite my best efforts at making sure I got enough sleep I was still exhausted. But I was ecstatic. Honestly this convention was one of the best experiences I’ve had at a convention ever. Hence the crazy long post. And this is with me not going into details about how awesome all of the events I attended were. Or how awesome just the environment is. Or the awesome friends I’ve made there. If you want to hear about that, just ask. I could fill another convention talking about this one.
Anyway, I have this month’s post almost ready to go, but not quite and I won’t have time to get it up today. Instead of posting an unfinished thought I’m going to postpone my DEXCON 20 post until tomorrow.
Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gamer family.
As promised it’s time to talk building a LARP for kids. I apologize if I get a bit vague in parts, but I’m not sure how many of my potential players’ parents might be reading this and I don’t want to give it all away prior to the game, since each child must have a parent/guardian at the game with them.
I’d love to say that I’m completely finished with the planning and preparing, but there’s still some work to do and just about a week to do it all. Most of that is building props. I like crafting. Maybe too much. I’m not that good at most of it, but I enjoy it. What does this mean for the LARP? That I want to make all the things. But I’m only one person with limited free time. That isn’t to say that I’m not enlisting some help. I’ve had Yog help make some of the items because if she’s going to co-GM, then she should help plan and build. I have several friends who I could ask to help. The thing is that what needs to be made at this point won’t take much time. I just don’t want to be sitting at the convention finishing pieces, so I need to make sure to focus up. Also, rehearsal needs to happen so Yog knows what is expected of her.
The development of this game came from many conversations. The first one, as you probably already know, was with Yog. We were at Family Game Table at Dreamation and she said “Mommy I want to play in a game like you do where you dress up”. As we talked it over it came to be that “All the kids get to be whatever super hero they want to be. I’m going to be Wonder Woman”. As I took notes on my tablet and tossed ideas to her she came up with the idea that she wanted me to play the “bad guy” at the end of the adventure and that I was to be a dragon. But not just any dragon. “A dragon who tries to make sure that no one can have an awesome day”.
We got back to our hotel room after our event ended and I announced our plans. The two friends who were there were very enthusiastic about the idea and offered to help and started tossing out more ideas that I added to the growing notes. One (a teacher) suggested that the challenges could be based on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math if you haven’t been beaten over the head with this acronym yet).
I took all of these ideas and ran with them.
I started on Google to explore STEAM activities. I compiled a list of about twenty possibilities. I had originally planned to do five of them, but then wound up cutting one out once I got my room assignment from the convention. I will be in a group of three small rooms. Rather than trying to divide one of them in three I will divide two of them in half and use the last one for the “Boss Battle”.
Picking the challenges had several requirements. They had to be accessible to a young child. Lucky for me I have my very own six year old play tester. They had to be fairly easy to transport and not take up too much space. I will be playing in several LARPs during the convention and like to costume, plus we need to get our regular clothes and groceries in the car. Oh yeah, and the humans. We need to put us in the car too (hopefully just one car…). The components needed to be inexpensive, or better yet, no additional cost. I needed to be able to find a logical way to wrap plot around the challenge. Luckily I was able to find activities that fit all of those requirements. I had to purchase a few items that I can repurpose in my life, but most of the items came from things I already had (like that stash of construction paper I bought to make decorations for Yog’s first birthday party and have continued to use for other projects. Seriously I think I have the never ending stack of construction paper at my house) or are recycled. The best part about the recycled items? They don’t have to come home with me! More space in the car on the way home. You know, unless I hit the Dealer’s Room and make myself broke again.
Combat was something I had figured out early on. I knew that I wanted the kids to have the ability to battle smaller villains along the way, as I want this to mirror what my experiences have been as close as possible. Most standard parlor LARP resolution systems can be a bit complicated, even for an adult player. There was no way I was handing a bunch of children boffer weapons and letting them hit anyone. I decided to use bubbles. Since each child is playing a super hero they will each have a super power that can affect each other or the villains. They will blow bubbles at their target to enact their power. I figured it was fairly safe and hopefully fun for the kids. Likewise the villains they will be facing will be of a soft nature.
The age range was something with which I struggled. Yog of course wanted it to be all five and six year olds. There may be enough children in that age group at the convention, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know that you can’t restrict attendance that much. My original thought was 5 – 12. However after talking with my awesome gaming group about the plot and the challenges I was using we thought that maybe 5 – 10 would be a better target. Of course that’s not going to be a hard line. If there’s a 4 or 14 year old who wants to play and the guardian of the child thinks this game will work them, I’m willing to let them in.
Speaking of guardians, they will be required to attend and play. I thought that with smaller children they may need guidance or help. Or they may just need a hug if they get overwhelmed. All it would take is one upset child for the entire event to grind to a halt. If they have an adult they are comfortable with playing alongside them I hope to avoid any of that. It also gives each child someone dedicated for help when needed and keeps NPCs from being stretched too thin trying to help everyone.
Each chamber will have a friendly NPC, which will be an animal of some sort. Like I said, there are some details to work out. This NPC will set up the room, the goal and then help the players accomplish the goal.
Oh, and of course every super hero needs an alter ego costume, so we’re kicking the event off with paper vest making. Each kid will get to design their own super hero costume while I brief the “teddy bears”.
In the end I came up with the following :
Deep in Mount Hill lives the terrible dragon, Steam. Steam is trying to ruin everything so no one can have an awesome day. Many have traveled through the caverns of the mountain, but all have returned empty handed and sad. The townspeople of Downhill are afraid of living so close to such a mean creature, but are running out of ideas. They have asked your group of young super heroes to tackle the Steam problem, as knights and adventurers have not been successful. Join other super heroes and their trusty teddy bears* on an interactive exploration through Steam’s mountain to hopefully quell the dragon’s rage. *Parents are required to attend the game and will be playing the part of each child’s trusty teddy bear. This game is intended for ages 5 – 10.
The names are campy, but so is working with children.
I haven’t written a LARP in a long time, as I found writing and planning to be fun and running to be one of the most stressful things in the world. Though I will say that I feel that I have grown quite a bit as an improvisational artist since those days, so maybe I’ll be better at it now. I’m not as worried about stressing out working with kids. If the plot falls apart, but the kids have fun, mission accomplished.
I’m sure there are tons of details I’ve left out and questions you may have. Use the comments section and ask away!