Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gamer family.

Like many gamers (or really, modern human) I spend some time on various forums and social media platforms. One of the things I like to read about is raising kids. Go figure. I’m trying to figure out what I’m doing and am hoping to glean some tips and tricks from others who have been there before me. I also read a bit about gaming. Again, I’m sure you’re shocked and surprised. And at times read about kids AND gaming. And am a little bit jealous when I hear about kids who game, since I don’t have one of those. Sometimes I even chime in with my opinion, as I obviously have little experience.


There is one conversation thread that I can’t stand and it seems to dominate the field when it comes to games and kids. It shows up in other forums, but not as often as it does with kids. I know why, but still. I don’t like the question for this group any more than I do for any other group.

The “Recommendation Thread” – What game should I play with X age that has Y theme and Z mechanic? Or even worse, only give part of that information. “What game should I play with a three year old?”

I was on a forum recently, saw another slew of posts in this vein and rolled my eyes.

Then I though “why do I dislike these posts so much?”. Because I totally understand that in this case I am the problem.

So now you get to read my thoughts.

First and foremost, I don’t know your kid, niece, friend, godson, whoever that kid in your life is. I don’t know what they like and don’t like beyond the two sentences you gave in the request. There is no way I’m going to know what kind of game they will like. I feel the same way about adults. If I get into a conversation and find out that you really like a certain game and I know another game that is in the same vein, I may suggest it to you, but that’s a rare event. There are a ton of reviews out there for pretty much any game ever made. Ok. Maybe not every game. But then go on the site and say “Hey I found this new game and can’t find any reviews. Does anyone know anything about it?”


Maybe that’s another reason those threads bother me. They seem lazy. Instead of putting your time into researching a game, you’re asking a bunch of strangers to tell you what to buy. Also, there are a ton of them. Take some time to scroll down and look at the list created for the last ten people who asked the same exact question you’re about to ask. Most forums are swimming in lists of games.

Which leads me to my next frustration. Whatever the most recent release, or most popular manufacturer is currently hot will dominate the list. If you go to where ever you like to buy games, I bet the top ten games on any recommendation list will be featured at that shop. There are more lists of games than games themselves (or so it seems) and so the same games get recommended over and over.


And goddess forbid you recommend a non-popular game or mention that you allow your child to play Candy Land. Trolls show up everywhere, even in discussions that are supposed to be about kids. Especially about discussions about raising kids. Whatever you are doing, it’s wrong. At least according to the internet.

For the love of creation, please stop asking “What kind of game will a girl like?”. You know what kind of games girls like? The same kind boys and non-binary people like. Because gender doesn’t create your preferences in life. Period.

There’s also the question of age. Anyone who has spent any amount of time with two or more children of like age can tell you that physical age is not the best indicator of a kid’s intellectual abilities. Sure, there are averages and expectations, but those averages and expectations have such a wide window that they are practically useless as guidelines. Back to my first point, I don’t know your kid. Saying that your kid is 5 gives me a wide window of possible intellectual levels. Maybe your five year old can read. Maybe they can’t. That could make a big difference. Is your 7 year old good at planning ahead, or do they need instant gratification? You get the point. There is a wide range of “normal” for any given age, so it’s hard to judge what a child might like based on that. In this case the readers you are trying to reach are just as useful as looking at the box and seeing that the game is rated for “Ages 3+”. And then we’re back at my second reason for not liking recommendation posts.

Then there is the fact that this is completely my problem, not the poster’s.

I wonder if I dislike suggestion threads because they dominate the field and mean nothing to me. I have a kid who won’t play any games with us. She’ll occasionally play with another kid, but rarely. We own a bunch of games that were designed for kids, in different themes, with different mechanics, some board games some card games, some manipulative or movement based. We have made our games as approachable to her as we can. It doesn’t matter, she won’t play a game. To the point when she went to a birthday party and wouldn’t play “Hot Potato” because the host said “Who wants to play games?”. So there is no point in my reading a list of really cool games that I’d like to share with her since she won’t play anyway. Is some of my dislike just the proverbial “sour grapes”? Possibly. Probably. Yeah.

Which is why I’m not saying “Stop writing those posts!”. They obviously hold value for others. And I have the ability to scroll past them, just as I change the station when a song comes on the radio that I don’t like. I’m simply taking my writing time (and your reading time if you’ve made it this far!) to state my feelings. Ah, the internet!

How do you feel about recommendation posts? Do you find them helpful?

Until next month – Happy Gaming!



Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gamer family.

Recently I have been working on several game related projects, from a writing standpoint. That’s something I haven’t done in a long time, for various reasons. That got me to thinking a lot about why I started this blog, what I wanted to get out of it, and where I wanted it to go.

First I realized that since I’m writing about experiences with a child I don’t have much control over “where I want it to go”. If you go back through the archives you’ll see that I had started this in hopes to write more about how we involved our daughter in our hobby. What has happened is I write about how we game often, despite the fact that Yog is “not the kind of girl who plays games”.

Then I remembered that I had a ton of pictures that I had wanted to share, but for whatever reason, didn’t.

So I’m going to share some of my favorite pictures of Yog before she decided to be the rebel of our family. Let’s travel down memory lane, shall we?

Unless you count the convention where I was pregnant, Yog’s first convention was DREAMATION 2012. That year it was just the three of us, because my husband and I hadn’t figured out that 1) we had gamer friends who would love to attend the convention and 2) we had AWESOME gamer friends who would help us take care of Yog so we could each get to a few more events. But that first time Yog refused to sleep in her pack and play. We found out part way through the convention that part of that was that she was teething. This was a trend she would continue until she was done cutting her baby teeth – cutting them at a convention. Because why not? Mom and Dad won’t be sleeping anyway. Here are two of my favorite pictures from that weekend:


Before Yog was born we had started playing The Dresden Files RPG. We were lucky enough to continue the story to its conclusion. When she was an infant, Yog wanted to be held ALL. THE. TIME. We took turns and it typically wasn’t a problem. But it did make for some awkward moments. Like when my husband, who was our GM, had the NPCs doing some particularly nasty things while he was holding on to the adorableness that was our daughter:


My husband the GM
He looks so innocent, doesn’t he?


One of my regular gaming group’s favorite games is Arkham Horror. We have been playing it for well over a decade. We have expansions and have even added a campaign element to our game play. This was one of the reasons why we chose to call our unborn child Yog. That and we like to tempt fate. At our baby shower one of our gamer friends  made a custom Arkham Horror Great Old One card  just for Yog:

My Arkham Horror Monster
Yog’s very own Arkham Horror Great Old One Card. In case raising a child isn’t hard enough.


And just in case Yog wanted in on the games early, we made sure she had her very own D6.

Yog and her first die
We were so excited to have a baby toy with a die theme.


Since there is so much cute to process in this post I’m going to keep it shorter. Also, I’m sure you’re going cross eyed from my disjointed sentences. I hope you enjoyed the baby pictures! If not… month I’ll be back with a longer post and fair warning – it’s a bit of a rant. So don’t forget there is now a stash of adorable baby pictures to cleanse your pallet should you need.

Until next month – Happy Gaming!

Video Games?

Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gaming family.

I find that my family, and my gaming group too, are anomalies in the wider gaming world. We do not, generally, play video games. They’re just not what we’re interested in doing. A few of our friends do play video games of various sorts, but they rarely talk to us about them because they know we don’t have a frame of reference. My husband has a handful of games he plays on his computer (mostly emulators of older games), I have a few light games I play on my tablet (the usual suspects, except I’m about ten years behind the world). We own a Wii. Not a Wii U, or whatever the most recent Nintendo console is, but the ten (or maybe more) year old technology. And we’re happy with that. Where it gets weird is in every day conversations. I have found that outside the gamer world video games have earned a wider reaching social acceptability than other game forms. The typical conversation will go this way:

Other Person: What do you do for fun?

Me: We play a lot of games.

Other Person (very excited): Oh yeah? What system do you own?

Me: We play a house rule version of the FATE system when we RPG and a large variety of board games

Other Person (disappointed and half-hearted): Oh.     What’s an RPG?

Sometimes once I explain to them what an RPG is they’re interested, at least enough for it to be a conversation point. Other times I get a negative response, as though there is something wrong with me for not having an updated gaming console. Worse are those who seem to think I’m somehow depriving Yog of an essential life experience by not sitting her in front of a video game.

I’m not against video games. I’m not even against age appropriate games for kids. All in moderation of course.

I’m too much of a social creature for video games to satisfy me. Even if I’m sitting next to another player I still feel isolated staring at the screen instead of being able to look at my partner. My other reason for not getting into video games could be debunked by someone who knows more than me – it seems like the style that I’m most attracted to, the kind that is a video game RPG, will take hours, actually days, to complete. I have such a busy schedule that it would literally take me years to finish one game. In that amount of time a new console will have come out. It feels very much like my Netflix queue where I’m still catching up on shows from the early 90’s while new content I want to see is piling up. I would rather spend my time in a room with multiple people moving a story forward in a fairly quick manner. That’s my personal preference though.

There’s also the expense. I feel like for the price of the console and a single game I could purchase two or three board games that I share with my friends. That has more value for me. Again, not knocking anyone else’s choices, it’s your money and you need to spend it in a way that makes you happy. If playing video games is that happiness, awesome. It’s just not my happiness.

So I stick with my board games, RPGs and LARPS. Now here’s the rub – due to my busy schedule and the conflicts of my gaming group’s individual schedules it takes us years to get through a ten session RPG. And yes, I get that I just said two paragraphs ago that it would take me too long to get through one video game. Which is part of the reason I needed to branch out from my core group. It’s easier for me to block out an entire weekend than it is to find an hour or two each week. And while I could do that for a video game, I just don’t have the interest in doing so. I love our games. I love my groups. I love collaborative story telling. It’s probably what drew me to the world of improv.

So back to the video games. This is an area in which I am knowledge deficient. And I’m all right with that. I’m also knowledge deficient in miniature and collectible card games. The thing that amazes me is that no one looks at me funny when I say I don’t know anything about those games. Ok. Not “no one”. Non-gamers who have no idea what I’m talking about might look at me funny. But those same people look at me funny for not owning a gaming console. It seems to be all right for me to say “I suck at building decks, so I avoid deck building games”, but odd for me to say “I suck at using controllers in general so I avoid video games”.

So maybe non-gamers just like making faces at me. I’m used to it at this point in my life.

Maybe my lack of knowledge is keeping me out of the hobby too. If I knew more about the options out there in console design and game options, maybe I’d be more into it. But sometimes ignorance is bliss. I truly have so many hobbies that I’ve forgotten more past times than I engage in.

I guess my frustration is in the public perception. I feel that 1) outside of the gaming community when I say I’m a “gamer” it is assumed I play video games and I consider myself much more well-rounded than that and 2) video gamers think I’m depriving my kid of some sort of life necessity. I’m not against Yog playing video games. We just don’t have many in the house, nor do I think they are “necessary”. We have other forms of entertainment we engage in. I think I just want the general public to be more aware that there is more to the gaming world than video games and not all board games are Candy Land and Monopoly (not that there’s anything wrong with liking those games if you do).

We don’t consider ourselves or Yog to be deprived. We are the people who hold up one end of the curve that skews the average. And we’re ok with that.

Until next month, Happy Gaming! Video or otherwise.


DREAMATION 2018 Post Con

Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gamer family.

As promised last month I’m talking DREAMATION this month. Or ummm…a few days into March. Double post month! The convention ran the last full weekend of February, so I probably should have planned this post for March. But I wanted to share the fullness of my excitement with you as soon as possible. And now that I’m writing this I realize that if I share all of my excitement your heads might explode and you will probably cry. Because I had an AMAZING weekend. And I know after the last DEXCON I said “this was the best convention yet” and that DREAMATION had a tough act to follow. However DREAMATION saw the end of a six-year long larp chronicle I had been playing and it. WAS. AMAZING. I am still going through my thoughts on that so I can share them with my fellow players. And then there was the other larp I played. And the other one I helped run. Oh –

In the meantime, let’s talk kids at conventions.

Two board game sessions. Hanging out with friends in the hallways. Two table top role playing sessions. A visit to another larp. Planning begins.

That’s the short version of my family convention experience.

I once again hosted two sessions of The Family Game Table. It was only attended by one

Yog volunteered again to be the one to drag the suit case to and from our board game session.

teenager on Saturday. I am really at a loss as to how to make this event succeed. I have considered dropping it, especially in light of how busy I was at this past convention. I booked myself solid, running or helping friends run something in every single block I had available and I’m not sure if this trend will continue. So maybe letting an under-attended event go away will be for the best, for me and for the packed convention schedule. That’s not to say that I won’t still be running events for kids. Not by a long shot. But maybe an open board game session just isn’t what people are interested in attending. Though when I speak to people and tell them about the event their reaction is usually “that’s so cool!” and “I wish I had known about that!”. I have friends who have offered to make flyers to advertise the event at the next convention since I’m not so good at self-promotion. I have a few months to ponder if I want to accept their help and keep trying to move in this direction.

My table top role playing game was Sidekick Quests “Picking Flowers in and Enchanted Grove”. The Friday afternoon session didn’t run due to lack of players. However since the game is geared towards kids I wasn’t overly surprised by this. Yog wasn’t with me because she was in school. I assumed most of her peers were in the same location Friday afternoon. Saturday afternoon’s session did run. The young lady who joined me for board gaming that morning came to play along with a friend of hers. As we were getting started we were joined by another young lady. Though they didn’t really “role play” in the sense that they all had characters, they did seem to have a good time. So much so that the young lady who joined us last is looking forward to the games I will be hosting at DEXCON. More on that later. As a newish GM I still have some learning to do and need to get more practice under my belt. There were some things about the puzzle portion of the game that I ran incorrectly, but was able to use my improv experience to work around. The girls didn’t seem to notice. Yog sat at the table with me as my co-GM. She interjected from time to time with some exposition, but mostly was my flower handler. The quest has the characters picking flowers in a certain order. I printed out tokens of the flowers so they could see the flowers they were surrounded by in their block and have a physical reminder of what they had accomplished. Yog was in charge of handing me the flowers I needed as I read them off the map so I could arrange them around the character’s avatar. It was a positive enough experience that I think I may run another table top game for children. This is one of my ideas for replacing my board game slot.

During some of the free time we managed to find with events ending early, Yog decided that she wanted to visit one of the larps. As I know the people running the game and a large portion of the players I decided to let her peak her head in, with directions to whisper and to stay out of the way of play. The game we visited is Bright Story and the characters are everything and everyone you can imagine and then some. So the costuming is a lot of fun, even if you don’t know what’s going on. As I had been able to play at DEXCON I had an idea of how the various rooms were being used, so I gave Yog a brief tour, during which she decided she wanted to play. I spoke with one of the game owners briefly and will need to have a follow-up conversation, but so far it looks like she may be welcome at the game. However, before I’m willing to let her play she and I are going to be working on the improv concept of “Yes, and…” because she still tries to control the narrative in all of her pretend play. Much like my board game session decision, I have a few months to work on this one.



A new Steam larp went into planning phase as I walked around with Yog. She’s got some really great ideas that I can run with. I will say this much, she has asked for no “bad guys” in this run, so it will be all puzzles for the players to solve. This is definitely a sequel to the first game though.

This was a different convention spending time with Yog in general. She’s more open to being in the convention area instead of playing in the room all day. I can trust her to obey rules and walk further away from her in the Dealer’s Room (while still having one eye on her). She spent about fifteen minutes chatting with one of the artists in Artist’s Alley (before I decided it was time for her to move on). I was able to stand a few feet away and talk with a friend while they chatted about art. Last year Yog wouldn’t have left my side and demanded my full attention. It was really nice. And as any parent can confirm, it’s amazing watching the changes happen in your child as they grow.

This was another convention knocked out of the park by DOUBLE EXPOSURE, the staff, and their intrepid group of volunteers who run the games. And, no I don’t mean that to be a pat on my own back, I got to work with those amazing people and benefit from the work of others, so they all deserve recognition.

If you have some recent convention love, DREAMATION or otherwise, share it in the comments. We could all use a little more hype in our lives.

Until next month – Happy Gaming!


Couples Who Play Together

Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gamer family.

This is one of those “more about the adults than the kids” articles. Though I believe that having a child created a different experience for us compared to our childless counterparts.

As those who have been reading this blog for any length of time know, I love to larp. My husband loves to run larps, and will on occasion play. As a holiday/anniversary present this year we were gifted a weekend at a large scale game. In a castle. A real, honest to goddess castle!

Let’s start with the child tie in as it’s a short one this time. We were at a disadvantage at the start of the game as it began at 2 pm on a Friday. With a child in school the logistics of finding someone to pick her up and coordinate that between the school, after care givers, and our intrepid volunteer is a monumental task. We chose to miss out on a few hours of the game instead, hoping that it wouldn’t impact our experience too much.  We did choose to take a half day off work and get mostly in costume before picking Yog up from school. While there were efforts made to catch us up on the rules of the game and the plot we still felt very much lost for the first few hours of the game. It took the entire first evening for us to really get in the swing of things.

The end of the game was also impactful on our family life. The schedule we had been provided indicated that the game would wrap up in the afternoon, but it wound up being closer to dinner time. We made the choice to stay until the end, but that meant that Yog got to bed late that night.

To kick the weekend off, on Friday afternoon, in a gown and heavy makeup (at least I was a human character!), I got Yog from school and dropped her off with my parents for a fun weekend with her grandparents.

We checked into our hotel and put the finishing touches on our costumes (driving the hour to the location with all of the jewelry on wasn’t practical). We arrived to the game site (did I mention that we got to play in a castle?!) right at dinner time, which was good because I was ready to cannibalize someone at that point. Poor planning on my part.

In general we both had a really good time. I got to meet some really awesome people, and I hope I’ll be able to see them again at other events. The experience popped up in conversations regularly for about two weeks post event and we talked to our gaming group about it as well.

One really amazing personal thing came out of the post-game introspection and I’m pretty sure that those who have larped or role played with me over the years will be thinking “duh” when you read this.

I was finally able to put a name to my play style.

For years my husband and I would have conversations about games and the different things that give one joy in a game and things that make enjoyment harder (yeah, not only do we play a lot of games, when we’re not playing we’re talking about them…). One of those things is your fellow players. Let me preface this with saying that with a few exceptions there is no wrong way to role play. However, we have found over the years that playing with a group mostly made up of like-minded individuals will enhance your enjoyment of the game. The thing was that I couldn’t target like-minded individuals because I didn’t know what my mind was until this weekend.

I’m a “play for the story” person.

Femke Jarlsdottir - Dresden Files Empire State Chronicles
This is one of my oldest larp characters…both in character age and how long I’ve played her. Thanks to my friend Liz for the awesome photo shoot!

What that means (to me, anyway) is that sometimes I will do something for the fun of it, for the excitement of the story. Sometimes this will cause a portion of the story to end. It might cause significant hardship for my character or even the death of my character. That’s not to say that there haven’t been times where character’s life was on the line and I made the safe choice. Sometimes I’m just not ready to part with a character, mostly because I feel like their story hasn’t been fully told and ending their life at that point leaves too much undone. It’s as close to being a real goddess as I’ll ever get I suppose, getting to decided when a character’s story is or isn’t finished. It also means that I might be that character that the other characters hate. And sometimes PvP is fun. Some of my favorite characters in my regular larp are the ones who are morally ambiguous and may attack another player. It keeps you on your toes. I can think of multiple times sitting at my RPG table, looking at another player and out of character saying “Do the stupid thing!”, following that up in character by saying “If you do that stupid thing I’ll cut your pinky off”, going back out of character “Please do the stupid thing! It’s too perfect for your character and will be fun!”.

Of course that also means I have to admit something else. I love to stir the pot! In character drama and quandaries are fun for me. I don’t write extensive back stories prior to the start of a game, so these experiences are the crucible in which I discover who my character is. Sometimes encouraging another player to be mean to my character because it would make a great story is in order. I completely  understand the fear of hurting someone else’s feelings, so open dialog is necessary, but for me, usually it’s going to be – YES! Make my character’s life harder!

I also know that I enjoy intense experiences and that not everyone does. When it comes to this finding a group of like-minded players and open communication is crucial. I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable, however from time to time I have to let the drama beast fly.

What kind of role player do you think you are? Do you find that playing with others with a similar style enhances your game?

Let’s chat about larp play style in the comments.

And until next month – Happy Gaming!

Table Top RPG for Kids

Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gamer family.

Last summer I did a couple of articles about developing and running a larp for kids. With another convention approaching (in a few months at the time of this writing) I have been thinking about what I want to present for kids, as I have been enjoying bringing approachable gaming to kids in their own space. And yes, I know, I’ve had since July to think about this, but…I had other things to focus on too. Like…ummm…Arkham Horror won’t play itself. Yet. I don’t think. I mean, maybe there’s an AI out there, but… Anyway. Coming out of the holidays I don’t have time to write and prepare another larp script. Not to mention that Yog won’t be available until Saturday since she’ll be in school and typically that afternoon is blocked out for me to NPC in a campaign larp I have worked with for the past few years. Also, there will most likely be fewer kids until Saturday rolls around, so I want to scale down the size of the game I am running a bit. The larp was written to accommodate ten kids, I’m looking to half that number for DREAMATION. I also wanted something that I won’t need a staff of people to help pull off. I already run a few sessions of a board game session geared towards families, so the next logical venue is a table top RPG.

About a year ago (maybe even longer) my husband introduced me to a web comic called Side Kick Quests. I have been loving reading the family friendly story line and learning a

Side Kick Quests Page
Index of the comic strip with the navigation bar on the side.

bit about the RPG on which the comic is based. So when I decided that I was going to pitch a RPG (Role Playing Game for those not in the know) Side Kick Quests was the logical choice. I know from reading the comic and a bit of the webpage that the creator, James Stowe, wanted to create a game that was accessible to kids aged six and up, but still engaging for adults. This is exactly my goal in the events I run, so again,  a perfect match.

I jumped over to the online store to buy the game, which was crazy reasonably priced, another plus for parents looking to run games for their kids, or even just try it. While I understand the pricing of role-playing game books, if you’re not sure a child will like the game it may be cost prohibitive. Side Kick Quests is not one of those games. Of course being the tech savvy person I am I didn’t notice the download link when I made my purchase. So I had to contact James Stowe, and beg him to understand my lack of ability to read and use a computer and send me the download. He graciously did so and off I was to read the rules. And hopefully remember how to read and comprehend better than I did with the website.

The world of Adventur is charmingly approachable for kids, but challenging enough for adults. I love that the players are the sidekicks to the standard fantasy genre character choices. This makes the game scale down really well and makes them relatable to kids, since they are playing kids in the game. Of course an apprentice would have some skills, but not as many as a well-trained warrior or magician or bard. So instead of having a sheet full of skills to work with they have two. One they can use once per game and one they can use once per encounter. There are still health points, and characters can die (only by the players choice), but running out of health doesn’t automatically kill your character. It simply takes you out of the next action round while your character rests in the background to heal up. I like that it gives characters a reason to not get into combat situations “just because” but also isn’t deadly (again, unless the player wants to let the character die), which is often the deterrent for gratuitous fighting.

The basics of skill resolution is very similar to the systems I have been using recently (though to be fair I guess most RPGs use some form of “roll a die of X value and add your skill to the resolution). So I’m already off to a good start. While I know a child should be able to play this game I also know that rules systems tend to be my shortcoming in any kind of role-playing game.

The next big challenge I will have to tackle is what kind of quest to run, what is the story I will put the characters in? But wait. There are pre-generated quests for the system. Yay!  The .pdf of quests contains three stand-alone quests that can be linked together to create a full adventure. The advantage of doing a full adventure is that the players get to use the advancement rules. However, since I am running a convention game I won’t be using these rules and only running one quest.

I have a folder full of downloads to read and supplies to gather, namely pencils and D20s and then I need to print out character sheets.

To say that I’m a bit nervous pitching a table top game for a convention run would be an understatement. However I plan on preparing and practicing as much as possible. My plan is read everything, plan out how to run the game and ask my regular gaming group if they wouldn’t mind taking a break from our regular 7th Sea game so that I can run a session of Side Kick Quests for them. I haven’t run a table top game in a few years, and that last time I did had been my first time doing it. I’m also hoping that I can get Yog to the table to try it out as well.  Maybe if I frame it as her helping me she’ll play along. Literally I hope. If I’m really lucky I’ll be able to convince her to invite some friends over so I can try running it with a group of kids before the convention. Though to be fair the bigger hurdle will be finding time in my crazy schedule. This is a lighter time of year for me for performances and larps (post holidays anyway), but it never ceases to amaze me how quickly I can fill my schedule.

Have you ever run a table top rpg for kids? Share your tips, tricks and stories in the comments!

Until next month – Happy Gaming!

Age Ratings On Games

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.

If you want some in-depth reading on what is a child’s product and what isn’t and what that means for testing and marketing check out this site ––Manufacturing/Business-Education/childrens-products/

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.

Happy Gaming!