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.

 

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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

022418-morgan-with-suitcase-at-dreamation.jpg
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.

And…

Yes.

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!

 

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 – http://www.cpsc.gov/Business–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.

http://www.cpsc.gov//PageFiles/113962/adg.pdf

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!

 

Corny Games

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.

Happy autumn and happy gaming!

 

IMG_0578
This year’s pumkin creation – designed by Yog.

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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.

Until next time – Happy and Patient Gaming!

Worth The Babysitter

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!

Until next month – Happy Gaming!