Random Gaming Thoughts

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

I’ve had a lot of thoughts bouncing in my head lately, but none of them long enough for a compelling post on their own. So I’m going to follow the example of some of my fellow bloggers and just hit you with those thoughts this month. Maybe the thoughts will be more compelling when compiled. Or not.

Next month I’ll talk about con prep with a Kindergartener and how my LARP design is going. I’m waiting until next month to talk about the LARP design because I’ve stalled a bit on that. There’s a couple of reasons. First up is time. I’ve been overly busy, to the point of getting ill. So I had to drop some activities and since I have some time for this, the LARP went to the back burner. Second is writer’s block. I ran into some issues I needed to solve and plain just couldn’t. See reason number one for one of the biggest road blocks there. Third is that I am waiting for confirmation on the space I will have at the convention. Location will affect some of my planning. So, in the next couple of weeks this will be my new focus item, and then I’ll have something to tell you for real.

SIX IS AWESOME! So is having friends with kids a little bit older than Yog.  Not much older, but old enough. Old enough for what you may be asking? Old enough that when the kids want to cross the parking lot to play on the swings when we’re at a mutual friend’s house for a party I have no problem letting them go on their own. My husband and I got to play in whatever game we wanted all day, whether that was together or not. We didn’t have to think about where we sat. Neither of us had to volunteer to sit out to be available for Yog’s needs.  Yog on her own is still a little tough. But I can’t fault her at that. Being the only child in a house where the adults want to play a board game when you have no interest and no one else to play with must be boring. She can still be really needy and our usual tactics need to come into play. Though I will say I was particularly let down at the latest gathering. Prior to the party I told Yog what we would be doing that weekend and she told me that she would “sit on my lap and roll dice for me”. That happened a total of ZERO times that weekend. Even when I asked her and reminded that she told me she would to that. And no, I didn’t expect her to ditch her friends to sit on my lap and roll dice. I’m not crazy. Well. I am, but not like that. When she was on her own though it would have been nicer than the whining. Also, I was looking forward to just having her with me.

I consider myself to be one of the luckiest gamer girls in the world. I hear horror stories from other women about experiences at conventions, gaming stores, or in their own gaming groups. I have not one horror story. Not one bad gaming experience that was a direct result of my femininity. I’ve had bad gaming experiences. Ones where the game wasn’t for me, or where personalities didn’t mesh, but gender identity wasn’t the issue. Or at least I never felt it was. I had one bad game store experience, but my husband had the exact same experience, even when I wasn’t there, so I don’t think it was me being a woman that caused the problem. That just wasn’t the store for us. We do however have an awesome game store that we love to get to when we can. The owner knows our names, despite the fact that we’re only there a half dozen times each year. Even the other customers are awesome. I can’t think of a time when I haven’t wound up having a random conversation with another customer, and it was never about “why is a woman in a gaming store?”. I’ve not been to a ton of different conventions, but again I’ve never been made uncomfortable because I’m a woman. I am one of the luckiest women in the gaming world. And I try to not forget it.

I love games, but I tend to play one game to death, then move on. The good thing is I play the hell out of a game. The bad thing is that I may never go back to that game again. There are almost too many games in the world for me. But I can also be easily overwhelmed by too many choices. I have to avoid some diners because there are too many choices on the menu.

On that – I’m of the opinion that if your description of a game is “it plays like X” I probably am not interested. Either I’ve never played X, so it doesn’t matter. Or I have played X and I like it, which means I don’t need another game “like X”.  I have X. I like diversity. However, I know this is inherently a problematic stance. For one – there are only so many ways to combine cards, dice, random draw bags, etc. into a balanced, playable, enjoyable game. So uniqueness is hard to achieve. Secondly the human brain works well on comparison. It’s quicker to say “this game is like X” than it is to try to explain the details of the new game. I understand it’s a shortcut and that it really works for a lot of people. However, if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you’ll know I’m just weird. Mass marketing tends to work against me going for your product in any arena.

LARP is such an interesting cross section of talented people. Everyone brings a different set of talents to help tell awesome stories. Some are great at costumes. Others, make up. Still others, character creation. And everyone is willing to share their talents without breaking each other’s banks. I love collaborating with such an eclectic group of people to just  have fun.

I hope you enjoyed the random thoughts. Please use the comments to expand on them, share your experiences, or ask my random thought on a topic.

Until next time – Happy Gaming!

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Holidays 2016

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

The holidays came, they celebrated, they ate, they played and they moved on. Or so it felt. Adult life kept getting in the way this year making the holidays feel a bit disjointed, but we still made time for fun. Which of course for us means game time!

We had several parties between Thanksgiving and New Year. All went well with many games played, and for us more than we have in parties past. Here’s why:

Age Five is Awesome!!!

So is having other kids Yog’s age at the party. The first party of the season was weekend of Thanksgiving. The other children had arrived at the gathering before us and were anxiously waiting our arrival. When we got there they greeted our entire family and then they disappeared with Yog. The only time we heard from any of them was when food or drink was desired. So my husband and I got to play two different games at the same time. Not that I dislike playing games with my husband, obviously, but we do have some differences in taste at times. Parties are where I get to scratch my itch for the lighter, party style games he hates and he finds the one or two other people to play the really complicated games I won’t touch.

As always we brought along some of Yog’s games in hopes that having other people her age to play with would encourage her to do so. Unfortunately she isn’t as excited about Ice Cool as she was when we first got it. We love playing it, but once we told her she had to play it as a game and not just as another toy house, she lost interest. I think the first time she played because it was unique and new. The second time was because we had let her practice free form with the penguin after the first game and she figured if she played the game she could “free play” afterwards. Which we did allow and would continue to allow. With a skill based game you need to practice to get good at it, however if you don’t ever follow the rules, it’s never a game. The third time we offered to play with her she said she would flick the penguin around, but not play the game. So I told her we weren’t going to play at all and to pick another activity. Lucky for me the other children that were at our holiday party love Ice Cool. It’s so much fun to watch their excitement over successfully getting their penguin to land where they planned. They did so well I taught them how to make the penguins jump walls when we were done playing.

This year for Christmas we didn’t buy Yog a game. Technically. Ok, we bought us a game and her a play set. Playmobil makes an awesome hockey rink toy that’s a playable game! I still haven’t read the rules or played it yet, but we plan to. At least my husband and I plan to. Yog plans on “playing hockey” on her own terms. Which is what we anticipated happening and therefore are fine with happening. We got her the rink, which came with two goalies and two players, a Referee and Linesman set that came with a Stanley Cup, and a ZAMBONI! Because ZAMBONI! That came with another figure, because we don’t have Google self-driving Zamboni machines yet. She loves playing hockey and I look forward to beating my husband on the ice.

playmobil-hockey
Playing hockey

Christmas wound up being a later night than originally planned. We started by playing Resistance, during which my husband learned where I inherited my devious streak as my mom completely fooled him into believing she was innocent. Unfortunately that same devious streak kept him from being able to tell if my sister or I were the other traitor…allowing my sister’s traitor husband to escape! This was followed up with my husband and family played Black Orchestra. I didn’t play as they had reached the maximum number of players. I figure that we own the game, I’ll have plenty of opportunities to play. Besides, I hadn’t had a chance to watch A Christmas Story yet and tradition is tradition. Luckily we had packed clothes and pajamas. So at the appointed time Yog was off to bed and we spent the night.

New Year’s Eve was similar to the Thanksgiving party in success. The big difference was that Yog had a little more time alone. We figured that would mean going back to tag team game play, but Yog had other plans. She found ways to entertain herself, sometimes telling me to “Go play a game”. She’s always been really good at self-entertaining (I’m never sure if this is because she’s an only child and had to learn this skill or it’s just part of who she is. Most likely it’s a bit of both.) As always I invited her to play with me, rolling dice or playing cards, but she turned me down. She’s still “not the kind of kid who plays games.”

New Years Day was traditional. For us. Pork pie, Mummers and Arkham Horror. At least Yog enjoyed the pork pie. She has lost interest in even helping to set up Arkham Horror, which is a shame because I got my husband some organizational tools that made the game take up a bit less space. She didn’t even watch the Mummers! If it’s not animated it’s not worth watching apparently. Instead there was a school-house and toy cars to use for story-telling. Just wait until I tell her she was a role player as a child! Mwa-ha-ha-ha!

Ok.

I know.

All children a role players.

Just let me pretend that she’s a little bit of a gamer, all right?

Did you get any new games for the kids this holiday season? Share your favorite discoveries in the comments.

Until next time – Happy Gaming!

Gaming at Parties

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

Any time of year is a good time for a gathering of friends and family. Whether you are celebrating a secular or religious holiday, or just enjoying whatever weather we have at the time, doing so with those you love makes it much better. In our circles this generally means at least one game will be played, more likely several games as these gatherings tend to be hours long, and occasionally overnight affairs. And there is the challenge to tackle – how to navigate playing games at a party while taking care of your child/children.

If your family and friends are anything like mine you have people all over the gaming spectrum. We have friends who make us look like we’ve never rolled dice before. Family who want low strategy games. Other friends only want to play party games. Yog might want to play, she might just want to interrupt us every few seconds. What’s a gamer to do?

For me, gaming at a party is all about mindset. I go into a gathering knowing (or trying to know) what that group of people is like. If they aren’t gamers at all it’s totally possible that we won’t be playing any games. On the other hand we might go to a party and spend the entire evening playing one very intense game. Having a general idea of what to expect helps us choose appropriate games or avoid the disappointment of not getting to play a game at all, as well as the child care strategy. Sometimes it helps to ask the host if they want to have games at their party. They will know what kind of space they have available and if their guests will want to play.

When going to a gathering with mostly non-gamers we’ll choose something lighter, most often a party game with no board that’s easy to learn. Box size and weight is important too. We don’t want to lug around a huge, heavy box and not play the game, especially given we are still marveling at the idea that we can leave the house for a few hours and not have to bring three bags of baby gear (seriously there were times we felt like moving would have been easier!).  Party games are also a great way to get children involved. Choose a game played in team and allow the children to guess. This is highly dependent on your group being open to having a child on their team (though usually if kids are invited to a party there aren’t many there who wouldn’t be). Depending on the age of your child the participation may just be for a feeling of inclusion – or to get more answers right than the other team! If you’re like me pop culture references aren’t your strong suit, but most kids have current trends memorized.

If we’re going to a party with a lot of gamers we’ll try to get requests ahead of time, that way we’re more likely to have what everyone wants to play. Speaking with the host is helpful here as well if you know your host has a well-stocked game closet. Again, who wants to pack several heavy boxes and leave them in the car because the host already owns the games you brought?

In addition to involving Yog in the adult games, we always bring along a few of her games, even if we aren’t anticipating any other children being in attendance. Usually there are a few adults willing to play a few rounds of one of her games. Sometimes without any children. It’s not our fault game designers are making compelling games for children! Typically we let her pick the games to bring along. Size and weight typically aren’t concerns with her boxes. At the gathering we’ll offer to set the game up to get the kids started or ask a few other adults to join in.

Involving Yog in an adult game can be tricky. She’s still small enough to sit on my lap, which has advantages and disadvantages. In the advantage category is that it’s easier to direct her participation. In the disadvantage category is that she’s tall enough that reaching around her can be difficult. Typically I will let her roll for my turn if there are dice involved. If a card needs to be played I’ll hand it to her to put on the board. A pre-game hand washing is usually involved for the safety of the game and health of the other players.

What do you do if you can’t get your child involved in a game? We’ve learned a few strategies for gaming party survival. The obvious one is to take advantage of nap and bed time. We have a travel cot and that has allowed us to go to gatherings during naps or later at night. The trick to using nap time is knowing about how long your little one will sleep and pick a game that won’t take longer than that. When Yog is awake and needs attention we take turns playing games and keeping an eye on her. Then there are the times when she’s happily coloring, playing with the other children, or otherwise not in need of our undivided attention. These rare times are when we try to sit down and play a game together. Tip one – play the same game. We go to some gaming parties where there are several games going on at a time, almost like a mini-convention. Being at the same table means that Yog isn’t running back and forth between us, nor are we interrupting two games. It also helps with game flow. Speaking of game flow – tip 2 – play a turn based, not phase based game. Performing all of your actions in one turn frees you up while the other players take their turns should you need to attend to your little one. Which leads to tip 3 – don’t sit next to each other. Put as many people on either side of you as the game allows. This allows you to take turns leaving the table if needed without stopping the game. This of course only works if both parents are at the party. If you are solo for whatever reason hopefully you have friends who are willing to help wrangle your child while you take your turn. I would still stick with turn based games in this situation, as it allows you some time to step away from the table without interrupted the game too much.

Hopefully some of these tips help you with your next gaming event. Please share your tips, tricks, and questions in the comments. And until next month…

Happy gaming!