Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Why You Should Encourage Your Child to Play RPGs


This week we are Tackling Tough Topics on MK Tabletop Talk. As promised in last weeks review of No Thank You Evil!, the RPG specifically designed for children, we will be taking our side on "Why You Should Encourage Your Child to Play RPGs".

I have always been an advocate of the RPG, or Role Playing Game style. I do truly believe that every person should try it. At least once. Adults and children alike can learn and grow with every session spent around the table. You learn a lot about yourself and the way you think. You learn a lot about the people you play with. You become closer friends.
That being said, I know a lot of people are instantly skeptical, or flat out say things such as "No thanks, I'm not a (insert preferred term)".
Funny thing about that...
While RPGs are among the most widely criticized game styles for being "Dorky" or "Nerdy" and considered to be a game for the "loners", it requires a group to play.
Social Activity
A lot of kids these days are sitting in their room, half a world away from their closest gaming "friend" as they spend countless hours staring at their screen playing a game. Hey, maybe your kid is slightly more social than that. Maybe he has a sibling or a friend that comes over to play the same room! (I know who does that, right?) The location of the individuals involved is not the true question. The point of the entire thing is to be socially interacting with other human beings. Most Video Gamers have more social interaction with their view screen of choice than they do with the person who could be sitting right next to them. Look at the blank stare on the faces of people playing video games. Slack-jaw? Check. Vacant, yet intense stare? Check. Interaction with your fellow players?
If you actually want your kids to become successful at social engagement, you need to guide them on the appropriate etiquette. They need to know that it is not OK to throw game pieces down and cuss or throw accusations around if they lose. It is unacceptable to scream "SCHOOLED YOU!" and do a victory dance including "na-na, na-na, na-na" if they win. Calling someone a "noob" and insulting their abilities as a player is common in virtual gaming. If people acted this way in the real life (yes I am aware that some people are just so awful that they do this in real life, just try to ignore them, like I do) their popularity would plummet and they would find themselves without anyone to play with. Sure in a world where you don't have to look your "friend" in the face you can be as big a jerk as you please and not have to worry about seeing the hurt look in their eyes, or deal with the anger and possibility of getting the beating you deserve. It is... disconnected. The personal aspect of the entire game has been removed.
Sitting at a table, actually looking at the people you are playing with allows social abilities to flourish. When you have the opportunity to see and process body language and subconscious reactions from people, you get a better idea of how to act and react around them. So, etiquette is learned from your gentle prompts as a parent combined with their experience. This is building verbal skills! If you want your child to not always say the wrong thing thus handicapping their success, they will need these skills.
While most people would not guess it, I am quite shy and introverted. One of the many ways I combat my shyness and prepare myself for the needed interactions with strangers is by playing RPGs. Between joining others in person and using the "mask" or "shield" of my character as my defense against just being kinda awkward in general, I am able to muster strength. I have used speeches that I needed to make (slightly modified for game) to test them out. Get comfortable with saying it out loud. The practice of verbal skills and social interaction is just one of the many benefits of encouraging your child to play RPGs.
Cooperative Goal Achievement
The most common term for this is being a "Team Player". If you want your children to get a jump on the world by learning to work well with others in order to achieve a common goal, than look no further! RPGs take everyone involved and places them in a group facing the same situation. The goal? To figure out the problem, create an answer and combine efforts to reach that solution.
That is also a very basic description of almost every supervisor or management job on the market. Instilling these crucial skills early can be a huge advantage in school, within the workforce, or even in entrepreneurship. The basics are the same.
Every person in the group must play their role. In sports there are positions. At work you are paid to fulfill a specific skill set. In a school project, or a research lab you are expected to produce your portion of the research and apply it to the rest of the project in an efficient and timely fashion. In every example you are "playing your role". You understand the importance of your work as part of the overall success of the group.Without your efforts, the group will suffer. Perhaps even fail. Being a "Team Player" is essential to progress on a grand scale.
Problem Solving
Guide your Child to learn not just to see the issue at hand, but to look for the cause of it. Train their brain to see problems in layers. Add the process of forethought. It's that "I see that X is the problem, and Y will solve it, but we need to be ready to deal with Z" kind of thinking. The brain of your child will be honed to involve broad thinking knowing that there is always a solution. There is always an answer. You just have to know where to look. As we all know this may not be true in reality, but by training the thinking process to include the possibility of an answer in every situation, by default we look for a way to rebound and grow from any obstacle we overcome. Even those that are deemed a complete failure.
Critical Thinking
This concept is constantly put to practice in every RPG I have ever played. As before mentioned, you as a group are presented with a situation. You must critically assess all aspects possible and determine the best coarse of action then execute said plan all within a set limit of time.
This is not just the exact simulated environment of an RPG, but also the day to day life environment most people live in. Just like any other muscle, your brain can be conditioned to preform better. By running these "mental simulations" you are stretching your "mental tendons" and acting as their personal trainer to increase activity and performance quality in the desired area.
Sometimes the biggest breakthrough comes when you look at things from a different point of view. If you are too busy arguing over how many boards you see in front of you, you will never progress beyond your own perspective. Critical thinking. Thinking outside the box. Thinking on your toes. There are plenty of terms for it. What it really comes down to?
Another great way to inspire your child into greatness is to not only allow, but encourage them to let their mind wander sometimes. Let them think about how many fish there are in the ocean. Let them tell you about their "research" on fairies and the life they live. Stretching the imagination is at the root of all of our worlds greatest discoveries.
Yes, they are sitting around a Tabletop rolling some dice and talking about numbers and rule text. But in the mind? Those pages of charts and those oddly shaped dice? They are allowing your child to strap on their breastplate, sharpen their sword and become more than just the pages they read. They become the story they tell. Where you might see books, they see worlds of wonder and magical beasts. Where you see oddly shaped dice, they see bows, arrows and spells blasting from their fingertips.
When intertwining the creative mind with critical thinking, problem solving, social interaction and attempting cooperative goal achievement, all in the form of a game that your child enjoys playing you can create a recipe for success in the real world from an early age.
Just another amazing outcome of involving your kids in the RPG universe!
You know. Numbers and stuff. I haven't even mentioned that (depending on the system) there is pretty extensive amounts of math. We aren't talking calculus or anything, but keeping track of all the stats, bonuses, penalties and such? Looking at angles and line of sight? Doing the basic math to see if it is "worth making the attempt"? That sounds an awful lot like "making an informed decision on the financial impact compared to the benefits of the outcome" to me. Again by practicing even the simplest of math equations regularly we stimulate that portion of the brain.

The Wrap Up
I could go on and on (I am sure some of you think I have already) about the underlying benefits of playing RPGs. Besides the winning combination of Real World Skills that you can gain from the experience, regardless of what world you decide to run in, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, or a world of your own making, there is one very important part of playing the game that has nothing to do with developing your skills set. It has much more to do with feeding and maintaining your happiness. When was the last time you really allowed yourself to have pure, uninhibited fun? Drink a pint (or three) of courage at the bar and grab the Karaoke mic? Put on that old CD you loved in high school and dance along with your memories while nobody else was in the room? You were in a moment where you felt you could do it without worry of ridicule from anyone.
 The best part of sitting down with your chosen group is that you are all there together. There is no judgement of the voice you chose for your character, no matter how bad the accent. Nobody is going to insult you for wearing that Indiana Jones hat that is just like the one your character wears because it helps you get into their persona. You are among friends. You are free to be just as wacky and creative as you like. All because they too are here to let go. They too want to open their minds and let go of the real world. Everyone surrounding the Tabletop is there for one reason. They want to play.

Why wait until you have to find your inner child? 
Why not start "leveling up" your child's imagination early?

Concepts of technology were not born of calculations. It was in the mind that boldly marched its imagination toward the unknown that it spawned. True soul-touching music is not born of instruments.  It is the free flow of creativity that gives life and lends emotion to the sequence of notes. The worlds greatest leaders are not made by following the paths of others. They are made by having the ability to forge another trail and guide their people along it safely.

But, you know, just my two cents.
Until next time ...Game On! -MK