Monday, June 4, 2018

The Gaming Family

My son is obsessed with Starfinder. He's also (at just shy of seven) playing other games in the game shop we go to for our Friday gaming, picking up a spot at other tables with kid-friendly game groups. This is a really interesting experience for me as his dad, since I remember how hard it was for me to get in to the hobby back in 1980-81. My sister and I badgered the dickens out of my father to teach us how to play that new red box D&D game that our parents got for us at Kaybee Toys, but my dad was utterly perplexed as to the nature of the game and buried it in newspapers (or mail, or something similar). It wasn't until months later, on my own, that I stumbled across a copy of 1st edition Gamma World in a toy and hobby shop in Santa Fe that I found a game which "spoke" to me. Suddenly, all the cryptic content in D&D made sense through the lens of Gamma World....I ran a game with my sister and her friend immediately, and then found D&D as soon as I got home to begin running it as often as I could. The floodgates were open.

My son is more of a player than GM right now, but he's had an interesting progression in his gaming experience. I tried about a year ago to get him involved, first using "No Thank You, Evil!" and then a Labyrinth Lord game. When Starfinder showed up he grew obsessed with it, especially due to the evocative art which he really dug. He even tried GMing (after a fashion) by running me through a game of "No Thank You, Evil!" although he made the rules up as he went along.

He got the gist of role playing but was still too young to really grokk the rules or overall flow of play. Some of this was also a "son vs. dad" bit I realize now; pushing the limit on what dad will (and won't) allow in the game. Also, for a while dad here was pushing for games that I thought were simpler and easier....but what my son wanted to play was not the game that was simpler, but the game that looked Amazing and Super Cool. It didn't matter if Starfinder is a beast of a game to learn (at age 6 1/2), he wanted to play that, to understand that, and not White Star or Swords & Wizardry. Those games didn't look cool, they looked old and boring to him.*

I thought about using Starfinder as the art resource and White Star as the rule system. In the end, though, his own savvy was for questions about what the Starfinder rulebook was asking him, not what that other book was saying. I caved and made a Starfinder character template for him that was big and bold with a clear way for him to read numbers and items on it, which would of course help his reading and math skills, too.

We ran a couple games like this, but it was hard to compete when his younger friends would show with their parents. Now, in the last few months, we game on Friday nights at one game store where friends show up, which includes lots of kids. There are several game tables which are very kid friendly, and he (being the social extrovert his parents are not) quickly makes friends and joins those games. He's suddenly got a D&D 5E game or three under his belt and even played Firefly last week. He's played a game his father has never even tried!

The Firefly game this last Friday seemed to be a turning point for him. When the game was over, he promptly came over to my game table with the active (adult) Starfinder game and promptly declares that he was ready to join my table. I gave him a Kasthan Solarian commando NPC for him to run, and he got to arrive in time to save the group from an incursion of the Nether (the rift in spacetime where the Abyss and the Nine Hells are spilling out in to). He had a great deal of fun, and was prompt to make sure he was taking his turn.

So, he's starting about 3 and a half years sooner than I did, but I have to say, my son is a living demonstration of just how different the general culture of gaming and geekdom is now than it was in the late seventies and early eighties when I carved my way in to this hobby through sheer determination. I'm glad this is a thing, and he's apparently totally up for it....future family games should be very interesting!

*OSR publishers take note: there's room in the market for a low-difficulty OSR style entry title with art to rival Paizo, Not sure how one might accomplish this on the usual OSR production budget, but it explains (to me) why the Pathfinder Beginner Box remains a successful entry point into the hobby.