Things I learned at my last gaming convention: Beware of kids

A few weeks ago I attended a local gaming convention. Now, I’ve been going to this con on and off for about 10 years now, and pretty much every convention I’ve had fun at. This time, sadly, was an exception. I did have fun, but unlike most past cons where I’ve had mostly great games, I only really had 2 great games this year, and 2 OK games. Now, I’d like to specify, this wasn’t the cons fault. The staff were very professional, great about tracking drop outs and getting walkins into games they wanted to play, and had wicked prize support (I got so. much. stuff.). In some cases it wasn’t even the DMs fault; a player was a jerk in one, for example. However, I decided to do a series of blog posts on what I think went wrong with each game, and how they could be improved, as in some cases I don’t think the person that was ruining the game, whether player or DM realized what they were doing. Given that, I have decided to do a series of blog posts detailing the various problems I had at this con.

I’ve decided to start with one of the decent, but not great games. None of the players were painfully bad, the DM was competent, the the adventure was OK, if not great. However, the DM and one of the players showed up with their kids. Both very young, six perhaps? It was obviously prepared ahead of time, as both kids knew each other and one came in costume as “his” character, a halfling ninja known as “Red Ghost”.

Now, I’d played with the adult actually playing Red Ghost before, and he was normally quite good, even if he went off alone and got into trouble more then I prefer in the party’s rogue. However after they brought their kids….the kids were well behaved for the first hour or so, happily rolling the dice and trying to follow what was going on. The second and third hours were less pleasant. The DM had to keep track of his kid, and what 6 players were doing all at the same time. That didn’t go so well. The last bit of the game was more salvageable, but only because the con gave the group a giant foam d20 as prize support, and there was an open area near our table where the kids could run around and throw it at each other without bothering the table.

Yeah. Con advice from Canageek: Until your kids are older and more mature, don’t try bringing them to cons, at least not a 4 hour, serious, game. None of us want to lose a character we’ve spent 8-12 hours (it was only a 1st level adventure) levelling to die because you were too busy keeping track of a kid to pay attention to the map. This goes double for the DM, since you have more work then any of the players, keeping track of all of us AND all your monsters.

Four hour games are just too long for young kids: Get them into gaming at home, when you can take breaks when their attention span is used up. Perhaps find a con with shorter games more suited to kids (Kobolds Ate my Baby comes to mind as an easy one to teach them). But for Gygax’s sake, don’t subject them and us to 4 hours of pathfinder with a child OBVIOUSLY bored out of his head. It isn’t fair to either them or us.

Until next time, Stay Geeky.

–Canageek

Edit: Some people are misunderstanding what I’m saying: I’m not saying kids shouldn’t be gaming. I’m not saying don’t being them to the con at all. I am saying pick appropriate events for them.
For example: The board game room has a lot of games that the kids could have been full participants of, rather then being bored and just rolling the dice then going off to play by themselves or falling asleep.

Alternatively, one of the people was the DM. Why not instead of signing up to run a Pathfinder Society game, sign up to run something that the kids could have been a full part of, with their own characters. Kobold’s Ate My Baby keeps coming to mind, as it is silly and immature. Off the top of my head, Ada used to run a game of RPGKids for her two kids. You know, something they can enjoy, instead of suffering through it.

I think getting kids active and involved in gaming; having them sit there bored isn’t the way to do it. Get them involved with a game they can enjoy.

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Published in: on March 26, 2013 at 12:24 am  Comments (2)  
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  1. The DM should not be on “kid patrol” as a friend of mine calls being the responsible adult for young children. At least not at a public convention with this sort of game. Running age-appropriate games and bringing your own child works – I took my daughter, as a preschooler, to a game at Gamestorm which was billed as games for 2-5 year olds, run by the dad of a preschooler who brought several of the family’s favorite games. My late husband and I used to trade off on the kids so the one without the kids could focus on the game. Sometimes, the one with the kids played, but never DM’d. For example, when I was on kid patrol, if I had to step out of the room with the kids, my husband or a friend could play my character until I had time to come back.

    I am getting ready to register for this June’s Origins convention, to which I’ve promised to bring both kids. I’ve regretfully told myself that I won’t have time to play much Living Arcanis (the campaign that got me to Origins in the first place). I can do some while the kid’s room, sponsored by Mayfair, is open, and if I can find a babysitter I can play the evening slot. But a large portion of the time should be for my children and I to find games that we all like to play.

  2. I have nothing but sympathy for you boss. I’m not great around kids at the nest of time as I get frustrated quickly with their lack of focus. Even working in a book shop it gets on my nerves when parents suck at kid control and let them run amok. At a convention, when you should be running a game, leave them with someone else. I understand that we want new gamers, but you’re spot on about picking games that will be conducive to this, instead of the games that the adult wants to play…


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