Why role-playing games are good for kids – GeekOut
I am a huge fan of tabletop role-playing games (RPGs).
I love the way the games ignite your imagination and tell great stories, so much so that I was looking for an opportunity to introduce the games to my nieces and nephews.
So I was delighted to talk to Enrique Bertran who not only runs a very successful RPG blog called NewbieDM.com but created a role-playing game just for kids called rpgKids.
We talked about the game and its thoughts on kids playing RPGs and geeky stuff in general.
Hope you enjoy!
CNN Geek Released: Tell us little about yourself.
Enrique Bertran (NewbieDM): Well, I’m a husband and dad in my thirties in Miami who is a network sports television producer by day and a pretty big nerd by night. I’m into all the stereotypical geek stuff, “Star Wars”, video games, superheroes, etc … My wife calls me a man-child, and there’s some truth to that.
Geek Out: One of your designs is a tabletop role-playing game for kids called RPG Kids. Can you tell us how it happened?
BeginnerDM: I run D&D gaming sessions at my house with a bunch of guys I’ve been playing with for almost 20 years, and my daughter, who was four at the time, got interested in the game and its fun dice. So rpgKids was my way of introducing her to fantastic role-playing games in an easy way. I created some kid-friendly rules, put them on my blog, and it kind of took off from there.
Geek Out: Was RPGKids your first attempt at designing a gaming system?
BeginnerDM: Oh yeah, I’m not a game designer, I’m a TV producer, it’s my first passion. I tripped over the game’s design out of necessity.
Geek Out: How was the feedback on the game?
BeginnerDM: The feedback has been fantastic! I can’t tell you how happy it made me to hear all these parents discovering the game and having fun with their kids. For many parents, it is surprising how quickly children learn and begin to play a role. This is something that most kids do during games anyway, without the dice.
Geek Out: Do you think it’s a good thing for kids to play RPGs?
BeginnerDM: Absolutely yes.
I think it fosters creativity, teaches them basic math skills and it’s fun! What’s the negative? Some might say there is a bit of violence in these games, but in reality it all depends on how you present it. In rpgKids for example, monsters are injured or knocked out. No one ever dies, and there is always a lot of medicine waiting in a treasure chest.
Geek Out: At what age do you think you should start getting your kids into role-playing games?
BeginnerDM: Most gamers my age (I guess) started playing around the same time, when they were kids and video games weren’t as prevalent as they are today. I had my first box set at 12, in 1985, for example. I guess it all depends on what you present to the kids. Chthulu call for a little one? Probably not. Save Trixie the unicorn from the evil goblins and celebrate with a picnic? Yes of course!
Geek Out: How is making them play a tabletop RPG different from playing a video game?
BeginnerDM: Well, role-playing games are more imaginative, more social, and again I can’t say enough about the progress in math and reading my daughter made while we were playing together. Video games are mostly about sitting on the couch mashing buttons, and that’s not something I want my kids to do again.
Geek Out: Are there other role-playing games on the market that you think work well with children?
BeginnerDM: There are quite a few. Games like “Happy Birthday, Robot” by a game designer named Daniel Solis and “Mouse Guard” by Luke Crane come to mind. The latter isn’t exactly aimed at kids, but it takes place in a world populated by mice and can be presented in a kid-friendly way.
Geek Out: In your play tests, have you seen any disadvantages of playing children?
BeginnerDM: Yeah, she wants to play ALL THE TIME! Honestly, I didn’t see any negatives, and as a responsible dad, if I felt our games were having a negative impact on her, I would put the brakes on it. The only negative point my wife could bring up is that I am raising a nerd! But that’s fine with me. Better a nerd than a bully.
Geek Out: Has anyone ever asked you if you are openly proliferating nerd culture by creating what could be considered D&D for kids?
BeginnerDM: My wife doesn’t really like geek stuff like D&D, so she lets me handle that when it comes to the kids. I’m still not sure if she was happy or upset that my daughter dressed up as Darth Vader for her preschool Halloween. I’ll take the blame.
Geek Out: Do you plan to release any expansions for RPGKids?
BeginnerDM: I am actually a few days away from the release of the game’s first Adventure Pack. It includes four adventures and features pirates, dinosaurs, unicorns and wicked wizards. Keep checking http://www.rpgkids.com for that!
Geek Out: What RPGs do you play?
BeginnerDM: I currently play D&D, “Dragon Age” (a dice-based version of the video game) and “Star Wars”.
Geek Out: How long have you been playing?
BeginnerDM: Wow. More than 20 years, and especially with the same audience. Although now I play online via Skype and virtual tables. The technology is wonderful.
Geek Out: Rebel or Empire?
BeginnerDM: Nothing. A ferryman in my own Millennium Falcon. I might be becoming a rebel, but the money is worth it.
Geek Out: Final thoughts?
BeginnerDM: Yes, whether you do it through rpgKids or some other way, take the time to share your gaming hobby with your kids. You will be surprised at the results. Children also make great actors and storytellers.
At the end of the day, if the game doesn’t work and all you get out of it is an hour of laughing and telling silly stories, it’s worth it anyway.
Geek Out: Where can people find you?