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Saturday, 27 February 2016

"RPGs for Kids" are not Really For Kids

Today, the RPGPundit goes after a group notorious for how well they handle the slightest criticism of anything they do: Parents. Oh, also, millennial hipsters, who are just as renowned for their thickness of skin. Let's do this thing.

I really have to question why it is that the makers of what are supposedly "RPGs for kids" always end up making an RPG when you play kids?



Because when I was a kid, I NEVER wanted to be a kid. I wanted to be an adult. That's what kids want.


You know who wants to play kids? 20-somethings and 30-somethings filled with melancholic nostalgia for their lost innocence, or some kind of total bullshit like that.


(when I was a kid, there's no way I wanted to be this:)


(What I wanted was to be this:)

Or this:


Which again reinforces to me that so much of the "roleplaying with kids" thing is not about the kids at all, but about the parents and adults. It's more a selfish thing than anything else; even if (hopefully) most of the kids involved are still actually having a nice time.

The only kid I ever GMed (who was 9 when he started with us) got to play in my Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign as his "rpg for kids". He did not play a kid. He played a gender-fluid wizard with a penchant for reckless ultraviolence and destruction of life and property. Actually, first he briefly played a Dwarf, then the ultraviolent gender-fluid wizard, but you get the point!

The whole cutesy-poo "kids" thematic of games like the two in the images above and a few others I've seen popping up is not meant to appeal to kids, it's meant to appeal to adult gamers.  At best, adult gamers who are parents, showing them a safely sanitized and bowdlerized G-rated imagery because apparently the second you actually pop out a kid your brain chemicals make you forget what it was actually like to BE one, and what you really like as a kid. At worst, to college-aged hipster millennials who are facing a future of working for minimum wage at food co-ops while paying off that $200000 student loan they got for taking that Maori Studies Degree minoring in Interpretive Feminist Dance, and thus spend their time pining for an idyllic an uncomplicated childhood that never actually was.


RPGPundit

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36 comments:

  1. Excellent post, really!

    BTW, last time I played with an 8 year old (and the only time I did this since I have left this age category myself), it was Tower of the Stargazer.

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  2. This is why I'm creating Living Paranst, my DM's Guild series to be "Honobono Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition" The engine is not much different from the standard 5th Edition, and you can even play it using the standard rules. But the Honobono Mode is there for younger and families to play; the kids can learn 5E for when they graduate to heavier themes--and Living Parnast even touches important topics like technology, the environment, the Refugee Crisis, disabilities, and a lot of other 'taken from Real World themes' that they might ask questions about--and the kids don't have to feel that they're playing a toned down game where the game is 'talking down' to them. They can even play as kid Adventurers under the guidance of the kind-hearted-though-eccentric Lord and Lady NPCs that accompany them.

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  3. I miss Bethareon in DCC, he is now almos 13 and awesome as ever, actually went to see Deadpool with him 😝

    And who the fuck would want to role play Dora, unless it's a psycho version of Dora...

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  6. Totally agree with the RPGPundit on this one. I have an 8yr old and a 10yr old and introduced them to rpgs. They played OpenQuest fine, the trick is to have simple rules, but not playing kids as characters. My boys can run Advanced Fighting Fantasy with ease, but something with a cover like Hero Kids would send them running a mile heh heh

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  7. I had never heard of those "children's RPGs" you referenced above. When I ran roleplaying games for my kids, we just used the same games I used for my grownup players — and the assumption was always that once they could handle the rules easily (and could stay up past 10:00 p.m.) they could join the grownup game.

    Enlighten me: do those "children's" RPGs not have combat in them? Do characters never die? Other than artwork, what distinguishes them from any other roleplaying game?

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    1. Pundit doesn't know either because he has neither played nor even read the rules. He is posting a completely uninformed opinion on a subject he knows little about since he neither has children nor has played games with children in the age groups for which these games are intended.

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  8. As a parent of a real-live kid I see how her interest is increased when whatever it is we're doing includes kids.

    I also agree that some kids would want something different.

    It's almost like the parent should pick games that match their child's interests instead of letting game designers or pundits tell them what's best for them.

    What makes those games kids games is not the child stars. It's an RPG, can you not make whatever character you want? It's the rules. I haven't played No Thank You, Evil but I've played Hero Kids. The character sheet is laid out to require little to no reading and the rules require some basic comparative math (picking the highest result out of a number of dice)

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  9. An RPG for kids isn't for 9 year olds or 10 year olds. They are for 5 and 6 year olds. So they are playing older characters, but old to a 5 year old is 15.

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  10. When I was a kid I wanted to be Darth Vader and Megatron as much as Luke and Optimus. So "Sure, Evil, why not?" Plus the Cobra figures were WAY cooler... :D

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  11. When I was a kid I wanted to be Darth Vader and Megatron as much as Luke and Optimus. So "Sure, Evil, why not?" Plus the Cobra figures were WAY cooler... :D

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  12. Began playing RPGs as a kid, with other kids, and it never once crossed any of our minds that our characters would or should be kids...why would it when the source material was all about grown-up badass adventurers? (We were playing Basic D&D, Star Frontiers, Gangbusters, and Boot Hill.)

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  13. I mostly agree with your post, but have a mild rebuttal -- while I haven't read the rules of the items you posted as your examples, I can see where there could be value in teaching a child to think of *themselves* as the hero (i.e. - they are playing themselves, but with some super power or such) as a way to teach role-playing...

    Especially for the very young children (ages 5) that some of these games appear to target, and especially if you are trying to teach the child that not all conflicts need to be resolved with violence.

    By putting their imaginary self into the conflict, instead of Killzo the Ultra Powerful Death Wizard, you might be able to get a bit more nuance out of the teaching.

    It's not just about learning role-playing. It's also about social skills at that age.

    So it may go a bit to far to say that these kinds of games have no place in role-playing, because it depends upon what the goal of the lesson is (and if you are a parent, you know there is *always* a lesson that needs to be learned). You may want to teach morality and ethics at a young age...

    They will learn to be murder hobos by the time middle school rolls around even if they don't play RPGs.

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  14. RPG-like media where main characters are not adults (in which a kid might want to roleplay):
    My Little Pony
    Paw Patrol
    Spy Kids
    Dora the Explorer
    Jake and the Neverland Pirates
    Teen Titans
    ... dozens more...

    Are you saying no kids want to role-play in these worlds? My 5 year old daughter would disagree pretty strongly with that opinion.

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  15. My 6 year old is into playing RPGs. She has no interest in playing as an adult. She wants to play as a baby dragon. Ultraviolent and chaotic, but a baby dragon.

    This post goes completely wrong in thinking that it's actually possible to understand what kids actually want in this regard. They invent their own RPG scenarios way before we ever get wind that they're doing it. God forbid someone should try to put together a game that facilitates that inherent proclivity.

    The quoted games are targeted at the adults because this enables the adult to engage with the role playing the kids are doing anyway, and do so in a way that the adult feels comfortable doing so. Doesn't hurt that the adults probably have money to buy them either.

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  16. I agree with you 100% Pundit.

    When I was a kid I dreamed about being an Adult, doing adult things. Not about being a kid with a magic teddy bear or hot rod bicycle.

    It's the reason the Star Wars films have sucked since and including "Return of the Jedi". The Ewoks was Lucas pandering to what he "thought" kids wanted in the films. As if they couldn't identify with the adult characters. The Ewoks were originally supposed to be Wookies which would have been great. Sad how an amazing creator can loose his mind by second guessing his own work.

    When we are young we are in a rush to grow up and find adventure, and when we get older we pine for the carefree days of our youth.

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  17. Yes. It's a common error of adults, not just in RPGs, but in movies, tv, comics, etc. to think that what kids want is to see 'someone like them' being the hero. That's what got us Wesley Crusher.

    There's also the separate phenomenon of shows featuring kid characters that are actually more about appealing to adults than to kids. The people making these know that certain adults create a nostalgic notion of their own childhood that leads them to wanting that fantasy confirmed.

    Finally, yes, there are examples of media featuring kid characters that do turn out to be good. The one unifying feature all of these have (but not only these, so it's not a guarantee of success) is that the kids in these media always either act like adults or have to take on the responsibilities of adults because the adults are somehow missing, incompetent or otherwise compromised.

    This is all in reference to kids, not teens. Because the difference is that teens consider themselves adults already, so they don't need to fantasize about being older. Teens just want to see teens (or in the case of TV and film, 20 or 30-somethings pretending to be teens) in a position where they don't have to do what adults want them to.

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    1. No, what got us Wesley Crusher was adult writers trying to write a teenager without getting input from actual teenagers... which is a lot like adult RPG players assuming what they know what kids want out of an RPG.

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    2. and writing about it on their blog without any actual input from players in that age group.

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    3. Man you are taking this personally. You must be carrying a lot of guilt over making your kids play RPGs with you. Can't find a regular group?

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    4. Yes, another ad hominem attack over nothing (since I have a Friday night game every weekend even while raising 3 pre-school aged children).

      You can only hurl insults because you have no actual leg to stand on. You did do any actual research or read any reviews for yet another one of your pointless rants.

      Good job!

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    6. Well, I can't help that you seem to want to just keep playing a guessing game of figuring out why you really feel so obsessively upset about this very short blog entry to end up writing way more than its original size, in hysterical rants.

      I would guess that it's something to do with your kids.

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    7. No, I'm just bored and like messing with you... and pointing out your ignorance.

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    8. No, I'm just bored and like messing with you... and pointing out your ignorance.

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  18. Pundit is:
    1) Not a behavioral psychologist. - check
    2) Does not have kids. - check
    3) Doesn't play "Let's pretend" games with kids between 5 and 10. - check
    4) Didn't actually read the rules of the games he is criticizing. - check
    5) Did not realize these games he criticized are meant for kids between 4 and 8, ages which he considers "too young" for RPGs. - check
    6) Thinks his remembrance of being a 9 year old and a single gaming experience with a 9 year old as an adult makes him an expert. - check

    Has no basis for forming a valid opinion on this subject. CHECK.

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    1. Citation for #5 above:
      https://plus.google.com/u/0/108006304228021078063/posts/E8Uy2cCuxTH

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  19. For anyone *actually* interested in how these kinds of games play with kids, instead of reading Pundit's no-experience opinion, you can read reviews of people who have *actually played* these games with their kids (what a concept):

    http://www.madadventurers.com/rpggamerdad-yes-please-no-thank-you-evil/
    http://oldmenrollingdice.blogspot.com/2014/01/my-review-of-hero-kids.html
    http://www.wired.com/2013/01/hero-kids/
    http://www.nerdsonearth.com/2015/06/review-of-hero-kids/
    http://usandacat.com/thelair/2014/my-hero-kids-and-their-first-rpg-session/
    http://stuffershack.com/rpg-review-hero-kids/

    And lots more on Google...

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    1. Every kids game has disgusting cutesy-poo art. Hero kids teaches kids dice pools, which is like teaching them to become terrorists.

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    2. Lock up your d20's. They're coming for them, Pundit. The gaming bogeymen will outlaw D&D forever, tie you down, and make you play story stick games.

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  20. What's up with the double posts?

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    1. Blogger does that on the mobile version for some reason. They're mobile support is terrible.

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  21. Interesting, I want to play Golden Sky Stories and Ryuutama as they tell different types of stories and could be considered more "kid" friendly as they are simpler rules and less combat oriented. I like them due to their mechanics. I tried Hero Kids once with my son. Now he just plays 5th edition DnD.

    A simpler versions of rules work well with my 6 yr old and 4yr old girls, but that is just a lack of math skills, but for them I have just had them roll one straight d20 with "animal companion" type stat blocks and I do the math for them. So my daughter can be rainbow bright/wonder woman type warlock with a magic attack she uses every round.

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  22. My kid played epic fantasy on FUDGE starting from the age of 7. He prefered then to play young men. Not adult adult, but not a kid neither

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