Let’s talk briefly about role playing games (or rpgs for short). Most parents have heard of the most famous of these, Dungeons and Dragons. Is there a reason to consider role playing games for your family?
My wife recently attended a lecture at a local school concerning children and stories. The lecturer felt that it was good for children to be exposed to stories, especially those having to do with nature and the natural world. The feeling was that stories about animals, trees and outdoor adventures may lead a child away from the television and out of the house. I find that to be an attractive argument. In addition I think stories can teach useful lessons, they’re fun, and they bring people together.
At it’s simplest an rpg is a way for a group of people to team up and tell a story. Instead of listening to one person tell the entire tale you have each player contributing something. How many times do we read a book or see a movie and say “oh, I’d love to be that character but I’d have done it differently?” An rpg gives you the chance to do just that.
This is of course in now way intended to criticize classic storytelling. In my opinion if we doubled the amount of reading aloud and storytelling in the world then we’d be a better place for it. But if you as the adult can say “I like to make up stories,” and your children can say “we like to play pretend,” then an rpg may be a good addition to your game night.
Role playing games have other uses as well. In one sense they can be viewed as escapist. Your child can play one to act out an adventure of grand and crazy proportions. In another sense they can act as a way to model and test ways of dealing with the world. If your child is playing a wizard with a sword then how many ways are there to rescue the kidnapped prince? Should you wade in swinging the sword? Can you negotiate with the pirates? If the entire episode was a big misunderstanding does that mean it’s better to ask questions first? I don’t think every moment of play must teach a lesson but we do know that stories can teach morals and you can use rpgs to demonstrate different moral values. Just off the cuff I can imagine a game demonstrating the value of planning ahead, working with a team, respecting your comrades, the list goes on.
I’ll be discussing some rpg options in future notes. I’ll try to list games that are accessible to complete beginners. Parents should be able to pick up these titles and understand the rules with no previous experience in role playing. The games should also have rules that even younger children can understand. Finally they should be playable with the option for little or no violence. Rpgs can involve violent themes such as fighting dragons but I’ll try and focus on games that give parents the opportunity to limit or remove entirely any swordplay.