What Your Kids Can Learn From Gaming

By Steve Wilcox

We started my children gaming as soon as they could recognize the numbers 1 to 10. We used a very simple rules system, three classes/characters, and a number line on top of the page. Without realizing it they quickly mastered simple addition and subtraction as they were slaying monsters and rescuing innocents from certain doom. This was also the beginning of the idea that actions have consequences (a major theme in our house). Characters could and did die, sometimes heroically and sometimes comically. Even today when dealing with discipline issues I will occasionally say, “You ran at the dragon again” before handing out a consequence.

As the kids aged we slowly introduced more complicated rules until we were playing Dungeons and Dragons 3.5. As before, they were required to look up rules and be prepared (or have their character stand staring dumbly doing nothing for a round). This is when their problem solving and social skills really started to take off. Watching them develop a plan and defend it logically to the group was great to see. The idea that not every problem can be solved by using force and the idea of sometimes you need to fight the good fight started to appear. I like to use gaming to explore the human experience and playing with my children did not change this.

The best benefit I can think of about having a gamer kid is as teens, I can get my kids to sit down and spend time with me simply by setting a game up. Whether a table top role playing or a more free form narrative type game, both of my kids happily disconnect from screens to play. After the usual parent vs teen arguments about chores or school I can quickly reconnect with my son by asking his opinion on an idea I have for a convention game.

Personally, I find gamers over all to be better equipped to deal with emergencies and other circumstances life throws at us. I believe this is because we spend so much time thinking through situations and thinking of a solution to problems quickly. Like an athlete who practices by visualizing, practicing problem solving makes you a better problem solver.

Recently at a child’s birthday party we had an unexpected visitor. A brown bear was in the neighbor’s yard behind a fence. As we moved all the 5-year olds into the house the bear was slowly moving towards the woods and the end of the fence. My 15-year-old son was walking toward the bear to get a better look. When I asked him what he was thinking he pointed at a group of 5 adults standing at the end of the fence and told me it was fine he can run faster then at least 3 of those people. A gamer answer if I ever heard one….

Bring your kids to the gaming table, you may need to start slow and simple, but I promise you won’t regret it.