Saturday, February 03, 2007

Personal Development? Gaming Development!

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks. Since we got back from Lorne, I’ve been doing some soul-searching about work and life, which is always a little exhausting. But that’s the start of the year for you – and for we Aussies, this is the start of all the different types of year. Well, it is if you took most of January off for school holidays.

Otto went back to daycare last Monday, Fraser went back to work on Tuesday, and Biggie started in grade 3 at school on Wednesday, which was also the day I went back to work. By Thursday evening, I was out at a professional interest group seminar until after Biggie’s bedtime.

There are still a couple of firsts to come – Monday is Otto’s first day back to pre-school (and the day her baby cousin starts at daycare!), and Tuesday will be the Bigster’s first swimming lesson for the year. And somewhere in there we will get to relax and just breathe for a few minutes :)

Anyway, with all that going on, I’ve not had much time at all for games, so it was great to go to Eurogamesfest today and spend four hours or so playing Tichu with Fraser, Anna and Kim. I really love card games, and it was great to have a really long session today; we switched partners, so everyone played with everyone. I’d like to think that I was the winner, but Anna got a Grand Tichu so I think she might have that honour.

The conversation turned, at one point, to playing card games with the kids – there was some discussion about whether we should start Biggie on Tichu, give her a couple of years until she’s ready to start playing Bridge, or just ramp up other card games.

And then we moved on to the slightly weird conversation.

See, I try very hard not to be a pushy parent. If truth be told, I probably err too far in the other direction – leaving my kids to sort things out for themselves, rather than encouraging them to stretch and extend themselves. And I had worried, recently, that Biggie was moving too quickly into ‘adult’ Euros when she has plenty of childhood left. That’s why we’ve been playing more of our kids’ games, and also older ones like Cluedo (Clue) – although, as Fraser noted last week, she still got to play both Puerto Rico and Settlers while we were on holiday.

But today, we were discussing our children’s development as gamers as though that were a normal conversation for parents to have, and as though the types of games they play were a normal indicator of a child’s progress.

The verdict? Otto has learned turn-taking and some simple concepts from playing Marrakesh, Spooky Stairs and Gulo Gulo. Her abstract thinking and pattern recognition is quite good – she’s excellent at Blink and Catch the Match and also at Ingenious, although we don’t usually score that when we play. She is fascinated by numbers and needs to learn more about them by trying Snakes and Ladders and also start with a simple card game like Uno – I saw a Dora the Explorer-themed version the other day that I will look out for.

I’d also like to play some more standard memory games like The Same game and even Sherlock, and a pattern-matching game like Dominoes – and maybe a more random simple game like TummyAche as well. That should keep us busy for a while, and by the end of the year we should have her playing Junior Labyrinth and Halli Galli.

Biggie is harder to place. She loves complex games, and does well at San Juan. She won her second game of Puerto Rico and loves Settlers, but needs to focus on strategy – she’s a very tactical player, but is less effective when it comes to pre-planning what she needs to do. We want to play more abstracts with her, because she is really very good at those (far better than I am!) but also to work on her cardplay.

My goal for her is really to help her to better play the games that she already plays, rather than starting her on new ones willy-nilly, although we have a few lighter games that I think she would enjoy. That’s really a function of her age and maturity levels, and I think that the more formal school curriculum in grade three will help her to settle into the habit of thinking before doing – although that can take years to really learn. The thinking and deduction skills of Cluedo will be a real asset to her, though, with other games, with schoolwork and with life in general.

So, there you have it. Gaming development plans for both of my kids.

Meanwhile, I’ll be working on my Princes of Florence skills.

See you in the Workshop,



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Gerald McD said...

You know you are talking with a real gamer when they discuss their children's development in terms of the games they play! [In my case, it's grandchildren.]

Anonymous said...

Looks like I missed you guys in Eurogamesfest last Sat (came @ 8pm), but when I arrived, Anna was still crowing about her Grand Tichu. And then she proceeded to wipe the floor with us with yet another round of Tichu plus some weird Worm collecting dice-rolling game she picked up from Cancon. I think we got stares from the other tables whenever she kept yelling for "WORMS!!!"

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