Thursday, August 17, 2017

Kid games

Today I played some board games with Pinkie Pie and her friend at the cottage.  Being as it is an old cottage it comes with the mandatory collection of garbage old games that are just coin flips that take an hour or ten to resolve.  It does have a few real games though, so today I tried to teach the girls Pente.  This is a simple old 2 player game that looks like Go in that you place markers on a grid but the rules are quite different.

The thing about Pente is that it has no randomness aside from who goes first.  I am not good at the game by any means, but I can't lose to the kids without deliberately setting out to do so.  We tried playing where I alternated turns with them as per normal rules but they quickly realized they were going to lose and had no interest whatsoever in that.  Then we tried a version where I play red and take a turn, then they both take a turn with yellow.

It should come as no surprise that in a game with no randomness if you take two turns to your opponent's one turn you win.  Nothing can possibly let me get a victory, and after smashing me effortlessly three times they got bored.

The trouble is that the girls want to win.  They aren't interested in learning, or practising.  They just want to beat people.  Since they are horrible at every game this means that they lean towards games that have effectively no decisions (or perhaps one decision that is completely trivial) so that they win as often as anyone else.  They don't want to get a handicap either, because then they don't feel like they were winning, so stupid old coinflip games are where it is at.

This is a cruddy situation.  I love games, and everyone knows it, so they want to play with me.  But when we play I am bored to tears because either we are just pushing tokens around all day with no thought or I smash my opponents immediately.

It is tricky because I don't want to say to them that games against them are boring as hell for me, but that is simply the truth.  I would play games where I win and they learn, or games where I have a reasonable handicap, but neither is acceptable to them.  They only want pure randomness.

So we have a shared hobby that we cannot share at all.  At least, not while everyone involved actually enjoys themselves.

People have told me that this will change as Pinkie Pie gets older but I don't see it.  I remember myself at roughly her age, and I liked challenging games.  I liked figuring them out.  She doesn't have that desire, or the mindset to be really good at games.  It just isn't a thing I share with her, much as I might want to.

I have been thinking about this a lot because while I was at World Boardgaming Championships a few weeks ago people were asking if my daughter would be coming along one year.  The honest answer was no.  She doesn't want to lose, and she would.  She doesn't want to play interesting games, and WBC has lots of those.

And, to be fair, I want WBC to be my week of total hedonism, not my week of being resentful while I follow my daughter around and skip out on seeing cool people and playing games I love.

Whatever I end up sharing with my daughter, I don't think games are it.


  1. I think what you want is games with both a very high skill component and a very high luck component. Suppose there's a game where the perfect strategy is subtle, difficult, and interesting to find (high skill), but if one player makes random plays, or makes the plays that follow a very simple rudimentary strategy, while the other plays perfectly, the perfect player has a 55% chance to win. This could be fun for you as you try to find the very best plays, but your opponent will still win often enough to have fun.

    I don't know what the quality and nature of the play in the Juniors room is, but it's possible your daughter would have fun in the Juniors room even if she wouldn't enjoy the adult tournaments. Playing co-op games in open gaming is another less competitive way to enjoy WBC.

  2. Fwiw mine were very much like Pinkie Pie for a while; when they were just a little older than PP is now, both kids started playing (and liking) more complex games like Shadows over Camelot and Settlers of Catan, etc.
    Granted none of the adults in their lives are Grand Masters like you but I think they've done pretty well getting into games. They regularly ask to go to Snakes and Lattes (where their tastes now live in social games like Five Seconds, etc)

  3. "So we have a shared hobby that we cannot share at all. At least, not while everyone involved actually enjoys themselves."

    Welcome to our world. :)