Gaming Fatherhood

Introduction to RPGDad, or All I Need to Know about Fatherhood I Learned from Some Little Tan Books

I have been an employee, boss, student, professor, mentor, mentee and more, but I think little has prepared me for the details of fatherhood as much as has my role as a gamer (maybe that just shows how woefully unprepared for fatherhood I really am). After all, as gamers we constantly contemplate not only the current state of our character, but what got it there and where it is headed next. We learn to make plans and to change them quickly as situations (and GM whims) shift. Gaming encourages us to closely examine the minutiae of life and assess our own role in it.

One of the principles you will find in many games is that early game progression should happen quickly, with characters improving rapidly for the first hour or so of play. This is especially true in MMOs, where the tutorial quests are often designed to get a player through the first 10 levels of development in that hour. The next 10 levels may take several days. The 10 after that may take a week or more, and so on.

Most tabletop roleplaying games do the same. In most Dungeons and Dragons games, characters often reach second level after the first full play session, while it may take dozens to reach the higher levels. Most skill-based systems, like Fading Suns, make it much cheaper to gain basic competency than to become experts.

Many other games take a similar approach, giving the player the basic skills needed quickly (jump, build, attack, etc.) and then requiring much more time to learn the various nuances of those skills. Game designers often illustrate this with a game progression curve, wherein player skills should increase in tandem with the difficulty of the game. In most cases, this curve has its most dramatic growth at the beginning of the game, slowing down over time.

One of the fascinating things about the parenting books I have been reading (“What the Heck were You Expecting?”, “The Baby Owner’s Manual”, “Mr. Spock’s Vulcan Baby Care”, “Drinking Scotch from a Nipple”, etc.), is that their descriptions of childhood development bear a lot of similarity to that curve. I don’t mean that our skills grow in tandem with life’s difficulties (if only!), but that our early development is much more rapid than it is later in life. We go from n0 mobility to walking in less than a year. We go from no more communication than screams to talking in a similar period of time. Our size changes dramatically in our first year, and at a much higher rate than it ever does again (barring Pym Particles).

In many ways, infancy and early childhood has the same primary purposes as RPGs – character growth and development. In the next post, I plan to focus on whether childhood is a level-based or skill-based system. Until then, how do you think your gaming has impacted your real-world character development?

1 Comment to "Gaming Fatherhood"

  1. Angus McNicholl's Gravatar Angus McNicholl
    April 23, 2015 - 1:44 am | Permalink

    Hi Andrew,
    Yes fatherhood is a challenge and it does get more challenging as children grow through various developmental stages and you inevitably add more of them to your brood.
    Where I live in Scotland we have a number of early life programs. These focus on the critical developmental stage of the first 1001 days of life. Basically the quality and attachments of the first 3 years of life a huge determinants of a childs future.
    Mostly these programs focus on reading to and communicating with a child. Something that as a gamer comes more naturally to me than perhaps to others. I cannot imagine not reading to my children, but apparently most other parents need to be encouraged to do this.

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