Kids, Moms, and Cons

OK, time to get around to reflecting back on Origins. It was, of course, wonderful and amazing to hang out and talk and play games with all kinds of great people all day and way too late into the night. But what made this one truly unique was the first few days when our kids (a girl, age 10, and a boy, age 9) and my mother (pushing 70) came to their first game convention. I’ve been looking forward to this for years, and there has been much discussion about the best time, place, and way to bring the kids. And overall, it was fantastic.

Here are some great memories and some lessons learned, in no particular order:

We struggled a lot with what was the perfect age/con/time to bring the kids. They probably would have loved it last year, too, but we wanted to be able to give our full attention to the arrival of our other child, The Dresden Files RPG (here’s Ryan Macklin’s excellent discussion that gives me that analogy). But when the boy called us every single day during Origins last year, not to say hi to his parents but to check in on “how the books are selling,” we decided they really were ready to appreciate a game convention. And they were–they came to play (and review) games, to see the sights, to play more games, to meet our friends, to play some more games, to look for that specific elusive Pokemon, to pick up some dice, and to play more games.

We all spent a lot of time playing the Origins Awards nominated games, as well as anything Looney Labs and Out of the Box would demo for us. Some games were great; some not so much. (Ligretto Dice was a HUGE hit, but sadly unavailable at the con.) We came home with a number of games and will be picking up Ascension at our local comics/game store. And a few games we’re glad we checked out before spending money on them!

We brought my mom along, too. I’ll admit this made me a little nervous since the world of RPGs is pretty foreign to her. But she’s an avid game player, and she was intrigued by the idea of thousands of people getting together to play games for a week. And she was every bit as opened mind as I hoped she would be. I think she was really touched by Tom Vasel and The Dice Tower and the charity work they’re doing to help other families going through a tough time. She could see past the weirdness around her to a group of people that (for the most part) doesn’t exclude people and that takes care of its own. And I was glad to share this part of my life with her, because it’s really the kind of thing you can’t easily describe to someone who has never experienced something like it!

The other great thing about having my mom there was that we got the best of both worlds. She stayed with the kids in a different hotel, so once they went home for the night we could still hang out until the wee hours with our friends and colleagues. If you can possibly figure out how to bring a babysitter to a con with you, it’s SO worth it.

Our girl came dressed in a long pink skirt, fairy wings, and a flower in her hair and she bought a circlet with a jewel in the middle of her forehead. She was totally freakin’ adorable. I know, I know–don’t praise the girl for how she looks. On the other hand, being in a place where playing dress up was accepted, expected, and rewarded when you’re 10 was really fun for her. The great Pokemon search her brother was on wasn’t really her thing. But when people complimented the outfit she’d designed and put together all on her own, her perception of it was a whole lot more than people valuing her just because she’s cute.

I wish we’d been able to do more research before they all arrived–thinking on your feet with two kids and your mom in tow isn’t the easiest thing. As others have pointed out in their own blog posts, finding knowledgeable people to help and answer questions at Origins wasn’t always easy. There are a few minor things I would have done differently if I’d known more.

My mom and the kids came on Wednesday afternoon and all day Thursday. If I had it to do over again, I’d have had them come Thursday afternoon and all day Friday. It would have given us more of a chance to get a feel for things first. We still found plenty of stuff to do, but I think we could have found a bigger variety of games to check out. Scoping it out in person instead of making assumptions based on previous years would have been preferable.

I think I’d have liked them to stay more days, but for less time each day. We packed so very much into Thursday, the kids (and the rest of us!) were exhausted by the end. This made saying goodbye extra hard. Next time, we’re also considering having them come for the second half of the con, so they get there later but leave when we do. That way we don’t have to say goodbye at the con at all.

Before we went, I looked into attractions like water parks, got a hotel with a pool, checked out non-game activities at the con–for us, that was all wasted time. The con was plenty of distraction and could easily have filled a couple more days. The hotel with a pool was probably a good choice, though, even though they didn’t use it until the morning of the day they left. It took some of the sting out of leaving early.

This is getting mighty long. Any of you fellow geek parents have experiences to share, suggestions to offer, or questions to ask?

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5 Responses to Kids, Moms, and Cons

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