[Meta Gaming] A Moment of Sanity

Apparently this appeared in the New York Times the other day.

Judge John Hodgman on the Quest of Dungeon Master Dad

Paul writes: “I have a dispute with my son’s friend’s parents. They feel that Dungeons & Dragons is inappropriate for 5-year-olds. I think the imaginative play is good for our boys, but the other parents believe that the game will make their child an outcast. Help these parents see reason and allow their child to play a game of D&D.”

The court agrees that your neighbors are terrible snobs. I suspect, however, that playing D.&D. with your son is more your fantasy than his. Five-year-olds don’t need a lot of hex paper and dice to imagine that they are warriors or elves (or cyborg mermen with rainbow breath): They’re built for it. It is the adolescent who craves D.&D., as it offers the illusion that all of his increasingly terrifying interactions in real life are governed by a secret math that, while occasionally cruel as a vorpal blade, is at least comprehensible. Your moment as dungeon master will come, Dad, but for now I order you to simply let the children play.

I’m not dead. I’m just playing WoW again. I’m also designing a dungeon crawl for this year’s ArmadaCon. Well, I say ‘designing’, it’s more ‘flipping tarot cards and working out how many undead miniatures I can fit in my luggage’…

3 thoughts on “[Meta Gaming] A Moment of Sanity

  1. Well I never. Adolescent me would’ve walked over iron coals to have played D&D (first pen and paper experience of the game was at the tender age of 21), but I think that Judge Hodgman is spot on. Pre-adolescence, I was too busy running around a playground with my friends going “pew pew lasers” at evil aliens to bother with sitting down and rolling dice. Admittedly the lasers and evil aliens had a remarkable amount of backstory for children so young, but I will regale you with such tales another time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I seem to have missed this one.

    That quote is one of those almost perfect distillations of wisdom you sometimes see. Does it imply though that RPGs are for adolescents, and that we are presumed to eventually move beyond the adolescent stage? Maybe into a life where we cannot authentically believe in escapism because we know there is no system, and thus no escape.

    I played D&D as a kid. Not a 5 year old mind you, and I think he’s right, that’s just bonkers. I wouldn’t encourage my son to play an RPG until he could confidently read the book. I did let him look at the pictures in the Monster Manual, but I wish I hadn’t. He’s constantly bombarding me with questions about how many hits from different weapons it would take to kill a ghoul :D


    1. Well, yes. In general, I think comments on Games presume them to be ‘for adolescents’ and people who play them into adulthood to be cases of arrested development. ;)

      Tread carefully with your wee lad lest he become a Mathshammer junkie, a theory-crafter. Tiresome buggers all.


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