GMing for kids (read part 1) is pretty much like GMing for adults ; almost too much like.
Kids — especially geeky ones — don’t evolve into adulthood in a linear way. A 10-year-old can be like a 15-year-old and a 9-year-old sharing the same brain (and same bedroom, as Warhammer figures jostle with Lego). It’s very easy to GM to their more grown-up aspects and forget their younger ones, which can then throw a spanner in the works.
Obviously, it all depends on the kids and your relationship with them. However, here’s what I’ve learned…
In my geeky neck of the woods, Halo Megablocs are a bit of a curse.
Oh, they are lovely toys! The mini-action figures are robust, the equipment and vehicles lovingly follows the original designs. (The company is also really good about sending out replacement parts, by the way.) Armed with a couple of boxes of the stuff, kids — mostly boys, in my experience, but your mileage may vary — can capture the atmosphere of the original video game series.
And there-in lies the problem.
Halo video games normally rate around 16+ for violence. However, the shear fact of the existence of a Lego-like tie-in range is a dead giveaway that they’re played by much younger kids. My son ‘Kurtzhau’ has been playing it since he was 8 — we had some great father-son split screen sessions, hunting aliens together, but my original intent was just to expand his MilSF slot to include more than just Clone Wars.
Now he’s 12, it’s lovely watching him teach his 8-year-old little sister ‘Morgenstern’ how to play. And most of her male classmates who have an Xbox have the game, so this lets her play with the boys —
— and why not? Halo has a wonderful imaginative genuine SF setting, fantastic music, immersive artwork, and though there’s violence, it’s not particularly graphic and has unpleasant consequences. In the single player missions, there’s even sophisticated tragedy of war and dodgy politics threads. In the arena modes, you get a chance to use teamwork to beat the opposition.
The snag is that the grit and grim of the franchise is attractive because it feels adult, which means the kids quickly grow out of the Mega Bloks toys…