Our Geek Parenting panel at PAX was a lot of fun. We didn’t fill the 1,200-seat Pegasus Theater, but we knew that everyone who attended planned to be there, because it was a little off the beaten path on a Sunday morning. What that meant was we had some great audience participation and some great conversations about what it means to be a geeky parent. We covered a range of topics, talked about a lot of games, and gave away a huge pile of stuff.
I’ll give you a brief summary of what we talked about, followed by a list of the games that were mentioned during the panel (both by us and by the audience), and finally a list of all the stuff we gave out, with many thanks to everyone who provided the prizes.
GeekDad Dave Banks talked about why 3D should die:
The 3D of 2011 isn’t much different than the 3D of the 1950s and not all that much better. Among the reasons we’re looking forward to the end of this iteration of 3D: it doesn’t work for a huge chunk of the population, it has led to high costs for families and resulted in a worse theater experience, even when watching traditional 2D movies. Look for a post from Dave covering these points, and more, soon.
Cathe Post of GeekMom talked about kids’ games that are just like mom and dad’s:
When your kids are little, they may see you playing games and really want to join in, but they might be a bit young for D&D and Warhammer. What do you do if they refuse to play “age-appropriate” games? Cathe offered some suggestions of kid-friendly games that look and feel more like the games mom and dad play. Watch for a post on GeekMom about that soon!
Rael Dornfest from a little company called Twitter talked about education and gaming:
He shared some stories about the way that his kids learn through gaming — and not necessarily through “educational” games. He mentioned examples of how his son learned some reading skills through playing video games, building both social skills and math skills through Pokemon, and even learning that you can participate in a loved one’s hobbies even if you aren’t a huge fan of them yourself.
Asha Dornfest of ParentHacks (and one of the first GeekDad writers) looked at the big picture of geek parenting:
Being a geeky family doesn’t mean that everyone has to embrace the same things, or that everyone needs to play videogames all the time. Asha admitted that early on she really didn’t understand why Rael wanted to play videogames and was always urging her family to put down the controllers and get outside, because she thought of videogames as an activity without much value. But now she sees that there is value in the way we can play with our kids and be interested in their hobbies, and we can make room for a variety of activities in our lives.
Michael Venables talked about why kids play games:
There are a number of different reasons for kids to play games. One particular reason that struck me was that games allow you to do something risky or dangerous without subjecting yourself to the real consequences. In real life, you can’t run around a city, kicking helicopters and smashing things, but you can do these things in a game. As a child, you can’t drive a car for real, but a game puts you in the driver’s seat. Games can give you a taste of experiences which in reality would be too dangerous, or frightening, or impossible. That’s just one example; watch for a more in-depth post from Michael.
I (Jonathan Liu) suggested some good alternatives to traditional children’s games:
The biggest problem with some kids’ games (like Candyland, Chutes & Ladders, and Hi Ho Cherry-O) is that they don’t include any element of choice. Sure, they teach your kid some gaming etiquette, how to take turns, and they might be teaching some very basic skills like color recognition and counting. I recommended other games that can still work for young kids teaching similar skills, but that involve an element of choice, which I think is essential to gaming. Gulo Gulo is a good one for color recognition; Zombie Dice teaches counting just as well as anything; and Magic Labyrinth is a fun choice for a roll-and-move game, incorporating an element of memory to the game as well.
That’s just a very brief overview of the panel. It was a really great conversation — we also talked about letting your kids win at games (or not), finding those teachable moments when you realize that your kid is learning something, and what to do if your kid is not a geek. The back-and-forth with the audience isn’t something I can summarize easily here. You just had to be there… so if you’re attending PAX East or PAX Prime next year, be sure to stop by! We hope to continue having geek parenting panels as long as PAX keeps having us.