On Friday, I met the kids for Boardgames elective for the first time. Biggie and her friend were there (Year 5 – 10-11 yrs old), with four of the five boys (Year 6, 11-12).
I’d put some work into planning a program for the five weeks, which covers a range of game types and, I think, actually teaches the students something about the different types of games that are available.
We started week 1 with introductions.
I went round the table and asked them what games they already enjoy. I thought it was a leading question as one of them had been saying earnestly to another, “I’ll be eighth level by the end of the year” – but apparently schoolboys don’t play D&D any more. Showing my age, there …
So after I established that they all play World of Warcraft, I mentioned that there was a WoW boardgame.
“We HAVE to play that,” they declared – but of course it is much too long for our little one-hour sessions.
Other games they enjoy include Escape from Colditz – not sure whether that boy has played it or seen it, but he was keen and mentioned it a few times.
“Do you just play games all the time?” asked one of the boys.
“I wish!” said I.
We started our themed weeks with “Push your luck games”. I always find these easy to teach and to enthuse people about – much like Dexterity games, they’re just fun. Of course, most of the fun is in seeing other people fail spectacularly …
Our first game was Incan Gold. This is one of the games that proclaims us to be “tragics” – Fraser was given a copy of Diamant for a birthday, but couldn’t face the thought of his lovely game being taken to school and fondled by grubby fingers, so we picked up Incan Gold as the demo game. Oh no, we are not obsessed at all.
It took perhaps 25 minutes to play a full game of Incan Gold, and the kids were engrossed the entire time. There was even cheering and I’ll swear someone held his breath as I turned a crucial card over. One boy was less confident than the others (I think his English isn’t as good), but even he got into the spirit of things and picked up plenty of treasure. Now, I’ve played this at school many times, and it’s always been a hit – but I was beyond delighted when one of the boys stopped to check how many cards were left and how many of those were potentially bad. I really, really wish I had time to play Settlers with them this term.
After we finished, I passed out some Game record sheets – I always take these when I go to school, and I put them together myself, based in part on comments from Giles Pritchard. These note the name of the game and give it a rating out of 10 (they all thought it was the BEST GAME THEY HAD EVER PLAYED), then ask 3 questions:
- What did you like about the game?
- What did you learn from playing the game?
- What will you do differently next time?
I think they need to put some thought into their answers next time, and not just write “next time, I will win” – worthy goal though that is.
We talked briefly about choosing new books to read – you tend to look at authors you like and things you like to read about – which I used to lead into looking for the name of the game designer or at a familiar theme. Bruno Faidutti, you are now famous at a suburban Victorian primary school.
To finish up, we played a couple of rounds of Can’t Stop (the boys) and Monopoly Express (the girls).
All in all, a big success – the teachers seemed happy, too, and the kids are defnitely looking forward to next week.
Intriguingly, so am I. I always enjoy playing and demoing games, but working with the slightly older group has been so much more rewarding than working with the younger levels. Errm, not that that isn’t rewarding too. But seeing kids that genuinely enjoy not just playing *something* and getting off school work but actually playing a game, exploring it, thinking about why they like it and how to play better – that was just fantastic.
They were keen on the forward plan, too – I thought they might feel a bit cheesed off that they had to work with a parent (and a girl’s parent, at that), but that didn’t seem to be a problem. Poor Biggie was mortified when I told one boy (who tried shit!fuck! when disaster hit him) that if he continued to swear he would be out of the group, but he didn’t try it on again so I suspect it was just a test. (I did let a stray “damn” go without comment)
So here’s the plan. I’ve really concentrated on choosing games that will fit comfortably into our hour, which is really more like 50 minutes by the time they come in and settle, then have to pack up before the end of the day.
Week 2: Co-operative (and un-co-operative) games
Week 3: Games of Memory, deduction and observation
Week 4: Game development (their eyes lit up when I said I could bring in a couple of prototypes for them to look at – I offered 2-person games as an alternative but they want to see the game development stuff)
Week 5: Dexterity games.
After that, end of term. I’ve wondered about having a game session for them, maybe after school one day, where they could try something longer, but I think I will wait and see how things settle. It’s unclear to me whether they will continue to do boardgames next term or whether they rotate to a new group – but I am still considering the option of a games club at school. At the least, I will have seeded it with some older kids who know a few.