Starting a Family Game Night: GenCon Trade Day Report – Part 2

A few weeks ago I attended the GenCon Trade Day, a workshop for teachers focusing on the educational use of tabletop games. One of the  sessions  I attended was hosted by staff members from the Indianapolis Public Library on how to start a family game night. This can be a great event to build community at a parish or Catholic school — here are some of the tips I got from the presentation:

  • There are four basic types of games you can offer: card games, board games, role-playing games, and  video games.
  • Don’t offer regular playing cards — the risk of poker and other gambling games is too great. Get cheap “Crazy 8” or “Old Maid” decks instead. Uno is also very popular.
  • Cheap board games can be found at second hand stores.
  • If you offer role-playing games, advertise for game masters in advance.
  • If parents have religious questions about role-playing games, recommend the FAQ from the Christian Gamers’ Guild.
  • If you offer video games, be sure to review them for content ahead of time. Don’t offer games rated M!
  • If you have electronic games, keep extra batteries on hand.
  • Makes sure someone at the event has at least a working knowledge of the rules of each of the games you offer so that you can answer questions that will arise.
  • Post rules. The most important: whoever is in charge has the final say on rules disputes!
  • Get help from local gaming stories. See if they would be willing to demo a game or offer prizes.
  • Contact game companies and see if they will send playtest versions or door-prizes.
  • Ask families to bring or donate games.
  • Package and label your games carefully, including a list of all the pieces.
  • Have options for all ages.
  • Offer snacks!
  • Market your event through flyers, newsletters, and social media.
  • Remember: it’s about having fun and building community!

Gaming and Catechesis: GenCon Trade Day Report – Part 1

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the GenCon Trade Day in Indianapolis. For my non-geek readers, GenCon is a huge convention dedicated primarily to tabletop games — board games, role-playing games, card games, etc. Before the convention, however, there is a day-long program for teachers and librarians on how to introduce and use games in an educational context.

I went to a few sessions during the day, but by far the best workshop was the first one, “Critical Hits: From RPGs to Humanities,” which was run by faculty members from the Todd Academy.

The teachers gave three suggestions for how to incorporate games into the humanities. In the first, students are encouraged to create a narrative game based on a fairy tale, story, or myth. In the second, “Choose Your Own Apocalypse,” students design a city, a monster to attack the city, and defenses for the city. This was a really fun “hands on” part of the presentation.

The terrible EscarGore threatens the peaceful inhabitants of our botanical city!

Finally, we were shown how to incorporate simple improv games (think Whose Line Is It Anyway?) in the classroom. Students from the Todd Academy were present and they  demonstrated  some of the games for us.

The first and last suggestions seemed readily  accessible  to religious  education. In the first, students could create a game based on a story from Sacred Scripture or the lives of the saints. For instance, imagine a game in which students follow Jesuit missionaries traveling from Europe to Asia to establish new churches.  Students should be encouraged to focus on the central conflict, journey, or objective and avoid simple “roll and move” mechanics. Have students identify the most important parts of the story and how the game rules will reflect those parts.

For older students, improv could be an interesting method for exploring catechetical ideas. Students could play the Superheroes game but use virtues, sacramentals, or other religious themes as the basis for their superheroes. (If connected with a particular unit students may even pull them from a hat instead of suggesting the themes themselves.) Similarly, the Three-Headed Expert game could be used as a silly and fun way to review at the end of a lesson or unit.

The presenters were kind enough to hand out their lesson plans for non-commercial and educational use.

Have you ever used games in your classroom? How did it go?