“All right. All three of you are spelunking. You each have some granola bars, some water, 20 ft. of rope and a flashlight. You are about 10 ft. into the cave and you hear a human shout ahead. You cannot tell which of the four caves ahead of you it is in. What do you do? ”
To any geek this sounds like a typical D&D campaign, or at least part of one. It isn’t–it is our car game. Instead of dice deciding–since the game master mom is driving I try to consider their solutions and decide whether it is possible that it might work. At each decision there is a chance that something will go wrong or “rocks fall everybody dies” but in general this is a much simpler (and much less deadly) version of the geeky game and one that fosters story telling and problem solving.
The kids enjoy coming up with possible solutions and have many opportunities to try again and test different theories. In this case it took about 20 minutes (half the drive home from Grandma’s) to come up with a solution to the problem. They managed to find and save the fellow spelunker who had fallen into a hole about 70 ft into the cave.
On the same car ride they managed to rescue a kite from a tree and find a way to get home should our car stop five miles from town (they were able to figure out where the car was stuck based on the direction and and chose the person who was closest to come and get them.)
The game is very similar to the role playing people tend to do with younger children but geared towards building their communication and problem solving skills ( most of the “rocks fall everybody dies” endings occur when the person planning isn’t clear about their solution and leaves out vital details like holding breath or turning on flashlights.)
I got to thinking about it (and playing it) today after talking to the kids about the passing of D&D game designer Gary Gargax while wandering around Borders Books today.