Geek Proud, GeekOut.

Scare Your Children

This will be a short story, it is quite late as I write this, and I am also beavering away at some of the other projects that we have going on in the background. Book layouts are not as fun to play around with as you might think.

After about six years in retail I have passed the point of putting on a facade of normalcy, and instead encourage my customers to see things from my perspective. Aside from the fact that I am sick to death as being treated like some kind of subhuman, shambling manservant – good for heavy lifting and raising lightning rods – encouraging people to see me as human actually sparks some great conversations.

Take the little girl and her family I spoke to this week. Broadly standard stuff, same thing I hear day in, day out, a laptop for nothing more engrossing than Word and Facebook (oh yeah, I work in an electrical retail store), Mum and Dad want to keep it simple, daughter wants to play games but that’s not in the budget, so I do the usual to try and make negotiations easier and ask the kid what kind of games she likes: “Give me titles, what do you play?”

“Minecraft…”

My heart takes that little plunge of disappointment as the hope that just for once that wouldn’t be the first thing I hear. Dammit, the kid’s maybe 8 years old? The game’s almost older than she is! But of course, it’s effectively infinite Lego, so despite the bloated Java I still have to concede that it’s fun to play and undyingly popular. I prepare the words to put the parents at ease that an inexpensive computer will still be capable of getting Minecraft off the ground if not properly flying, when the kid surprises me.

“Mount and Blade: Japan…”

… What the hell, small child?

First of all, that’s some excellent choice in mods right there! Second, have you ever played Dynasty Warriors, or any of the Total War games? Wait, you have a pet rat? Why am I asking, look at you, you little proto-nerd, of course you have a pet rat.

The short version is, this kid is cool! If my work day had ended with that family I might have left happy* that day, but instead I concluded the sale, shook hands with Mum and Dad, then finally shook hands with the kid and said with absolute conviction:

“You have a long and awesome life ahead of you. Don’t make the same mistake I did and get into Dungeons & Dragons before you’re 19.”

The response was an enormous grin from the little girl, and a wry smile from Mum who said (and this is the point of the story, it was going somewhere):

“How about Call of Cthulhu?”

Lady, you may never read this article, but that was the most awesome thing I have heard… possibly ever. And I was not kidding when I said you shouldn’t pull your punches just because your daughter is still young, it’s an important rite of passage for a child of that age to realise that fear comes in many forms, and may prepare her for the true nightmare that awaits her in The End, and later in adulthood.

I think children should know fear. Not direct threat to their personal safety or well-being (I’m a terrible human-being, but not that inhumane) but in a contained way, like overcoming a fear of spiders by seeing them in a tank. Knowing that fear can be overcome, and that adversarial conditions need not be insurmountable can help make for confident and determined adults, and tabletop role-play also makes them smarter, resourceful, and creative. How about Call of Cthulhu? You may run the risk of leaving lasting trauma of course, but maybe that in itself can be productive… “Don’t smoke kids, or you too may be swallowed by the beasts that swim that abyssal ocean of darkness between the stars…”

Happy Hallowe’en everybody!


*It didn’t, and I didn’t.

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