A 12 year old’s Role Playing Game creation

For anyone not observant or paying attention to the fundamental changes occurring with kids, games, media and their attention, I’d like to offer up one illustration: my 12 year old son and what he’s doing right this minute building an RPG.

This kid is a gamer. So much so that last summer he begged us to do something with video game classes and I discovered ID Tech Camp, which are held at various universities. He stayed in the dorm for a week and had a great time.

When we arrived for family day where we’d see his video game creation and pick him up, the instructor pulled his mom and I aside and whispered, “We had a bit of a problem with him.” Not something you want to hear as a parent and we were prepared for the worst, but the “problem” was due to the fact that he learned the game creation software, built his game and was done two days early! They couldn’t regroup fast enough to handle his abilities.

He started in on his begging routine a few days ago asking me to PLEASE, OH PLEASE download the demo of RPG Maker. I was reluctant since it only runs on the PC, we’ve dumped the one we had at home and he’d have to use my MacBook Pro with Parallels running Windows XP. Not a big deal, but knowing him he’d never let go of a computer I use all the time!

My guy is out there right now completing his first level. He was confused about how to work the software and had no training other than going through the Help screens and playing with the software. He has an intuitive understanding of the logic that I don’t have since he’s played hundreds of hours of games. That logical understanding provides him with a feel for how a game should be laid out and how levels should be structured before someone can proceed to the next one.

In less than 30 minutes, he’s created the first level, added a character, figured out how to give it attributes (and colored its hair and added a costume and cape), and has chosen fun music to narrate the game play.

I see his understanding of systemic logic played out with mobile phones, computers, and any other digital device as well as his understanding of how systems work (even something like a lock and dam on the Mississippi river we visited when he was 10 years old. He almost instantly understood how it worked). It’s why the woefully inadequate technology he has in school means that virtually NONE of his systemic-oriented accelerated learning will be occur in school. We’re fortunate to be able to afford new tech and I’m a gadget hound, so he’s got access to stuff most kids don’t.

His expectations using Web sites and software is that they just work. That he can manipulate, hack and interact with them. That they’ll give him what he wants without alot of goofing around.

Funny last point: Since the RPG Maker didn’t need his full attention, he’s watching one of his recorded shows on our DVR while laying out his new RPG game.

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  1. Joel Corriveau on April 3, 2007 at 7:52 pm

    It is so fantastic to hear an enthusiastic parent hailing the potential for growth and learning from games.

    Video games taught me the craft of story and character; about problem solving and overcoming obstacles; and gifted me with strong hand-eye coordination.

    It drives me crazy to hear parent’s shoot down the value and worth of interactive media. And it is so great to hear that your son is creating and expressing his imagination in the game.

    For other accessible dev tools, check out Bioware’s Aurora toolset, (comes bundled with Neverwinter Nights, which I picked up recently for about $25.) And for “old school” exposure, check out Adventure Game Studio – which is free. Both have active communities where he could post his designs for others to play and provide feedback. (Unfortunately for you and your MBP access, both are PC only.)

  2. DK on April 4, 2007 at 1:46 am

    You have a true ‘digital native’ on your hands there… enjoy!


  3. jingle on April 4, 2007 at 10:22 am

    I appreciated your article as I have a somewhat negative view of interactive media. I am still not totally convinec of the benefits but will keep an open mind!

  4. Matt Horne on April 4, 2007 at 7:07 pm

    Isn’t it exciting to think about the way that our kids are learning, or in my case, are going to be learning? Wow! I was recently at NCCE (Northwest Council for Computer Education) where I got a chance to listen to Will Richardson talk about his daughter. He was asking, and I’ll echo this question along with him as an educator myself, what is the value, today, of learning something like the birthday of a president when one can simply send an SMS message to 466459 (which to those of you who don’t know spells G-O-O-G-L-E) that says, ‘theodore roosevelt birthday’ and instantly get back:
    Theodore Roosevelt
    Date of Birth: 27 October 1858
    Source: http://www.who2.com/theodoreroosevelt.html
    I’m not sure there is a whole lot of value in rote memorization like that. Our kids, like yours and mine (I have a 9 month old son) will be using these technologies in the same way that you and I used our rolodexes or our calculators. Amazing to watch, isn’t it?

  5. Lisa on April 9, 2007 at 10:36 am

    My 12 yr old son would love to come hang out with yours!! He is an electronics natural, as well! I think he would have loved a camp like your son went to!

    As we cannot afford those things, he just lives on the XBox, the gamecube, his gameboys, Dungeons and Dragons and those such games, and all of his dragon and wizardry books.

    I’m sure opportunities will present themselves for him to explore his brand of smarts, as he progresses through his school years.

    Isn’t it so fun and interesting to listen to them explain these things in great detail, particularly when they’ve stumbled upon some newfound juicy detail? I sit, perplexed and nodding, but, smiling ear to ear!

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About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.