August 7, 2011

Games Are Good For You

I gave another speech at Boise Club 61.  Actually I made two speeches in two weeks, but one was an "Educational Speech".  Educational speeches are basically "canned" speeches that come from Toastmasters International that you have to give reasonably close to verbatim.  I took the material, made some minor changes and gave it as a PowerPoint presentation

The last speech was a bit different for me.  Lately I've been trying to write the speech the morning of the presentation and practiced working more short-notice.  This time I knew what I wanted to say for the most part and I almost didn't write a speech.  My gameplan was to simply write an outline and attempt to get the parts timed right.  Since I was familiar with the material I thought this would be a lot more like a series of Table Topics.  This didn't work too well in practice.  I found I was spending my time mentally writing the speech, spending too much time on the introduction, and didn't have any real bullet points.

In the end....and it felt like the end because it was almost 2 PM, four hours before the meeting started, I finally just "broke down"and started writing my speech.  I had most of it in my head so it wasn't hard to put it on paper.  Once I wrote the speech I read it, did some minor edits, and then created my small bullet list from that.  I had a quote I was planning on using so my bullets were just written down in pencil on the back side of the note card with the quote.

The speech went OK.  I ended up going three seconds too long and was disqualified for award of the Best Speech.  It might be more proper to say I was ineligible to be considered.  Wasn't like I was awarded Best Speech and then had it stripped away in some scandal.  Before I started my speech I explained to the audience that my back was hurting and I was going to remain behind the lectern for support.  One section that was written as two sentences turned into the verbal equivalent of an extended paragraph.  I was very happy with my evaluation though, because my evaulator managed to highlight what I noticed as shortcomings.

Games Are Good For You

        When I was growing up, games were for children or maybe a family event.  Playing games usually meant pulling out a deck of cards.  My parents, like many others, didn’t think gaming was important and they really didn’t know anything about Role Playing Games, or RPGs.
        For the purposes of this speech I am going to assume that you are all much like my parents.  Maybe you have a child who wants to play this odd game you don’t know much about, or maybe you are just naturally curious.  I’m going to try and explain what a role-playing game is and why gaming is an enriching experience.  While I am going to focus on Role Playing games, many of the positive aspects to other types of games as well.
        Regarding my role-playing qualifications, I’ve been playing assorted RPGs off-and-on with the D&D Blue Box set in 1977.  I was the 1996 German AD&D National Grand Champion and ended up placing in the top 10 at the European GenCon.  I run/play HackMaster now and I run the HackMaster Association on behalf of Kenzer & Company, the producers of the HackMaster game.
        On occasion I get asked, “What is a Role-Playing Game?  The Oxford Dictionary gives a great short answer, “a game in which players take on the roles of imaginary characters, usually in a setting created by a referee, and thereby vicariously experience the imagined adventures of these characters.  My usual response is bit more complex, but I think it helps get the point across.
        How many of you have seen Lord of the Rings?  I liken playing in a fantasy role playing game like participating in the movie, but there is no script.  Instead you have a Game Master, kind of like a narrator, a scenario, and character sheets.  The Game Master, or GM, presents you the scenario, in this case you have to destroy the One True Ring.  Everyone has rule books that help explain how the mechanics of the game works, dice to help determine success or failure, and character sheets that tell you what your strengths, abilities, and weaknesses are.
        Right from the onset participating in a role-playing game is an enriching experience.  RPGs are educational and social events that spark creativity and reinforce critical thinking skills.  Role playing games generally require a higher level of reading and writing ability than other recreational activities.  Basic math skills are practiced while playing.  RPGs use many sided dice as a game mechanic, teaching probability and fractions.  It doesn’t take many players long to realize that they have a 5% chance of rolling a natural 20 on an icosahedron.  The first dice used in Dungeons & Dragons actually came from an education supply house where they were used for teaching shapes, probability, and colors (they were color coded).
        Participating in any game, especially a role-playing game, is a social event.  It is a way for friends to get together and have a good time.  Most role-playing games are rather open ended and don’t necessarily end when some victory condition is met, like in card or board games.  Using the Lord of the Rings example, the Fellowship of the Ring, didn’t just quit when the ring was destroyed.  There were still things for them to do.  The long term social aspect of the game generally reinforces teamwork and cooperation among players.  The game is a group effort even though there could be some friction.  This happened in Lord of the Rings when Boromir felt the Ring should be destroyed.
        More than anything, playing in a role-playing game fosters creativity and surprisingly enough encourages critical thinking.  Even though some games use props and there is a lot of written material, at its core, most role-playing games are played within one’s imagination.  The players interact with each other and the game-master’s setting on a virtual playfield.  The players play their unscripted part under the guidance of the game master.  While a game is unscripted, it isn’t unorganized, at that is where the critical thinking comes in.  A good game master tries to guide players along a general path, giving them options and choices.  The players have to analyze those options and determine their own course of action in order to meet their goals.
        Outside of a particularly rewarding work environment, few things have the potential for the level of enrichment provided by a good role-playing game.  Role playing games are educational because they encourage better reading, writing, and math skills.  Role playing games are fundamentally creative social events that also reinforce critical thinking skills.  Next time you are contemplating a recreational activity think about the difference between watching The Lord of the Rings, or getting together with nine of your friends and playing the Lord of the Rings.

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