Midwinter Wrap-Up: The Convention That Helped Me Find What I Wanted To Be When I Grow Up

he Midwinter Gaming Convention takes place in downtown Milwaukee usually during the 2nd weekend in January. For some reason, geeks and industry professionals descend onto the city and play games for 4 days. This year, the actual reason people would brave our winter became known. Midwinter has now moved into a spot for me professionally that will be hard to pass. It has become both a place of networking and discovery.

This was the first year for the Industry Summit, and to be very honest, it has surpassed all other conventions in what I have taken away from. Not only have I met so many amazing people within the industry, but I also learned so much. Learning that my struggles and secret wishes for support were not that far off from everyone else was comforting and I feel as if I have a new perspective when it comes to others work. The lovely Anne, owner of Daydream Productions, made sure to gather everyone’s input on what they would want to see in the future, which was great to have. I’ve been to conventions where the workshops and discussions are all the same and it gets stale.

The main take away from the summit? Celebrate others achievements and setbacks. Why setbacks, you may ask? Because failure is always an option. You can learn so much from failure that you might never notice in any other setting. And there were a lot of achievements this Midwinter, all of which I am excited about.

Kicking off my highlights of Midwinter is FetchQuest! FetchQuest is a deck building game based off the Pugmire RPG. You get to play the main characters in the book and go on adventures. The game plays well to role playing out what your character does as you fight bad guys and complete quests. It is still in the Beta phase, but even at this point, the game is very solid. The design of the cards needed some tweaking with the lettering, but looks gorgeous overall. I will be backing it on Kickstarter once it is up, so watch for that!

Next up is a super cool LARP called Sidereal Sanctuaries, which looks at social justice issues through the lens of modern fantasy. It is a gorgeous game, and has been turning a lot of heads. I’ve been watching the development and art and I cannot wait to see where it goes from here. They had their first game at Midwinter and will probably be returning next year. This game is not for the faint of heart, so come prepared, but you will leave better of then you were when you started.

Another MAJOR announcement is that Onyx Path Publishing will be publishing the second edition of Dystopia Rising! The game will feature both tabletop and larp mechanics, and expand upon the world. They are working closely with the LARP organization of the same name to incorporate as much of their world as they are able, and build off their structure. This is a huge endeavor and one that I am looking forward to seeing. This is still in super early stages of development, but it is happening, and it is good.

Saturday I got to do something really cool for the first time. I’ve had a card game in my head for some time, so I wrote it all out, got some blank cards, and started alpha testing it with a couple of people. My main concern was it being a viable card game. My secondary concern was the rules and how it affects play. This was all new to me and it was very much a positive learning experience. I made sure to get people who I trusted to give me brutally honest feedback, and while the game had some kinks to work out, they overall enjoyed it. I will continue to tweak the game and move forward with this game. I’m not sure where this will lead, but it will not be boring!

I also got to alpha test a social game for a larp setting. This game has also been in my head for some years now, and seeing it play out was really neat. Again, the players BROKE the game, and I am forever thankful for it. I’ve been calling it A Quick Game of Chess, but I might change that. It needs some revisions, but this game will be up on DriveThru at some point, which means you can adapt it for your larp! Or it can be a party game as well. I will be sharing more on this later.

Second Act has their first larp debut at Midwinter and it went very well. I helped write the plot lines and ran some scenes for players. I had a ton of fun, and I’ll let you in on a secret. That was my first time doing ST work for a LARP. Ever. I do hope it went well. I got positive feedback on the game and was told it helped them interact with the established groups of players already in the room. 

Sunday I ran several workshops and games for a bunch of Girl Scouts and kids. I did Storytelling 101, which was a total adventure. I am hoping I was able to help some young girl scouts find their way in the gaming world, and as several people stated, I look forward to having my characters face melted off by a gaggle of girls who are not afraid to go for it. Bring it on ladies!

I also ran FirstFable and Mermaid Adventures, which were both awesome games. Everyone had fun, and I even incorporated a little 6 year olds birthday into my PLOT for Mermaid Adventures. We even sang Happy Birthday as our characters to her. How neat is that?!

My loot this year was fantastic. I will be writing more on each of these as I read through them. They all caught my attentions for multiple reasons, and I fall a little more in love with them every time I see them.

Overall Midwinter is a fantastic convention. It’s growing in size every year, but is not over crowded. If you want more information, please visit their site! I look forward to next years convention and everything it entails. 

my loot!    

my loot! 

 

Why use RPGs in the classroom?

Edited by Michael Hansen

So why use RPGs in a classroom? What benefit does it bring to their education? 

Roleplaying games, or RPGs, have traditionally been associated with teenager or adult crowds and will generally follow complex stories and include things like violence or other themes. Recently, there have been several RPGs have been created with young children in mind. These RPGs use simple stories and mechanics to help introduce younger children to the world of RPGs. As a grown up, or GU, leading these children through these stories, you play a very important role. To understand that role fully, it is good to keep in mind the skills that RPGs help to strengthen in children. RPGs have faced many differing opinions and have worked hard to overcome these stigmas and present themselves for what they are, a powerful tool that can be used to help teach children. As a GU, you are a very important teacher to every child. 

Kids learn best through play. Period. However, there is a difference in quality of play, directed play and free play. RPGs offer a safe environment for children to explore social situations with the benefit of an adult there to help them navigate as needed. The quality of play can be as rich or simple as you would like it. If you are new to this whole gaming thing, keep your story easy to follow. Base it off of fairy tales that the kids know and recognize. Free play options in the world will allow children to explore naturally, using language to navigate through their story. This may take some practice to get used to, but adds a great benefit to the children's experience. 

In a classroom setting, RPGs offer a much needed break from traditional classroom expectations. They provide enriched learning in math, language, social and emotional skills, and imagination. RPGs offer a very quick way to grab the attention of young minds whose attention spans have not been fully developed and uses several different approaches to help lengthen those attention spans. We will discuss each of these areas separately now. 

Math skills are the most apparent skills in this game. The use of dice helps with counting. Children need to figure out: 1) how many dice to roll, 2) what numbers are on the dice, and 3) how many dice in the roll succeeded. These are 3 very important , basic skills a child will benefit from in the long run. Counting dice. Pass/fail rates and one to one counting skills are all included in these skills children learn how to 'count out' as well. This is a skill that can be forgotten, but is a very important skill in understanding what counting is actually for. To do this, tell the child, before they roll dice, how many successes they will need to win their roll. Then have them count out how many dice meet the winning condition, then compare their numbers. The children go from counting and comparing greater or lesser numbers to counting up numbers and comparing those. The math skills for younger children are very complex and build up early skills for more difficult math later in life. 

Language skills are one of the most underrated skills that roleplaying games utilize. Children have to learn to tell stories and describe actions, which is hard for adults to grasp. Letting children do this at a young age helps to build up those skills early. Sequencing stories is a great language building skill and will help children follow grammar rules and story understanding in the future. Children love to tell stories to begin with. Think of how big of an impact that would have if their stories actually did something. Being an active character in a story and affecting the other characters around them is magical for children. It encourages them to use language to describe the world around them, what they are doing, and how they are interacting with everything. This gives them control over the story, and in turn, control over language. To have words and sentences actually have effects on things is powerful. 

Social and emotional skills are extremely important for young children to have. Children use play to work out social situations or emotions they may not yet understand; it is a safe way for them to explore these feelings. Learning how to cope with the emotions they feel, empathize with others and recognizing things that may bring out these emotions are all skills that can be strengthened through RPGs. Everything from bullying to gender rolls can be explored and, as the GU, it is a great opportunity for you to help answer questions for your children or observe and see how your children will react. These are the skills that kids will remember and take with them the rest of their lives. You play a very important role in leading them through this, and can help them become stronger individuals in this area. 

The imagination is the last skill, and one that is largely forgotten in this day and age of standardized testing, common core and fitting square pegs into round holes. Imagination drives innovation. Kids need to have a safe place to explore new ideas that may or may not work, without the fear of failure. Kids should be allowed to try and connect the dots in a story in new and interesting ways. Sometimes it will work, sometimes they forget a step and it fails. Encourage them to keep trying. By encouraging our kids to solve problems in unusual ways, we are openly encouraging them to think outside the box. New technologies, innovative practices, and many other successful endeavors stem from the creative mind. Kids are natural builders and thinkers. Sometimes they think SO far beyond our comprehension that we see it as wrong and discourage that type of thinking. As educators, that handicaps children in the future. There are many child inventors, and all of them had an adult that encouraged them along the way.

RPGs also fulfill another crucial role when used correctly. Many school districts are adopting the Common Core curriculum standards. Leaving personal opinions out of it, when used correctly, Common Core can help guide educators on teaching children of every age group. RPGs are, by their very nature, adaptable. RPGs can be used to teach in compliance with these guidelines without stifling children's creativity. You are able to tailor skills and information to what you want to teach at any level. Older children can use dice to figure out more complicated math structures. They can also write out their own stories to share with their classmates. 

RPGs present a very diverse and useful tool in every GUs arsenal in teaching children many different things in a fun and new way. There are many different ways to present information, and stories can be tailored to each child's interests, development progress and needs. RPGs have come a long way in the past couple of years, with many new games coming out with children in mind. It will be well worth the time to find one that suits your needs. 

Tips for buying comics for your kids

Written by: Crystal Mazur

Edited by: Mike Hansen

Comic books have been around for a long time. They carry a stigma for some: they are blamed for illiteracy and delinquency, and are wrongly seen as a sign of uneducated minds.  Time has proven this to not be the case, but the perception exists with individuals. This is a missed opportunity for exposing children to different types of literacy. Comics can reach out to children who have difficulties reading. While it may not be a form everyone will like, offering the experience of reading comics gives kids one more option in their reading arsenal. As an adult, it is important to understand the basics in the world of comics. This can be a very confusing adventure. Here are some tips to help adults navigate the world of comic books.

Make it special

Reading should be special for both the parent and the child. It is a chance for children to use their reading skills to understand the story that is taking place. Reading should be a fun experience and children have a natural desire to read. Go to a local comic store or book store with your child and involve the sales people in helping find the perfect comic for your child. There are comics that can be perfect for kids as young as 3.

Proofread

It takes all of 3 minutes tops to look through the comic book before your child does. If it makes you uncomfortable, you have the right to look for another comic book that fits your comfort levels and still excites your child. Marvel does have a rating system, but it is only mandatory for Marvel Comics and optional for all others. There is NO standard for rating comics!

Ask for Help

Whether you are in a bookstore or a comic store, the salespeople are there to help. Many times the stores will have a special area for early readers. If they don't offer comics for young readers, talk with them about possibly doing so, and feel free to go to another store. Never feel like you have to wander aimlessly around a store looking for what you want.

Talk with Other Parents

You would be surprised to discover which of your friends read comics. Or which parents use comics with their kids. They may have wonderful suggestions for you, or be willing to help you find the perfect comics for your child. Ask around your local community for comic book stores, or groups who will help you out with comics. There are parent reading groups and cafes in my area that teach children about comics and help parents get excited about it.

Learn HOW to Read a Comic Book

Many parents decide not to use comics because they don't understand HOW to read them. Once you get some practice in it, it does get easier. First, basic boxes go from left to right, top to bottom on the page. If there are odd shaped enclosures, follow left to right, top to bottom. One good way to look at comics is that if you read it over and it makes NO sense, scan the page to figure out the direction. Most of the time the art will support the direction of the words. If you are having trouble still, the art sometimes leads your eye to the panel that should follow it.

Talk to Your Library

Many libraries carry comics, or will carry comics if there is enough interest in the local area. They can always borrow from other libraries, so you don't have to track down older issues in a mad chase around town. If your library does not carry comics, speak with your librarian about acquiring them.

Know Your Issues

There are different TYPES of comic books?! Why yes! The two major types are issues and trades. Issues are a series of stories and are generally paper covers. Trades are a larger collection of issues and tend to have a sturdier binding. For children, issues are easier to handle, but rip very easily. Trades are much sturdier but more expensive, and younger children have a harder time holding them. Pick which one is best for your child.

Take Time to Teach Kids How to Handle Comics

Comics are fragile, especially the issues. You will need to take time with your child and teach them how to hold their comics to make sure they last as long as possible. They will rip comics and they will fall apart, so don't freak out. Some simple repairs can be done to help them last longer. Once the comic has seen its last days, don't throw them away. Reuse them as comic themed art for your playroom or bedroom.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY!!!

The first Saturday in May is Free Comic Day! This is where local distributors or community organizations provide free comics for everyone. You can visit www.freecomicbookday.com to find local stores in your area. Many stores will have costumed actors (CosPlayers), cake, sales on merchandise and movies running all day, celebrating the importance of comics in literacy.

Where Else Can You Find Comics?

I'm glad you asked! Here are some links to find awesome comics just perfect for your family! DriveThruComics is an online distributor that offers both PDFs and print on demand! They always have offers going on for free comics or sales on comics. DriveThruComics