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Subject: An open letter regarding "Kids" and BGG.con rss

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Mark Cole
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Rock Hill
South Carolina
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An Open Letter to The Membership of Board Game Geek

Hi - I'm relatively new to BGG, I have never attended a CON, I have basically been a lurker, however now I feel compelled to chime in here.

Having spent considerable time working with kids, raising my own and viewing the general degrading of adult-child relationships and interaction, lets not lose sight of this area of common ground. Put yourself in the "Kids" position for a moment. Anyone have fond memories of the good old days and concept of "Family Time"? Did we play games occassionally during that time (I did)? Did we just quite possibly develop our love for gaming from these experiences (yep again)?

Instead of trying to legislate age criteria for attendance why can't WE, as an active membership, develop a program that accepts "Kids" instead of discouraging them? I know several that are more adult than several "Adults" I know. These "Kids" have accounts on BGG. They read the posts. What message are WE sending?

Would it be so hard to set up a "controlled" kids gaming area with an age/ability appropriate games library? I would be willing to bet that the kids would be more than happy to brings a couple of their favorites to stock it. Parents and interested others could volunteer to staff the area, manage the library, be referees and guardians. The gaming area could be set up with time appropriate hours of availability ( 8A - 12N, 1P - 5P, 7P - ?). The "Kids" could have their own drawings, contests, tournaments and prizes. KidsCon anyone? All "Issues" to be dealt with if/as they occur. Parents and others who may enjoy interacting with "Kids"(yes there are still a few of us around) should be encouraged to attend gaming sessions in the "Kids" area. Others could relegate themselves to the "Adult" venue and not have to suffer the ill effects of interacting with "Kids". God forbid something positive, like teaching, respect and understanding should come from such interaction.

There may be any exception or two but I believe generally that parents WANT to bring kids with them. Not because Grandma or Aunt Mary isn't available to baby sit while Mom and/or Dad go to play games, but because they value the ability to do something fun as a family. The "Kids" WANT to come because, for them, this trip is not mandatory fun.

Face it adults and parents can not spend enough time interacting with kids and when there is a common interest it's all the better.
Don't jeopardize this resource.... they are OUR future more than you realize.

I have additional thoughts and ideas for such an endeavor. If there is an interest feel free to contact me. Should I ever find myself in a position to be able to attend a BGG.con I'll happily take a few of those 4 hour shifts.

Mark
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Mark Cole
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ROFLMAO My sentiments exactly! I know it can happen and thanks for your post.
 
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Kevin McKenzie
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I would love to see younger kids allowed at BGG.con.

The last two years I have not been able to attend because the con fell on the days of group campouts with my son. If I could of brought my son (Age 7) to the con then we would of done that instead of the camping this year. Since I could not bring my son then it was a simple choice to not go to the con.

I would be very willing to put my efforts towards a kids area and library. I agree 100% with you on interacting with our children and gaming provides a wonderful way to do it. Gaming to me is a social experience for my family and my friends.

My son does better than I would of expected in many games and my three year old is actually playing a reasonable game of Ingenious. I do however understand some peoples reluctance to play in a game with a young child since they are not predictable players and many time do sub optimal strategies which can unbalance a game. Hmmmmm actually I know of some adult players like that....
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Melissa
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I'm very conflicted.

I don't travel without my kids, which for BGG.con means literally thousands of dollars extra, and the need for babysitting or to take a nanny/family member with us. Despite this, we hope to attend in a couple of years' time, at which time the girls will be 5 and 10.

If a room like this were provided, and we were ever to attend, we would probably use it for 1 day of the con. But, much as I love my kids, I want to be able to do some adult gaming too. And to not have to watch that I don't swear or say something inappropriate, and to interact with other adults as a person and not be watching out for my kids all the time. I commented in another thread that we would seriously consider flying a family member over to act as a babysitter/nanny if we went to the con, so that we could leave the girls in her competent care for most of the weekend if need be.

The girls are there when we play games at home, and sometimes with friends, and join in when it's appropriate - but when we go to games days we (where possible) choose not to take them. And they're relatively well-behaved children, and very respectful of games and of gamers. I am sure that, if we asked them, they would say that they wanted to attend a con - but the reality would be quite different from their expectation.

A large part of the appeal of BGG.con, for me, is the adult environment. Now if it were possible to have a children's area WITHOUT impinging on that, and without increasing costs due to insurance and other risks, then it would be great. But if not, if it would affect aspects of the con organisation in some way, then I vote they stick with the tried and tested format.

If we do make it, we'll probably play a couple of games in our room, and introduce our friends to our little darlings. And maybe ask if any other geeks have non-attending children in tow, and want to go sightseeing or something together. Maybe even have some unofficial children's area for some of the con, if there is interest in that.

But I don't like the suggestion that the organisers of BGG.con have some sort of moral obligation to let children attend the con. And I disagree vehemently with attempts to equate family gaming time with attending cons. The two are quite separate, and the BGG people are certainly very aware and committed to promotion of games and of game playing.
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Boo
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As a convention organizer I can understand why some people might not want children at conventions, however there are ways to comprimise. CanGames does the following and it seems to be working for us:

1. Children age 12 and up can register and play in games without a parent or guardian.
2. Children age 8 to 11 can register and play in games where their parents are already registered to play.
3. Children age 7 and under are welcome to come to the convention but must stay with their parent/guardian. We do not restrict them from playing in open gaming areas as long as they are supervised.
4. There are Children's games run on the Saturday of the Con from 9 am to 6 pm. The games are for kids age 8 to 12 (we do make exceptions based on special circumstances i.e. younger children that we know play games regularily and older children who have learning disabilities). The parent/guardian must stay on the premesis but are encouraged not to hang around the kids and they are forbidden from giving any strategy advice. The games are 1 to 2 hours long and geared specifically for this age group. I organize this section of the Con and try to ensure that there are games from all genre's so that the kids can get a rounded introduction to gaming.

Last year we had 2 kid breakdowns in the Children's game area. One young girl rolled poor stats for an RPG and had a teary breakdown and we had to get her father, another young boy had a full tempertantrum during a Clay-o-rama game where he felt that the other kids were picking on him, his mother and aunt came and still he was unable to pull himself together to finish the game, we continued without him. Every year we have at least one small incident this way with kids and that is why we have the restrictions we do. If an adult has a breakdown you can eject them from the game and ask them to leave, you cannot always do that with a child. Some children are very reasonable, intellingent and calm in the face of a losing game position, but most cannot control their feelings the same way as an adult (of course not all adults handle this well either, but you do not have to be sympathetic with adults). We have also found that the majority of kids under 12 cannot maintain the attention required for most of our 4 hour game slots and when prizes and trophies are involved the adults get upset when a child throws a game because they are bored. The other issue is that most of our games are run in a 4 hour timeslot - that does not leave a lot of time to go over rules and play a game. Running games with kids is more time consuming regarding rules and strategy. We also allow GM's to restrict the ages of the gamers in specific games, but we encourage them not to unless the nature of the game would make this wise i.e. xenophile.
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Antonio Chavez
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I think Jenniffer hit the nail in the head. It's easy to paint a rosy-colored landscape with intelligent and well-behaved kids; sadly, when organizing an event, you have to plan for the worst. Now, imagine a couple of brats running around, or worst, one throwing a temper tantrum on hour 2 of Twilight Imperium. It can ruin the mood for a lot of people.

I have a 3-year-old that I'd love to bring to cons. But one of the things I have learned is that, as a parent, my tolerance threshhold is raised; he can act at a level of noise and activity that doesn't bother me at all, but that is annoying to my childless friends. I don't think I'm alone in that "syndrome", and I think that might be a huge issue here.
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Kevin McKenzie
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Just to clarify my stance.

I am not implying that I think BGG has any Moral obligation for this. I would like to bring my son to the convention but that is my preference and not an obligation in any way to BGG and the organizers of the convention.

I do not think this thread is in any way tying to degrade what BGG has done for this convention. Everyone that I know of that has gone has had a good experience overall.

I do feel it is my obligation to let my desires be known just in case that makes any difference for the future.

As I stated: Gaming "For Me" is a social experience for family and friends. So for me they are related to each other. I do like adult only games at times, but I am also always looking for the opportunity to involve my family when I can. Since my 3 year old is not yet at the point of being able to play many of my games that means in our house that me and my son can play a 2 player game while my wife watches the toddler. Once she is older this dynamic will change and we can have more multiplayer family games at the house. Untill then I look for opportunities to get my son involved with other players.

I would have gone to BGG.con if it had not fallen on dates that I had commitments to do camping with my son. So I am not stating that I am boycotting the convention because of this policy. It just has happenned for me that both years lined up with the YMCA Adventure guides campouts. Had it not, I would of gladly attended the convention. I actually registered both years and when I could not go donated the registration fee to BGG.

If kids under 12 are allowed I would definately want it done in such a way as to not degrade the experience of the adult gamers. I definately understand the aspect of parents having more patience with there kids than others would have and with the issues of temper tantrums, meltdowns and inability to stay focused on a long game. This is why I liked the idea of a Kids game room or some other type of arrangement. And maybe it would be only Saturday till 7 pm or something.

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Will DeMorris
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Quote:
There may be any exception or two but I believe generally that parents WANT to bring kids with them.


I guess I'm one of those exceptions then.

As a parent of two boys, ages 5 and 2, BGG Con is a wonderful kid-free getaway for my wife and I. We like to plays games with our kids, but for four wonderful days it's great to play games with just other like minded adults.

I think the current cutoff of 12 is perfect. By that age most children will have enough social skills to be a good con participant. Also, someone in another thread made a very good point that any children brought to the con be, "Gamers first and children second". I think 12 is a good age when parents can start to make that call.

Also Aldie and all the volunteers work their tails off making BGG Con happen. Adding a kids program such as a seperate library and playroom would be a ton of work. I don't think they have the manpower or the desire to do so.

I can understand wanting to include younger children at BGG Con but doing so would really alter the feel of the event. As a participant of the first two BGG Cons, I honestly don't want it to. What I'm trying to say (In a nice way) is that I like BGG Con just as it is. Relatively kid free.


-Will
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Mark Cole
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Sorry guess I should have written may WANT to bring their kids.

Believe me I do understand the need for adult interaction and necessity for alone time even though my kids are all grown and gone on their own.

It was not my intent that the Con organizers have an obligation to the parents wishing to bring their kids. Those parents most rightly have an obligation to themselves, to each other, to their kids and to the Con.

Jennifer undoubtedly has alot more experience in this area than I. I appreciate her post and input on how they run their events.

I'm just advocating for a safe, monitored, secure, kid friendly area for those that do choose to bring younger players. Somewhere that they can be left to learn new games, develop new friendships, do what the adults are doing, only on their terms and in their space, so as to not have to impose on the adult venue. Some type of happy middle ground can be reached.

Issues will undoubtedly arise, after all kids are kids but they are human too. I just have a hard time excluding or seemingly discouraging kids from anything they show an interest in... but thats just me.
 
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Antonio Chavez
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You know, it just hit me... Maybe the real solution is a gaming convention FOR kids. Does anyone know if there is one somewhere? Or any interest in starting one?
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(The Artist formerly known as) Arnest R
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Myassis_Dragin wrote:

Issues will undoubtedly arise, after (all ?) kids are kids but they are human too.


I´ve often wondered... At what age is that transition (from kid to human being) actually taking place ?



Quote:
I just have a hard time excluding or seemingly discouraging kids from anything they show an interest in... but thats just me.


As much as I love playing with my kids, I´m not sure I follow you. If a con does not take care of kids, it´s not about discouraging them, it´s about all the hassle it already is to take care of the adults...
 
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Jeff Coon
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Just to add a voice of dissent to the conversation, I'm strongly opposed to opening up BGG.CON to kids. Although I'm sure all of your kids are wonderful, well-behaved children, there are parents out there who read "kids welcome" as "free babysitting". As another poster above mentioned, it only takes a few crying, screaming kids running wild through the con to suck the fun out of things.

There are a few other reasons, too. Such as, who would run a "kids-only" area? Derk and Aldie have their hands full with the con events, and I would much rather see their attention go to improving the convention experience, rather than setting up a kids area. (More vendors, better food options, Essen releases & teachers, tournaments, etc.)

Profanity isn't a big deal at BGG.con. I've been known to drop a few expletives in jest. But I'd rather not be on the receiving end of a parental lecture on why their child can't hear the word "shit" while gaming. Lord knows you'd have to take special care to separate the kids and the 1000 blank white cards games, or the werewolf sessions. The day "Weaselpenis Circus" is banned from the game show is the day I stop attending.

In my mind, BGG.con is a great weekend of gaming. It's an escape from work, and a time for me to get together with a bunch of other like-minded gamers. Why there's a need to throw kids into the mix escapes me. Without trying to be condescending, for those parents out there who want to bring their kids to game cons, why not start up a kid-friendly local con?
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Fraser
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To put my comments in context, in no particular order I'm a gamer, a parent, my wife is a gamer, our children are avid gamers and for many years I co-organised a gaming convention that peaked at around 600 attendees.

First and foremost most gaming conventions (excluding Origins and Gencon) are run as labours of love by the organisers and those they recruit as helpers. Nobody is going to retire off the earnings from one, and if you don't believe that I have a great harbour bridge to sell you with a view of an opera house. They are run because people want to run them and want to run them how they want to run them. I know for a fact that quite a few (roleplaying) conventions in Australia were set up becuase people didn't agree with the way the existing cons were run or thought that they could do it better. Our one was one of those. They can do things their own way, and if people don't agree with it they vote with their feet.

If and when I eventually make it to BGG.con (probably after winning a lottery given the price of airfares from Australia) it will be for a full three day plus gaming experience. Whilst Daugther the Elder and Younger would both love to come and play games it would not be fair to them, us or other gamers to have them there in my opinion. The fundamental reason I would want to be there is to meet people and play games with them, I can play games with my children any time.

I fully support BGG.con's decision to be ageist. If people want a convention with children then realistically they should not expect existing conventions to necessarily cater for that requirement, but are free to set up their own convention (and who knows, possibly capture a market niche).

Melissa and I have actually run "Kiddiecon" a few times. Now admittedly it is a bit of an in-joke as we and many of our gaming friends who are parents of young children used to be involved in games cons and it really peaks at about 20 adults, but it is a mini-convention aimed specifically at parents of small children. We hire Daughter the Younger's creche (child care centre) for a day on a weekend, it is the perfect place for small children to amuse themselves whilst their parents play games. We don't have any real interest in making it any bigger, mainly a case of been there, done that for me, but the concept is certainly valid.

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Boo
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We started up the kid's section of our Con because after 25 years, a large number of our regular attendees had children who would play games but were not old enough to play on their own. I volunteered to organize the section because I already knew a number of the GM's and although I don't have children, I do have a lot of exposure to them and the types of games that they play. The first two years we only offered the Children's games on the Saturday morning, however for the last two years there was enough interest to offer it Saturday afternoon as well. There are some issues with expanding this further.
1. Getting GM's to run games - you cannot just plunk a game down in front of the kids and get them to play, they need a GM who can help them through the whole game. This means one GM for each game, we have found that you cannot watch more than one table either. Most of the GM's (even those with kids) find that 2 hours is more than enough and they are exhasted after so I have been unable to find a GM who will run more than one game. Usually I have 4 2-hour games and 8 1-hour games, this is 12 GM's willing to run a game for kids; not as easy to find as you would think since most parents want to bring thier kids but not actually spend time with them or other kids.
2. Space - every table I use in 2 of the most popular game slots at the Com means one less table for adult games. I am constantly negotiating for decent table space since I need to keep all the games together and in an area where the loud kids won't bother the adults to much - because believe me the adults sure do complain!
3. My time - because I have to be present during the kid's section to deal with any problems that arise, awards, prizes, disruptive, or kids whose skill levels are not there for even the basics of the game I do not want the kids section to take up anymore timeslots. Because I am a committee member I also have to work 2 time slots at the command center and I run games for adults in 2 of the other timeslots (and have been doing this for 8 years) that leaves me with only 2 time slots to play games myself. I have been unable to get more help at the co-ordination level, a lot of people have told me that this is a great idea and that they would love to help but when it comes down to it they tell me they are too busy.

Running a children's game area is very time consuming and labour intensive and unless you could get some dedicated adults to do this I would not recommend it.
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Greg Williams
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I agree with Mark's original post here. Instead of banning children for fear of what might happen, I think it would be great for this fine boardgaming community to really work together with an attitude of "What can we do to make this event work for everybody?" I haven't attended BGGCon, but I imagine that the best solution is to aim to accomodate everyone: old, young, handicapped, whatever. Of course there would need to be rules, and many people would have to work together to make it happen, and of course there would be 'episodes' where children act like children, but in the end I'm convinced it would be a better event. In a society where tolerance is so highly valued, why shouldn't we tolerate children?

If we limited participation in a board gaming covention by religion, income, gender, race, lifestyle, intelligence, body-shape, etc. I hope and trust that our community would be up in arms to change that policy. Limiting the participation of children is something we should do to protect them: ie. drinking age, R-rated movies, age of consent. Why do we need to protect them from boardgames? For fear that they might disrupt our play-time? These are games! Have some fun, enjoy the challenge, but don't blow a gasket if 7-year old Billy spills his orange crush on your Ticket to Ride board. (Adults can spill drinks too)

I'm not advocating chaos - with 3-year-old toddlers dancing on the Power Grid tables. I'm advocating the idea that a group of game-loving adults can have a great convention without excluding anyone by some pre-determined criteria. I think that this community has the experience, talent, and resources that it would take to organize and run an excellent, inclusive game convention.
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CHAPEL
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Well at the moment, they have more Adult participants each year than they can almost handle. I see no need in allowing children to boost numbers.
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Matthew M
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willgreg wrote:

Limiting the participation of children is something we should do to protect them: ie. drinking age, R-rated movies, age of consent.


So...you've never met Derk.

-MMM
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I just don't think it works without a TON of effort--more paid staff and more paid convention space (yep, those rooms do cost something).

Sad to say, I wouldn't entrust my kids to most other parents I know, not even game geek parents. So, with this sort of arrangement, my wife or I would have to be in the kiddie room at all times.

That said, the WBC has figured out how to do this (for kids old enough to play games)--they have a kid room with a library and organized tournaments with prizes. They also have a kid game library. And to do this, they have two paid individuals to man the joint at all times (with parent volunteers joining in as well). I don't think BGG.con is to the point to afford such yet.
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Chris Hillery
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I wrote the following on one of the other threads on this topic (there have been a couple, both this year and last). It seemed relevant to the discussion here as well, so I'm taking the liberty of reposting it.

Quote:
Opening it up to more and younger children would radically change the feel of the con, and to me at least, that would be a sad loss since the current feel is so nearly perfect. Some parents feel left out of the wonderfulness of BGG.con because they can't bring their younger children - but they need to realize that it is impossible for them to experience BGG.con, as it currently stands, with their children because being able to bring them would fundamentally change what the BGG.con experience is.

For what it's worth, I think that the current policy is pretty sound. By not making it overtly "child-friendly" and having a reasonable age limit, it helps ensure that any younger attendees are gamers first and kids second. For this con, associated as it is with the premiere gaming community in the world, it seems to me that this is the right balance to strike.
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Mark Wright
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I have read this thread with interest, not because I can get to BGG.con in the US but I could possibly get to the UK.
I have two small children and I play games with them.
However children at cons are not a good idea, when I go to a con I don't want to play with children. I see it as my time away and I don't want to have to mind my P's and Q's.
But this is just grumpy me. However what is more important is that if people are volunteering to look after children there are issues regarding police checks etc. These would make a con a nightmare to manage.
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Jason Birzer
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I'm also reading this thread with some intrest, having a little one of my own. I'm of two minds on this one. On one hand, I'm a guy who likes to have my kid involved in my life and have him somewhat integrated in what we do. On the other hand, I understand those who would like the freedom to get away and just be adults for a while.

Personally, I like the idea of having kids programming, if just to have it as a gateway to what mommy and daddy are doing. A lot of why we are here is because we want to encourage our hobby. Considering all of the other distractions that are out there, having someplace where kids can actually interact with other kids face-to-face is a good thing.

That being said, if the resources of BGG.CON are being stretched to handle what they can now, then maybe it doesn't make sense for them to do such a thing.

Course, the best way to get something like that to happen is to have someone actually volunteer to organize it. Back it up with some action.

Jason
 
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Amy Pfeffer
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"Of course there would need to be rules, and many people would have to work together to make it happen, and of course there would be 'episodes' where children act like children, but in the end I'm convinced it would be a better event."

Okay, how would it be better for me? I'm not fond of children: how would having them around make me happier about spending several hundred dollars on a week-end of fun?

I'm not trying to be sarcastic here. I'd really like to know.
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Peter Kruijt
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Mr.Baggins wrote:
You know, it just hit me... Maybe the real solution is a gaming convention FOR kids. Does anyone know if there is one somewhere? Or any interest in starting one?

Every year in october there is one in Germany. A lot of families go there with, and especially, for their kids. That's also why it's (most of the years) held during the autumn break, although this year was an exception. There seems to be a trend that more and more adults are coming (without their kids), in particular from further away. More info about it can be found at http://www.merz-verlag.com/spiel/e000.php4
 
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Frederik Wunderlich
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You mean the Spiel in Essen, first of all its not a convention for children its a cosumer convention where stores and companys introduce games, its the biggest worldwide so its also for games for children, but not only, Also the games and companys are stated by themes in different halls.
This year there where over 150.000 visitors. So it would be hard to copy that especially when you realize that where ar about 250 staff members from the organuzer and even the smallest companys come with 2-5 People and the biggest ones with allmost 50.

Also little children beneath 12 Years are not common and its is also not possible to leave your young children anywhere watched by a people. yes there are recreation areas for children, but those are kids are at least 8 to 10 years old.

The organization is tremendous.

Its similar to the monde du jeu and the fair in utrecht allthough much bigger the both.

Second the fair happened in the autumn braek but not during the one in NRW (one of the 16 member states of germany This was done so not so many kids could come, and the rising of about 10.000 visitors compared to last year speacks a clear language i think


At the topic i'd like to have a con or fair there one could bring his offspring, but first of all who would check the people wathcing my chilldren inthis area, and how would you make sure that not someone took a child away? I wouldn/t leave my children aunattended by myself for any money in the world at a con where i don't know exactly the people wathcing my children. I just think its not doable to do such a thin on a greater level the 100-200, or a mere local base.


regards SilverDrake
 
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Peter Kruijt
Netherlands
Eindhoven
NBr
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Of course SilverDrake is right. Essen is not really a convention but indeed a trade fair for consumers. I found, however, that children are very welcome there, even the smaller ones (4 to 6 year olds) at the booths of e.g. HaBa. They don't have a Kindergarten, but I think the children can enjoy themselves. In 2005 (don't know about other years) part of one of the halls was specially for children with an aircastle, jumping cushions and climbing castles.

Peter
 
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