Gaming and Child Development

Today it’s a request from an old player for an old file… and why not? It’s come in handy often enough.

Games tend to be full of child prodigies, forty year old elven kids, kids with magical enhancements, and more. Secondarily, a lot of gamers are relatively young, have no kids of their own, and their own early memories are subject to the usual distortion. Given that… it’s awfully easy to forget what real kids are like at various ages. Ergo, here we have a quick-reference summary:

Presuming that nothing goes wrong, the development of more-or-less “ordinary” human children goes something like this:

One Year: At this age a child can be expected to use simple words, walk, and begin being awake a majority of the time. It’s parents can begin expecting to get a good nights sleep again. In more “primitive” societies, there is also about a 20% chance that any given child will die before this point – presuming that they are not disposed of intentionally.

Two Years: At this point children can be expected to have a basic vocabulary (350+ words) and grammar, can be given simple instructions (Obedience is another matter), and become quite exhausting, as they can now run, jump, and hide, fairly effectively. They can begin dealing with problems using one-step reasoning; “If I push the bottle over, the cookies will fall out”. Unfortunately, multi- step reasoning (“And then mommy will be angry”) does not yet make an appearance.

Three Years: A child can now be expected to manage a variety of simple errands (basic fetching and carrying), and can be taught to carry out fairly complex routine tasks such as dressing themselves, minor ceremonies, gathering wild foods, and so on – as long as such routines don’t involve many choices and aren’t overly complex. This will still generally require slow, patient, and persistent teaching. They can also cooperate effectively and identify their families well enough for strangers to find them.

Four Years: Children of this age can be given “long term” contingency instructions (“Tell me if the cow gets out”), chase crows, feed small domestic animals, and can be entrusted with simple multi-step tasks (“Take this out to your father and come right back”). Precocious children may begin learning the alphabet – or even begin reading. There’s even a decent chance of a “sensible” reaction in an emergency, or of them recognizing it when something’s seriously wrong, but not of anticipating problems. This means that their projects can go seriously wrong without adult supervision.

Five Years: At this point children normally begin to generalize and apply basic logic to problems, permitting them to begin undertaking more complicated tasks, and to begin compensating for variations in conditions. Typical tasks include minding smaller children, distributing the fieldworker’s lunches, cleaning up, and acting as servants or assistants for their elders. Some can be apprenticed in specialized, “primitive” fields (drumming, weaving, and so on – things which involve a lot of repetition of basic patterns). They may begin making an effective contribution to their families. Most of those who are going to die in childhood (Up to 50% in primitive cultures) have already done so, although accidents and such continue to claim a few. They are now “commodities” with some value to those without a genetic or emotional commitment to their well- being – and can be effectively exploited with supervision.

Six Years: At this age children may be “expected” to have a vocabulary of 2500 words or more, and begin to be able to handle abstract ideas applied to classes. In the practical realm, most can now be apprenticed, and can be expected to be fairly reliable without supervision.

Seven Years: At this point children usually begin to become “reasonable”, and can have things explained without a concrete example to focus on. They are ready for more formal schooling. On a more practical level, at this age they can act as effective spies, be imbued with exotic and irrational beliefs, can act as effective child-soldiers, and be competent servants. In terms of physical tasks they are now limited by their size, strength, and knowledge – not by their basic ability. As a side issue, adults will generally begin viewing a child of seven as a small, and inexperienced, person – rather then as a sort of incomp- rehensible alien life form.

Eleven Years: Sexual play becomes common unless it’s culturally inhibited. Puberty, and fertility, may occur at any point from now on – although this depends heavily on factors such as food, disease, and exercise. Thirteen is common in “modern” societies, where food is plentiful and disease and exercise rare. Fifteen is more common in primitive societies. It must be noted that boys usually become fertile before puberty, but that girls undergo it about two years earlier then boys do on the average. In any case, puberty is usually accompanied by rebellious and quarrelsome tendencies, as the child begins to establish a seperate identity from his or her caregivers.

Twelve Years: Children may begin developing “formal” thinking skills at this age, including abstract logic, a generalized system of ethical principles, the testing of hypotheses, and organized experimentation. Pure sciences and mathematics (Such as geometry) become attractive. It should be noted that many people never reach this level, and most of those that do require an extensive education to do so.

Fourteen to Sixteen Years: Common age of majority in “primitive” cultures, although individual cases vary. In more “advanced” cultures – where adult status is delayed in favor of further training – puberty becomes a primary source of conflict, even if full physical maturity isn’t achieved until seventeen to twenty years.