How Tabletop Role Playing Games Can Help Kids Thrive - SE2EP13 - Dr. Megan Connell

How Tabletop Role Playing Games Can Help Kids Thrive - SE2EP13 - Dr. Megan Connell

Welcome to Parenting in the Digital Age, where we explore the challenges and opportunities of raising kids in a world filled with technology. Today, we have the pleasure of hosting Dr. Megan Connell, a board-certified psychologist, author, speaker, and game master.

In her work, Dr. Connell utilises tabletop role-playing games as a clinical intervention, and in 2017, she co-founded the media company Geeks Like Us, which focuses on geek and gaming culture. She is also the author of the book Tabletop Role-Playing Therapy and serves as a board member for Geek Therapeutics, a training platform that develops professional programs teaching the inclusion of games in clinical practices.

Join us in this fascinating episode as we discuss how tabletop Role Playing games can help kids thrive.





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Board Games:

This Episode is brought to you by Skill Samurai – Coding & STEM Academy

Jamie Buttigieg (00:00.824)

Hello parents and welcome to Parenting in the Digital Age, where we explore the challenges and opportunities of raising kids in a world filled with technology. Today we have the now, sorry, I'm gonna go back one step. It's Megan Connell, isn't it? Okay. All right, wonderful, thank you. I just wanted to double check because it's Megan, Megan, Connell, Con, you know, there's so many different pronunciations for a simple name. All right, we'll hit it again. Okay.

Dr Megan Connell (00:14.198)

Yes, I pronounce both ends. Yep.

Dr Megan Connell (00:24.063)


Jamie Buttigieg (00:27.692)

Hello parents and welcome to Parenting in the Digital Age, where we explore the challenges and opportunities of raising kids in a world filled with technology. Today we have the pleasure of hosting Dr. Megan Connell, a board certified psychologist, author, speaker and game master. In her work, Dr. Connell utilises tabletop role-playing games as a clinical intervention. And in 2017 she co-founded the media company Geeks Like Us, which focuses on geek and gaming culture.

Jamie Buttigieg (00:57.646)

author of the book, Tabletop Role-Playing Therapy, and serves as a board member for Geek Therapeutics, which is a training platform that helps develop professional programs teaching the inclusion of games in clinical practices. So join us in this fascinating episode as we discuss how tabletop role-playing games can help kids thrive. Dr. Connell, welcome to the show. Please share with our listeners in your own words, what you do and what you are passionate about.

Dr Megan Connell (01:25.718)

Yeah, thank you so much for having me. So I am a psychologist, so I work in private practice, actually my own practice, HealthQuest Innovative Therapeutics, where we bring in interests and the latest interventions in psychology into day-to-day therapy. And so a lot of my job is teaching people how their brains work and how to operate successfully in the world with their brains as they are wired. And I'll use a lot of gaming with that. I use a lot of geek culture, geek references.

and trying to weave in people's special interests into therapy to kind of communicate to them in a language that they understand.

Jamie Buttigieg (02:00.932)

That is super cool. Now, before we get into the use of games in therapy, for parents who may not be familiar with tabletop RPGs or role-play games, can you give us a brief overview of what these games entail and how they might differ from traditional board games or video games?

Dr Megan Connell (02:16.438)

Yeah, so tabletop role-playing games are a shared narrative game. So the most popular and widely played game is Dungeons and Dragons, and this is a game where one person tends to act as the narrator of the story and the other players act as the main characters of the story. The game master is also going to play the non-player characters, so like the shopkeepers, the adversaries and other people that the adventurers are going to encounter, and the people at the table come up with how they're going to

solve the problems that the game master puts before them. So it might be a thing of you have to get across the river and they might choose to pay a ferry person to bring them across. They might choose to fly across. They might choose to swim. And depending on what the players decide to do changes the outcome and the flow of the story. And so it is this shared story that creates this wonderful opportunity to come together and go on an adventure without ever leaving your table and just rolling lots of beautiful dice.

Jamie Buttigieg (03:13.496)

So let me ask, I'll maybe go back to that. How did you come up with this idea or concept like combining this sort of RPG gaming into therapy? Sounds pretty cool, actually sounds like fun. How did you come up with this? So, I'm going to go back to the first one.

Dr Megan Connell (03:27.147)

It is a lot of fun. Yeah, for me it was I was playing D&D with some friends and I had been playing a game with my family so I had two separate characters and I was thinking about my characters one day and when I finally realized the things that they had in common I kind of had this little oh no moment where I was like oh that's that's my big issue that I really need to work on and I also realized I probably never would have organically come to that through therapy or just journaling.

And so it was really fascinating to have just a handful of games and to have this humongous insight into myself. And I realized like, what a powerful tool it could be and how much I wanted to use it therapeutically. And luckily I started getting connected with at the time the only handful of other people in the United States who were using tabletop role playing therapy and did some interventions and talks with that or consultations and talks with them and developed my own program and it's blossomed from there.

Jamie Buttigieg (04:24.828)

That's fantastic. That's a wonderful realization to have. What are some of the maybe key therapeutic benefits of using tabletop games in a clinical setting? So particularly as it relates to kids and maybe adolescents.

Dr Megan Connell (04:38.846)

Yeah, well, we know that role playing is really a wonderful way to practice a skill set. And so a lot of time, like role playing has been built into therapeutic interventions since the 1970s, maybe even the 1960s. But people are very hesitant to role play because oftentimes the role plays that we have in therapy are role play as yourself. And that feels incredibly awkward and vulnerable. And we don't like doing that.

Dr Megan Connell (05:06.182)

what tabletop games do is they give you a character sheet. You are not role playing as yourself. You are role playing as your character. And so if the character messes up on how they deliver a line or how they are trying to solve a problem, well, that's not on the player. That's the character. It's the dice. It's the random chance of it. And so having that psychological distance between you and those learning moments seems to

increase people's engagement with them so they're more willing to try things, more willing to take risks than they would be if they were role-playing as themselves. And so it's a really powerful thing. And like you actually hit on one of the big keys too with this is it's fun. We know from research that group therapy tends to be more effective than individual therapy for a wide array of diagnoses. The problem is you cannot get people to show up to group therapy. And so

Jamie Buttigieg (05:41.449)

Yeah, I think.

Dr Megan Connell (06:00.350)

If people, you could have the best intervention in the world, but if people don't come to the intervention, it's not gonna do anything. And so making it a game, making it fun, it's sort of that like a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down kind of idea, right? Of like, if we sweeten it a little bit by adding in this fun gaming element to it, people are more likely to engage with it and much more likely to get the therapeutic benefits out of it.

Jamie Buttigieg (06:07.838)


Jamie Buttigieg (06:27.060)

Yeah, that's tremendous and far more inclusive. So in the context of using games in therapy, is this applicable to a wide range of challenges like what I'm thinking about say depression or autism, anxiety, PTSD, trauma, life changes, or is this just suited to addressing specific issues?

Dr Megan Connell (06:47.394)

The really quick answer of that is we don't know yet. In my book, I had to write several times, more times than I liked, that we don't have research because we don't, unfortunately. It seems to lend itself well to a wide array of diagnoses. You know, you listed a bunch of them with depression and anxiety, PTSD, autism, learning disorders, social anxiety, specific phobias, ADHD, even...

You know, there's a couple of pilot studies that were done that showed those who have schizophrenia, where you have intrusive hallucinations, it actually can be very helpful for reality testing because you have to really actively define what role you're in depending on how you're talking and it can help potentially increase a little bit of that reality testing. We don't, that's a case study of two people, I believe. So we don't have, that's definitely not enough research, but it does seem to.

have potential to work with a really wide array of problems. And not just in a therapeutic setting, more and more educators are starting to use tabletop gaming in the academic setting. There is somebody, I can't remember their name, but they are creating gaming modules to play through different periods of history. So when you're learning history, you might be learning about the Roman legions and you get a character as a Roman legionnaire and you're going on a campaign and getting to...

learn about history that way, learn about like what it was like to march, you know, all through Europe and to, you know, battle and to push the Roman Empire out and fighting these different, you know, peoples and, you know, going through and having to battle diseases and things too. It's a really interesting tool and it has a lot of potential.

Jamie Buttigieg (08:32.148)

Yeah, and that's it's far more immersive. Like, you know, I remember learning history and it was kind of thrown at us and we had to write and memorize and, you know, to be honest, it wasn't my most fun or engaging subject. But, you know, that brings an element of immersion or, you know, interactivity, which is bound to increase engagement. That sounds sounds sounds pretty cool. Go ahead.

Dr Megan Connell (08:52.874)

Yeah, well, and real quick, too. We actually see this in some historical video games as well. I was actually just listening to a talk from PAX East on when historians play historical games. And one of them was talking about how what really got him into history was playing Assassin's Creed, because he was playing it. And then in his history class, one of the characters that his character had been interacting with, I can't remember who it was. But all of a sudden, they're like, OK, we're going to learn about this guy. And he's like,

I just talked, I talked to him yesterday in my game and his like history at that moment kind of came to life for him. And so that's the power of gaming. It's no longer this abstract weird story. It's our story and it feels personal. When we're personally connected to it, we are much more likely to engage with it.

Jamie Buttigieg (09:40.832)

Yeah, yeah, that's phenomenal. Can you share some thoughts perhaps on the role of gaming in building resilience, maybe coping skills in children, like, you know, particularly in the face of adversity or challenging life experiences for kids?

Dr Megan Connell (09:55.646)

Yeah, it's a humongously powerful skill. And I would say not just tabletop gaming. I know that's the area of expertise, but also video games too. There's been research on the Dark Souls games. For those who don't know, those are incredibly difficult video games. They are designed to be challenging video games, even for people who play video games all the time. But this interesting thing happens with-

people who play Dark Souls who have depression is they seem to do better. They start to have fewer depressive symptoms. And it's not a magical thing, but what it is, is games like Dark Souls reward task persistence. So you go and you fight a boss and you die and you get this little text on the screen, you died. And you go back to your last save point, which is usually quite far away. And then you have to battle your way forward again. And then you try again and try again and try again.

Dr Megan Connell (10:52.406)

That's the big key to success. One of the things psychologists love to study is like what makes somebody successful? What helps people be successful? And task persistence actually seems to be the big key. Intelligence certainly can help. Having a lot of opportunity in your life certainly helps a lot. But you can have a lot of intelligence and a lot of opportunity, but if you don't have that persistence to overcome difficulty, you're not gonna get anywhere.

And so gaming really has a way to reward that task persistence and to help you kind of learn to overcome it. In tabletop games, what they have an advantage of that video games don't have is they are not limited by code. You know, you can have some great ideas in a video game for how to solve a problem. But if it wasn't coded into the game, you can't do it. And so a game like Dungeons and Dragons, the cipher system.

Dr Megan Connell (11:47.214)

kids on bikes, whatever the system is that you're using, you get to throw out an idea and then the game master figures out how to roll with that. You know, it can be like, I wanna set my bed roll on fire and set the village on fire to take care of the bandits. Okay, you can do that. Some interesting stuff is gonna happen from it. And so this idea of finding unique ways to solve problems. I am...

I let one of my players know at one point this big secret that I have with any time that the players have to find a secret door. I know where the door is, but I don't know how it opens. And they all encounter the door and then they start guessing. And when they say something that sounds really cool and seems like it should work, that's the one that works.

Jamie Buttigieg (12:39.072)

That's great. That's really good. And I love that idea of rewarding task persistence. I haven't heard of Dark Souls, but I will look it up. But, you know, one thing we do in our own classroom setting is we teach kids how to code. And that's very big on that task persistence and, you know, teaching that failure is completely normal and pushing through and, you know, getting the reward at the end of that persistence. So I can definitely see how gaming, you know.

helps with that. So here's an interesting question. So we know that there are many risks associated with perhaps online games, PC games, console games, you know, whether it's everything from, you know, obesity, you know, sedentary lifestyle through to online predators and, you know, privacy risk that like their addiction that there are a bunch of things. Is that the same with role? I mean, tabletop role playing games? Obviously not exactly the same, but are there risks, I guess is what I'm saying that the parents should be aware of?


Dr Megan Connell (13:36.650)

There's risks in everything, right? And so that's something to be aware of. If it's who your kids are playing with, it's important. So you want to be aware of understanding a few basic abbreviations like NSFW, not safe for work, is going to mean that it's going to be rated R content. People are going to talk about sexy stuff and things like that. You might not want that with your kid, depending on what you're doing.

Jamie Buttigieg (13:38.252)


Dr Megan Connell (14:05.238)

you know, what's going on. You can ask a lot of game masters what they, basically like the rating of their table is. Most game masters today will say like, okay, we're PG-13 or we're rated R or we're PG here. Finding games too that fit the age and developmental level of your child can be important. So like my

friend who actually is part of Geeks Like Us, Randall Hampton, he just created the little Game Master system on Kickstarter. I'm writing one of the adventures for it. And it is a very simplistic tabletop role-playing game for kids ages four to eight. There's also this awesome game called The Shivers. I really like that one. It's a pop-up. It's like Escape Rooms kind of, but it's a pop-up and it's designed for kids. And they get to role-play that stuff.

Jamie Buttigieg (14:46.973)

Excellent, excellent.

Dr Megan Connell (15:02.866)

Monte Cook created a game called No Thank You Evil that's also very, it expands out and gets more complicated as the kids get older. And so understanding that, that kind of stuff and thinking about what's appropriate for them. You can have games of D&D with kids probably eight and up for mature eight year olds or for game masters who know how to bring down the complexity. That's something that I do with my own younger children as I bring down the complexity quite a bit for them and let them play.

Dr Megan Connell (15:33.654)

Uh, also just being aware of like how your kids are going to play, um, that I was convinced at one point, my kids were going to be sneaky and sneak in and rescue somebody and nope, they went in full and just killed all the bad guys. It's like, Oh, okay. This is, this is what we're doing. Got it. Um, you know, so that kind of stuff and like the good thing with a game like D and D or just tabletop role playing games in general, like you mentioned that kind of.

Dr Megan Connell (16:02.006)

dopamine addictive type quality that we can have with video games where you sit down and suddenly four hours have gone by and you didn't realize it. Same thing can happen with D&D, but the thing is, is like you can't necessarily play for another four hours because you need all the people at the table to show up to. And we all have schedules and things that we're doing and we're busy. And so it's, there's a lot of things to think about. For a lot of folks, I talk about going to local game stores and sitting in on a game.

Um, if you have a, you know, middle school aged child, you know, so early teenager to mid teenager kid, I would probably encourage parents to go to the game store or call the game store and talk to some of the folks who run games and just find out kind of what the vibe is, what the kind of worst games are as far as like, okay, tell me the horror stories, what have been the bad players and how do you handle bad players and how do you hand help new players? Um,

Dr Megan Connell (17:00.174)

what you know trying to find out what the attitudes are of inclusivity, new players, all of that kind of stuff. Just kind of asking those basic questions.

Jamie Buttigieg (17:11.284)

Is the sort of now excuse my ignorance on this. I've never played Dungeons and Dragons. Is it the sort of thing that I could buy from this shop and introduce to my kids at home as a game master or it's more complex and I need to go to these places to understand and explore it first? Like how would you recommend? Now I'm a dad. I've got teenage kids. How would I best, you know, introduce this this game?

Dr Megan Connell (17:30.143)


Dr Megan Connell (17:36.290)

So most games, including Dungeons and Dragons, sell starter sets, which are a very basic adventure, usually with pre-generated characters and a world that they can explore in, and it walks you through the rules. When the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons came out, they created an adventure called The Lost Minds of Phandelver with their starter set. I love that adventure. I think it's really good. They do a great job of like the very first little encounter that you have, kind of walks you through some

basics of playing the game and everything. And then once you get to the town, the world kind of opens up depending on what NPCs you talk to or what you are interested in. Kind of every NPC has a quest for you, but they all kind of tie into the main quest. And so it's really interesting to kind of go through that and drive it up. I would say if you've never picked up DICE and played D&D before, we live in this golden age of streaming. Go on to YouTube and watch some people play.

Dr Megan Connell (18:35.566)

Critical Role is the one I love. I suppose I should plug mine. I DM a show called Clinical Role. It's all clinicians who play D&D. And we're just as goofy as anybody else. But I think to kind of get an idea of a campaign, which is a story from start to finish, where you don't have to invest a humongous amount of time, Critical Role did do a four session series called...

Dr Megan Connell (19:01.258)

Exandria Unlimited Age of Calamity that is some of the best role playing I think I've ever seen where you see just how emotionally attached you can get to these characters, how powerful the story of the narrative can be, and just how fascinating it all can be too. And it's one of those things of like you can read about playing tabletop role playing games in a book, but really I think a big part of why D&D has taken off so much in tabletop role playing games in general in the last several years.

has been because people can finally watch and see how they're played. Because like, just understand, I think that's part of where the satanic panic came from is just people didn't get it. It's like kids sitting around a table and going on an adventure, like this sounds weird. And it, yeah, it kind of is, but it's us sitting around and telling a story together with rules, right? We don't get to just be like, I win, you lose. It's like, I want us to do this. We're gonna roll some dice to see.

if that happens and how successful or unsuccessful I am in my attempts. And so it's a really awesome way, it's a great way to bond with your teenagers honestly.

Jamie Buttigieg (20:05.864)

Yeah, yeah, definitely something I will explore. Megan, perhaps after the call, you can email me a couple of those links, particularly to the YouTube channel that you were talking about there, because I know there are parents listening who will want to explore this. There are so many benefits. So maybe a bit of a segue from it. I want to come back to digital gaming in a second, but maybe you can share some anonymous success stories of how using tabletop role-playing games as a clinical intervention for children

families. Would that be okay?

Dr Megan Connell (20:38.142)

Yeah, yeah, I think there's a couple of really powerful stories that have come out of my games, I think. Two in particular for my pilot games when I was just running it and I was like, is this just kids having fun or is this kids actually learning skills? And one of them was a little kid with autism. And they had all of their I had all their characters wake up with amnesia.

Dr Megan Connell (21:04.258)

And they knew like they knew who they were, but they didn't have full amnesia, they were just were missing six months. And they all woke up together and they got to a village in a place that they didn't know. And they all did the video game thing of trying to go and sell all their equipment. And so we paused and we talked about the idea of a narrative game, like your character is a living, breathing person who just woke up in an unfamiliar place. And the only thing familiar to them are the clothes on their back and they're about to sell them. And.

this one kid kind of like their eyes kind of lit up and they're going, Oh, I'm supposed to do what my character wants to do, not what I want to do. And like, that's a really big difference between a video game RPG and a tabletop role playing game and a tabletop role playing game. You are, are acting as your character in a video game. You're trying to put yourself into the world of the game. And so play, you know, even if you're playing something like breath of the wild, most people don't.

play Link the way Link would probably explore that world. They play Link the way they want to explore the world. And so that's a really big theory of my difference especially for kids on the autism spectrum. Another big time success story was I had a player who had a hard time saying no to their friends and they came up to me after a session and they were saying how their friends were asking them for a ride. And they felt themselves about to say yes even though they didn't want to.

and they recognized their character wouldn't say yes. So they weren't going to say yes. So they said no to their friends for the first time because they were imagining how their character would react in that situation. And those, yeah, it was so powerful. And those two things were where I was like, okay, we got something here. We got something, we're gonna run with this.

Jamie Buttigieg (22:45.164)

That's powerful.

Jamie Buttigieg (22:52.840)

Yeah, that's really powerful and encouraging. As parents, sometimes, and I'm speaking for myself here, sometimes we struggle with communicating with our kids. It's almost like sometimes they're speaking another language. So, you know, is this the sort of thing where tabletop role-playing games can help me as a parent communicate better with my kids?

Dr Megan Connell (23:13.198)

I mean, I think so because a typical game of D&D or any tabletop game, if you play for two hours, that's a pretty short game. You're probably going to be sitting around for about four hours playing this game together. And so the whole four hours isn't playing the game. There's a lot of cross chat that goes on. There's a lot of creating in jokes and things. And if you think about how much of our communication as humans

Dr Megan Connell (23:42.958)

not talking about what we're talking about. You know, like, my partner and I speak in quotes to each other a lot, where we'll just quote little conversations or little funny videos that just one liners from it, not the whole thing. And we know what each other is talking about. And so because we've shared these jokes, we've shared these experiences, we have that common language. And so the more we have shared experiences with people, the more common language we can build in. And so of course, it's going to help with communication and building relationships.

Jamie Buttigieg (24:13.225)

Yeah, fantastic.

Jamie Buttigieg (24:15.188)

Are there any, now talking about video games for a second, are there any video games that perhaps you'd recommend that could be helpful to a child's development? I'm talking maybe, I don't know, eight to 15 perhaps, because there are parents out there, and I know there are parents listening, and certainly parents I encounter in my work that they hold off from introducing their kids to video games for as long as possible, because I know there are some challenges associated. But is there one that maybe parents can introduce with a little bit less guilt?


Dr Megan Connell (24:46.294)

I would always suggest Minecraft. It's an oldie but a goodie. I love Minecraft. I love how creative it is. And I like the different modes that you have. It's been really interesting. I have a pretty big age spread across my kids. And so the older ones when they were younger liked to play with Minecraft in what's called creative mode where you have access to all the blocks, nothing will attack you. And it's a very peaceful thing and you can just build stuff.

But now that they are grown up, they're like, nope, I want to play in survival. I want to have to attack things. I want to have to scavenge the world for resources and build things. And so getting to play that also Minecraft, like it's a great game to play as a family. We've done my family, we do family servers and we'll do build projects together and go and survive and try to go and get to the end and kill the end of dragon together and make potions and things. It's that's a great game to introduce.

Dr Megan Connell (25:42.422)

And I think also just getting to play with your kids. Like, you know, Nintendo has awesome games to play together. You know, Mario Kart is always amazing to play, I think. And just there are so many beautiful games out there. If you're going through potentially losing someone in grief and anger, there is this amazing game called Lost Words.

where you're playing through two things, a child's writing in her diary about her grandmother falling ill. And then she feels like she can make her grandmother better by finishing a story. And so then you play the video game as the story and trying to solve this issue. And it's just going through anger and grief and loss and feeling power is so beautifully done. And I would say like, if adults,

you know, if anyone listening does not play video games, which is becoming rarer and rarer these days, most people who are parents now grew up playing themselves, but an incredibly powerful game is called Gris. You can get it, I think, on any platform now, and it plays through the stages of grief in just incredibly powerful way and incredibly beautiful. Just touching, like, it's no words in it. It's pictures and sounds.

and experiences and it is just beautiful. It's like, it's watercolor too, so it's like you're playing inside of a painting.

Jamie Buttigieg (27:19.372)

Well, is it G-R-I-S? Is that how I spell that? Okay, good. Ah, wonderful, perfect. So, he's an interesting one. How do you...

Dr Megan Connell (27:22.102)

Yes, yes, so gray in Spanish, yeah.

Jamie Buttigieg (27:33.760)

How do you foresee the future of say gaming and therapy, particularly as now technology is evolving and continues to advance and shaping the way we interact with games? Like do you foresee a future where perhaps therapy, metaverse, virtual reality and role playing are all integrated? I don't know if you've thought about that, but...

Dr Megan Connell (27:50.602)

Yes. Oh yeah. Yeah. My, my business partner who I opened the practice with, he's big into VR, um, and doing VR therapy, which has more research on it, the tabletop therapy, even though it's newer. Um, but, uh, it, no, there's a lot that you can do with, with all of that and bringing people in, we, we're actually trying to look at some blended.

Jamie Buttigieg (28:02.540)


Dr Megan Connell (28:13.818)

augmented reality and virtual reality and face-to-face ways to bring people into the same room to play a game. And that's the exciting part. You know, D&D is working on a virtual tabletop that should allow for it to feel like everybody's at a table. I don't know. It's one of those things that the technology works really well when the players do what you expect, but when stuff doesn't go the way you expect, which is most times when you're playing a tabletop game.

Dr Megan Connell (28:44.976)

I don't know how the engines can handle that, but it's really interesting because you don't need fancy graphics to run these games well. You just need a place where everybody can come together and ideally see each other and talk and indicate where they're moving their token to.

Jamie Buttigieg (29:03.059)


Yeah, that's good. That's an interesting future ahead. One that is very exciting, no doubt. As we come to sort of wrap up, like I've got a whole bunch of questions here that I could continue and I'm really enjoying our conversation. So I might just ask a more generic one. Is there something that you know, perhaps I haven't asked that should have asked, you know, or a message that you have to parents in relation to tabletop gaming therapy or helping kids thrive? Is this something that you wish I'd asked that perhaps I haven't yet?

Dr Megan Connell (29:13.407)


Dr Megan Connell (29:32.718)

Well, I think the big thing I just want to say is game with your kids. You know, sit down and like, if they're playing solo games, sit down and watch them play. You play board games with them. Don't be afraid to introduce your kids to games that are potentially like more advanced than they should be playing. I've got, my youngest is eight, but we play games together that are frequently rated for kids ages 14 and up. And that's not a rating of mature content. It's just, these rules are complicated.

and probably better for 14, but if they're interested, we engage with it and we find ways to modify and change the games to meet our kids' needs. And it is just, it's so much fun. Like my kid got ready for school super early this morning, and so we played two different board games before they went to school. You know, it's really awesome to be able to sit down and just play a game with them and see their little brains develop and learn things. And plus there are so many good games out there to play with kids these days. And just in general.

Jamie Buttigieg (30:32.408)

And to me as a father, it appears to be a far more healthier obsession, a far more healthy passion. So something I've got to do a better job of, no doubt, Megan. A question we like to ask all of our guests speaking of advice is if we had a time machine and you could go back to your 10 year old self, what would Dr. Megan impart on young Megan of 10?

Dr Megan Connell (30:57.602)

Ooh, buy Apple stock. No. Uh, that's a given. Yeah. Aside from the buy stocks, which I would be like, if I don't understand what you mean. So one of the things I'm pretty open about this, I have a language-based learning disability, which is commonly called dyslexia. And I think I would just like try to say to myself, like really don't sweat the spelling thing. It's going to be such a non-issue when you're grown up. It just, it's okay.

Jamie Buttigieg (30:59.020)

Tough question, right? That's a given.

Dr Megan Connell (31:27.685)

Don't worry about it.

Jamie Buttigieg (31:29.768)

Yeah, absolutely great advice and one that we can all translate into our own language, no doubt. So finally, as we wrap up, Megan, how can parents or listeners stay connected with you and learn more about the work in your field of gaming and psychology and geek culture? How do we connect with you?

Dr Megan Connell (31:47.786)

Yeah, I am at MeganSidey, M-E-G-A-N-P-S-Y-D on all the social platforms. And I am at HQ Psych, so or And those are the places where you can find all the things that I do, which is far too many things and the fun that I have there.

Jamie Buttigieg (32:08.404)

You are indeed very busy. We'll put all those links in the show notes below or wherever you're listening to this. Megan, thanks for your time and generosity today. It was actually a really interesting conversation for me as a parent and I know that many of our listeners will get tons of useful tips and things they can take away and use from this. So thank you very much.

Dr Megan Connell (32:28.002)

Thank you. Oh, can I do a couple of quick game recommendations too for different ages?

Jamie Buttigieg (32:32.340)

Heck yes please do it.

Dr Megan Connell (32:34.494)

All right, so I am a big fan of cooperative games. These are games where you play as a team against the game itself. For younger kids, there's a great game called Zombie Kids where you are kids trying to defend your school from zombies. It is a very interesting game. It's a legacy game, meaning that it changes the more you play it. And so it starts off with incredibly simple rules. And as you play through the game and master the rules, they get more complicated. As you get older,

kiddos probably like age 10 or so. Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert, Forbidden Skies are amazing games as is Pandemic, though it hits a bit close to home these days, I think. And then for teenagers, there's a great one called the Night Cage that is, kind of plays with horror themes, but it is still a cooperative game where you are trapped in tunnels, and you all have to find and light candles and find your keys and bring the keys to the locker

not being attacked by these wick monsters. It's a really cool game and it's cooperative and so you have to work together and that makes for a much better family game night than Monopoly where people want to flip the table over.

Jamie Buttigieg (33:41.468)

Yeah, that's our typical game night. What about for adults? Let's say I'm having an adult RPG night. What do you think we can play as adults? Well, it's cool and fun.

Dr Megan Connell (33:51.630)

Uh, again, like, um, pandemic is always a good time, I think. And again, like just because of everything that's been going on in the world, it's, it's kind of an interesting game. Uh, if people like the game clue, there is a game called Mysterium, which I feel like is clue but better where somebody plays a ghost who is having to send messages back to their friends who are holding a seance about how they died. And the only way the ghost could communicate is through these really weird abstract paintings.

Um, it is very fun when I have game nights with my friends. Uh, we typically end on that because we're all trying to get out of what we're calling new heaven, which is the purgatory that we're trapped in because nobody has figured out our murder yet. And we've played it eight times now and only two, two times have we won, but we've had a blast playing it every time.

Jamie Buttigieg (34:41.616)

Sounds like a lot of fun. We'll look it up and I'll try and get some of those listed in our show notes as well because there's some great recommendations there, no doubt. Dr Megan, thanks again for your time. A fascinating and enlightening discussion. Cheers.

Dr Megan Connell (34:54.434)

Thank you so much.