Speaking of writing posts that are meant for children; when I was a child, I was fascinated by things like this: The Largest 100 Countries in the World.
Today I understand that this is not a particularly useful list. Putting things in order is interesting, but it tells you very little about the quality of life or the political existence of the countries listed. The fact that Kazakhstan and Algeria are about the same size as Argentina and Saudi Arabia has little or nothing to do with the infrastructure or culture of those countries.
Yet there was something delightful in ranking them, and regularly I would put together lists like this and like the others linked on the page. And because I would do that, I was compelled to learn where the countries were, like Benin and Malawi. And since they were on maps, I would study and memorize the capital cities and other cities and the rivers that flowed through them. This gave me a really strong background where it came to history, since when some random point was made about the Portuguese starting a colony in Angola, not only did I know where Angola was, I had a very strong conception of the shape of the country, its size ... and in time, its terrain and vegetation.
Today this has led to a party trick I do where I meet some fellow from Nigeria and I ask him if he is from Kano or Lagos. And he will respond by raising his eyebrows and asking me, "Have you been to Nigeria?" Because, after all, you can't possibly know the names of two giant cities in a very populous country if you haven't been there.
What's nice for me is that I can perform this party trick whether you're from Malaysia or Burkina Faso or Paraguay. Now, picture in your mind, without using the internet, where those countries are. Picture what other countries border them, and on what side, and for what approximate distance. No? Can't do it? I can ... and I do it automatically.
Now, this sort of knowledge makes me "pretentious" in the eyes of some people ... but I want to make something clear. I learned this as a child. I was not yet 10 when I could tell you the capitals of every country in Africa. Why? Because it fascinated me.
Today, I have proof positive that this fascination extends to a lot of children, none of whom are pretentious just because they happen to be interested in something that isn't baseball statistics. And here it is:
I would have been almost 30 when this appeared ... but even at nine I knew that the Caribbean was not a nation (its a sea) and that French Guiana is a colony of France - facts which would have really pissed me off as a kid for Yakko getting it wrong, but which now I realize they were needed to make the song come out. I would have guessed that was why back in my childhood, but back then I was incredibly inflexible. Not like now.
Now, no one is going to argue the video above wasn't meant for children. Here's the thing, however ... one of the things we LIKE to do with children is to educate them. And in this world, apart from all the rhetoric and crap about the carefree life of being a child, I remember they made me spend a lot of time sitting in classes learning stuff. To me, learning stuff is part and parcel with being a child ... because the point isn't to praise and worship childhood, the point is to take children after birth and teach them to be adults.
So it baffles me when I hear someone say that since D&D is a game for 'children,' it should be simple and fun. That would be because for me, childhood and the things I liked were not simple and fun. They were complicated and fascinating and they drove me to wanting to know more and more and more. It's my childhood that taught me to question why a sword is a sword and how its made and why it should do 1d8 damage and whether or not it weighs 6 lbs. like the DMG says or whether it should weigh 4. This stuff still fascinates me.
I learned to play D&D at the age of nearly 15. This is five years after I was doing on the bus going back and forth from school what Wakko was doing (without pictures, obviously, and without music). By the time I'd hit grade 10 I had torn through science fiction, gothic fiction, history of war, history of science, medicine, astronomy, geology, geometry and I was just beginning to understand computers (this was a bit early for a home version). But in the summer of 1979, a week before my 15th birthday, I was asking a lot of questions about the meaning and purpose of life and I was reading psychology. Yes, at the age of 14, I was reading Freud.
Now, I don't really give a shit that adults my age now have never cracked a book about psychology, and I don't really give a shit that if I've gathered some knowledge on the subject in the last thirty years that they don't have that this makes me sound "pretentious." What that word means to me, whenever I hear someone use it, is "I am a stupid lazy moron and I don't like people who are smart." This is also something I learned as a child, what with all that time being forced to sit in classrooms with people who did not like books.
There's really no way to avoid the pretentious tag if you want to know something. In my case, it's a little hard to imagine D&D as a "child's game" stripped free and clear of psychology. The former, for me, did not exist before the latter. There was no time in my life when I played D&D without realizing that people lied or resisted inquiry or behaved according to their insecurities according to predictable analysis. This reader got all that from the get-go. As a child.
Does this mean that I was never a child playing the game? Or does it mean that adults do not give children their due? 'Cause I'm willing to bet that at least one of the regular readers or commenters on this blog, and on others, is in fact 8 years old, pretending to be 25, so they can be respected for the knowledge they have and not spoken down to like the moronic idiot we suppose children to be. And here's the thing - I'm just as willing to bet that 8 year old's insight and ability to express thoughts in words is every bit as good as a million actual 25 year olds barely able to spell. And to that 8 year old (or 9 or 10, whatever you are), I say good on you! Just be warned ... people older than you now, people who are the same age as you when you're 25, and people younger than you when you're 50 will go on saying that you're pretentious, just because you had a curiousity.
But forget them. They're all just bricks in the wall.