I wanted to spend a moment reflecting on being a father and fly casual.
We bought our eldest son the original core set, Imperial Aces and the Millennium Falcon expansion when he turned eleven, that was eight months ago. Prior to this, I had wanted to be a table top gamer from afar but had never committed to a game.
Now that’s a name I’ve not heard in a long time
When I was about 10, my own father bought me Hero Quest. I was a real sucker for marketing and it was the early 90s – I wanted to wield the Barbarian’s ‘brode sode’; I wanted to be the dwarf with his kick-ass axe; I really wanted to be like Stuart.
My parents split when I was seven and my mum introduced me to her boss’ son, Stuart, as a way of helping me cope. His folks had been divorced for a long time and he was in his early teens, to my mum this seemed like a no brainer.
Stuart was a big gamer, a Red Dwarf fan and massively into Star Wars. I didn’t know it when I began writing this but I’ve just found another shadow that I haven’t thought about in nearly 20 years. Tangent.
I’m not going to go into the symbolism or Freudian readings of Anakin/Darth/Luke, I’d be saying nothing new and/or original. The parallels of sons becoming fathers from Boba to Jango and failed father figures (Hi Obi Wan!) are rife throughout the saga (and yeah, maybe that is a prediction about Ben Solo’s eventual redemption) but that’s not why I’m writing this.
Long story short: my attempts at painting the Hero Quest characters failed miserably; I was too young to really understand any of the rules and living in Hounslow didn’t really support a culture of fantasy games. It wouldn’t be until 20 years or so later that I would find X-Wing really affected my relationship with my children.
The Force is with you young Skywalker, but you’re not a Jedi yet
I’ve seen quite a few starter games in stores whilst playing competitively over the last few months and often, these involve a father and son. In the most recent episode of the Mynock Squadron podcast , Together we can rule the galaxy (you can find it here), Kevin Eide discusses the values that he wants his children to have from gaming, exploring both sportsmanship and fly casual.
When I played at the Womprats tournament in Aldershot (you can read about it here), one of the competitiors, Dan, bought his son along and we all joked about what we might do if placed against him. Many a truth(FEAR) is said in jest – what do you do in this situation? To simply let him win would be an insult, right? To go in lasers blazing would just be wrong.
When I began playing with Oz, I would beat him by accident. I didn’t want him to think that I was letting him win and my own poor relationship with my father had left me useless at navigating what should be a ‘fun’ experience.
Oz would put his lists together without reading the cards and then forget to use them throughout the game. As I got better at X-Wing, I tried to explain this to him and would offer to go through his upgrades to help make a list. He declined. It wasn’t stubbornness; he wanted to be independent and work it out for himself.
Each game would end in tears (not mine).
I could go through a number of bad dad moments where I have regretted a decision made over ‘rules’ and the concept of ‘Well, he needs to learn…’ I still think about each of these now. Especially today.
It wasn’t until I listened to Doug Kinney discussing Fly Casual that I completely changed the way I played with Oz. I had heard a friend discussing Magic: The Gathering with her son:
For the next 45 minutes, I’m no longer your mother – I am your sworn enemy.
Though I laughed, I didn’t want this to be me.
My most memorable game was when I bought us each a Tie Phantom and we had a mirror match. This was, and still is, the only time I have played Imperials. The ships were fresh out of the box and neither of us knew how to use the cloaking device.
We set out the mat, our rocks and our formations. The biggest difference was how I presented this to him as us being on an even playing field. As we experimented with how to de-cloak and such, we planned together where the best outcome for our ships would be.
This was what had been missing: an exploration together.
More than a hobby, Oz and I have begun to paint our ships and play together in a way that I didn’t manage with my dad. Our youngest, a toddler, needed his own little X-Wing set (hello Micro Machines); he rolls my dice for me when we play at home.
The reason many talk about the welcoming community of X-Wing is because it genuinely exists. I’ve seen it online and through playing. When I think about the father that I want to be and the values that I want to instil in my children, it’s the one who solves things with my children, an adovcate for them. X-wing helps me do that right now.
I think I’ll try to get a game in later.