Tonight, my eight-year old nephew asked if I'd play a game with him using his LEGO pirate ships. Since I gave him the aforementioned ships for Christmas (the Black Pearl and the Flying Dutchman from the LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean set), I felt obliged to agree. Also, for the slower students, LEGO PIRATE SHIPS.
So we start sorting out the crewmen, and after he breaks out two Yahtzee dice (skeptically: "I don't usually use dice.") we set up. I figure Uncle Ken will have to work out some ground rules, and we'll spend a little time on whether the ACTUALLY FIRING CANNON are part of the game or to be simulated and are we going to play man-scale or ship-scale or if we ...
And immediately, he starts explaining the rules to me. Including the die mechanic; each number rolled means something specific, and he just made it up on the fly but completely confidently (and consistently) because he wasn't even planning to use dice. (I presume the original resolution system was the one from Green Army Men, or "he shoots him".) Then he explains about jumps, and resurrections, and limited lives, and switching viewpoint characters ("move your life to that character and it takes a turn, but you can jump for free") and it's like he's downloading every FPS he's ever played right into the game mechanic. (He kicked my uncleish tail at LEGO Star Wars earlier.) Which, remember, he is essentially making up on the spot. The game even had "levels" -- there's the ship combat, which can zoom into individual fights between pirates; then there's the island level, where we race to find the treasure; then there's the concluding swordfight on the island. He argued that the LEGO Keira Knightley figure (who I selected for the final duel on the grounds that she had a LEGO sword) should take more damage from a 6 because she was a girl (I resisted manfully, feminist readers, but I lost the dispute by dint of not being eight), but then squandered his hard-argued advantage by deciding that we'd go to live-action resolution with foam tubes, where having a foot and a half of reach (and knowing what a stop-thrust is) meant I won our 7 passes by 4 to 1 to 2 ("I think we both won that one," he said twice) and thus, won LEGO Pirate Game.
In short, it was amazing to see just how much game play, and sense of mechanics, is hard-coded into kids by (I assume) video games now. I kind of want to bottle my nephew and squeeze him out for some intro RPG rules. Not to mention, he hasn't seen any of the movies, but he knew who all the little LEGO characters were somehow. Osmosis, man. It's downright scary when you think about it.