My daughter and I have a game that we play regularly, called “Let’s Make Stuff Up.”
It’s a pure imagination game. It has no object and you can’t win. The way it works is this: One of us (usually her) invents some fantastical concept, such as a tree in the center of the Earth that can grow all types of food or alien cars that can turn people into more alien cars, or (in today’s case) a ring that presents you with a choice between two super powers and then stipulates how you can use the one you pick.
Once the concept is created, the game is for me to ask her questions about that concept that she has to make up answers to, turning the concept ever more real. In the tree in the center of the Earth example, I asked her how people get to it, how much food it can produce, why that doesn’t destroy the economy of the world, what happens if bad people try to cut off access from it, etc.
The rules of the game are the rules of good storytelling – she’s not allowed to dodge questions or say “just because.” She has to develop her concept. The tree is a unique species that absorbs energy from the pressure at the center of the earth, and is both magical and sentient, so it can transform its energy and the minerals around it into whatever kind of edible material humans want. It is served by an army of “treemaids” (Like mermaids, but they swim in the lava and have leaves for hair) that keep anyone from restricting access to the tree; all are welcome. But if you’re bad, the tree only makes you bad food. You still get fed, but it tastes gross.
This is a fun game.
Today’s example – she invented a ring that grants a single super power. When you put the ring on, you’re presented with two choices via pop-up screens that each show a future image of you heroically using one of the two powers. You touch one of the screens, get that power, and that choice is forever removed from the ring. Then you have that power, but it vanishes if you try to use it for evil.
The next person that gets the ring gets a different choice – whichever power you didn’t choose, plus a new one to fill the other screen. In this way, no two people get the same power from the ring, so theoretically anyone can get any power, but only of two possible choices. You can’t trick the ring by taking it off and putting it back on again; it remembers you. If you don’t like your options and so you give the ring to someone else to pick first, you miss your chance and the ring won’t let you get any powers.
Running through it, she first chose Ice Powers (like Elsa from Frozen) out of a choice between that and Flight. I chose next, and picked Flight over Plant Control. My wife was not present, but my daughter decided that she would get “The ability to clone herself, except all the clones don’t get tired so she gets to sleep for everyone while the clones work.” My wife seemed extremely happy with the choice later.
Then my daughter mentioned teleportation as a choice, which raised the age-old question: which would you rather be able to do, fly or instantaneously teleport?
She immediately chose teleportation. Her reasoning: “That way, if you have to do homework but there’s a crime, you can just teleport right to the crime and stop it, and then go right back to doing your homework.”
I replied: “Yeah, but wouldn’t flying be so much more fun?”
She clapped back: “We’re not here to have fun. We’re here to fight crime.”
These karate lessons are paying off, people. My daughter is a vigilante-in-training, and I love it.
I love the super powers she invents, and I especially love the super powers she already has. Her unflagging moral compass (note how unprompted she always puts some sort of “you have to be a good guy” clause in her magic), her absolutely incredible imagination, and her riotous sense of humor. She’s a cool, noble kid – and that’s definitely the best power of all.
Except Ice Powers, of course.