Geeky Teen Birthday Party
Planning a Birthday Party for a Geek
Planning birthday parties for young children can usually be handled fairly generically. Once they reach adolescence, personalities are stronger and it can be a little more difficult. My oldest son freely admits he is a geek. Other kids his age would probably want to play games and just hang out with friends at a birthday party, but not my boy. Social events are definitely not his thing. He likes video games and trading card games like Magic the Gathering, Pokémon, and Yu-Gi-Oh.
In some ways, this was kind of a relief. He only has a few close friends and it would be easier to provide food, cake, and everything else. I did panic for a bit until I figured out how to make his geekiness direct the party plans.
Have a Tournament
Since trading card games were so popular with my son and his friends, we put together a tournament like the ones he enjoys at the local game store.
- Bracket - My husband is quite the athlete, so he put together the bracket for the tournament.
- Rules - This was pretty easy since we chose Magic the Gathering and the rules are pretty universal for game play and tournaments.
- Location - Even though our house is pretty small, this kind of tournament required only some small tables and chairs. Two sets of people could play at the kitchen table. Other sets used card tables or tv trays/tables.
- Prizes - Because the boys invited to the party were all Magic the Gathering enthusiasts, we bought extra packs of Magic the Gathering cards to use as prizes. Higher finishers received more packs.
The tournament took a few hours to complete and the boys had a great time. We had the official teenager food - PIZZA - as well as cake and ice cream.
I'm sure the Magic the Gathering tournament seems unique enough, but these boys are geeky enough to know every nuance of the trading card game. Certain artists are revered for their work on these cards and many of the quotes listed on the cards have become legendary in the community. What could be better than to let the boys design their own cards? This was a few years ago and I was fortunate enough to find a website that allowed you to upload photos and text to create your own card. This process would be simple enough now using modern photo editing software.
- Create artwork - The boys can draw their own characters or creatures or the boys could be the featured character.
- Capture artwork - Take a digital photo or scan the artwork.
- Card artwork - Use your favorite search engine to find pictures of the card you want to use (Pokemon, Magic, etc.). Save a copy on your computer. It's good to find a copy of the art on the back of the card as well. You can also scan in or take a digital photo of one of your child's cards.
- Text - I made a form with an area for the artwork and spaces for them to write the text they wanted for the card. Look at an actual card from the game to see what types of things they will need (type of creature, name, powers, quote, actions, etc.).
- Create card - While the kids are playing their tournament, you will be busy with your photo editing software replacing the image and text from the "real" card with what the child has created.
- Print card - Print the newly created card and the back design as well (make sure it's the same size). You can also go to a card shop and buy "commons" for a very low price and just paste the new front design on the real card. For an extra fun touch, place the finished card in a card protector (also available from card store).
Each child then goes home with their own custom card. The boys at our party just couldn't stop talking about this fun activity.
Other Geeky Ideas
- Trading card games aren't the only ones you can do tournaments with. We've done it with video games as well. Choose your game well or you may have a much longer party than you expected unless you have multiple gaming systems and televisions available.
- Video games in general are a great option when your kid only invites a few guests. Whether they play Mario Kart or Guitar Hero, you should be able to keep two to four kids very entertained. If you have more than four kids at the party, make sure you set up a good system for rotating kids in and out of the games. Otherwise, the shy kid may never play and the same kids may always be playing against each other. Geekier kids are much more sensitive to this kind of thing and can go home very miserable if it isn't managed well. Even a system of drawing names out of a hat will alleviate this.
- There are even some board games that appeal to this type of kid. Settlers of Cataan and Risk are just two of them. Check with the local game store that specializes in trading card games, comic book collecting, role playing games (Dungeons and Dragons), and board games. They can recommend the latest games. Avoid the role playing games (RPG) since they take forever to play and you'll have your kid's friends at your house for days.
The most important thing is to help your kid to have fun celebrating his birthday doing something he really enjoys. Ask him for ideas and then refine it to work within your time and budget constraints.