Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Childhood Passions Can Have Long-Lasting Benefits

The positive effects of Star Wars and Fantasy Games on children and adolescents.

Finding something they can be passionate about can be extremely rewarding for children and adolescents. Whether its fantasy game tournaments like “Magic: The Gathering,” immersing themselves in movie worlds like Star Wars, or other activities they get excited about, finding that special “something” that they identify with can be an extremely positive experience. As children develop, it is important they develop their own interests. One of the reasons that adolescents stop listening to their parents’ music at a certain age and adopt their own musical tastes is that they’re forming their own identities. They are aligning themselves with their friends and peer groups, and this is a normal part of child development. However, when children align themselves with unstable peer groups it can also be dangerous.

When adolescents prioritize their friends higher than their parents in terms of tastes and interests, it’s important that those friends are responsible enough to be a positive influence. For example, if children start hanging out with reckless friends who experiment with drugs and alcohol, they may follow suit. After all, fitting in with their friends is often more important for an adolescent than relying on their own values. Many times, one or two adolescents who don’t have good boundaries can influence other children to disregard theirs as well. This can lead to experimentation with drugs or sex long before the child is ready to make those decisions.

This is where your child’s interests come in. When children develop passions for activities, whether it’s fantasy card game tournaments, collecting action figures or something else that captivates their imagination, they are going to seek out other people with the same interests. When a child who loves science fiction starts collecting Star Wars memorabilia, chances are that’s what he or she is going to concentrate on and will maintain their focus. It also means the money they have will more likely go to working on their collecting interests rather than illicit substances.

A couple of decades ago, role-playing games and comic heroes were seen as “nerd” activities. Other kids would often make fun of people who played “Dungeons and Dragons,” or other fantasy games. Nowadays, with the proliferation of superhero movies and other fantasy driven properties, these “nerd” activities have become mainstream attractions.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s, the public generally looked down on anyone over the age of 12 who read comic books. People who indulged in graphic fiction of this type were often seen as having substandard intelligence and were the subject of negative judgments. Yet today, many of those same people are at the forefront of creating the blockbuster fantasy movies the entire world is watching.

George RR Martin, the creator of “Game of Thrones,” originally was a comic book fan who contributed to fan magazines called fanzines when he was a child. These amateur publications were done by adolescents and distributed to adolescents with the same interests, often with circulations of less than 50 copies. Now he has a worldwide following with his best-selling series of books and TV series. His love for science fiction and fantasy when he was a child helped him develop a unique voice that fueled his future success.

Generations of children and adolescents today have become so absorbed in the shows they love that they can’t help but delve deeper into those fantasy worlds. Whether it’s completing a collection or competing in a fantasy game tournament, it makes sense that these activities can keep a child focused on their passions and away from dangerous activities. This can make them more likely to save up their money to buy the latest set of “Magic the Gathering” cards rather than spending it on drugs or alcohol.

Passion and interest in activities is important. Children and Adolescents who grow up bored, without focus and ambition often turn to drugs and alcohol just to feel something other than their boredom. Adolescents who have passion for something in their lives, whether it is a fantasy game, sports trivia, or anything that keeps them focused and excited, can help a child develop the inner motivation they will need to move themselves forward as adults.

Often parents don’t understand the reasons a child is interested in a specific activity. They think fantasy games or actions figures are a waste of time and money. What they don’t often realize is that it doesn’t matter what the activity is, the importance is that they have a focused interest. The actual content of the passion is less important than the drive to be a part of something greater than themselves. The need to collect; to gather; to become an expert at something; these are all skills that can help a child later in life. It can help with their focus, their motivation and instill in them an understanding that they have the power to accomplish their goals.

Diving deeper into an activity they feel passionate about helps creates a context where children are developing their own inner sense of excitement and wonder. When adolescents find a community of friends that have similar interests and passions, they develop bonds and connections that can last a lifetime. More importantly, their passion for their activities demands their focus and leaves them less vulnerable to the pitfalls of boredom. When they have a focus that moves them forward they are less likely to indulge in dangerous behaviors that can get in the way of their goals.