We came across this 'Ryuu' game a few weeks ago and were instantly intrigued. Ryuu is a card game similar to popular cards like Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon, but are used to teach social skills through dragons and other mythical characters. This is a great way to approach puzzling and difficult social situations in a fun and interesting way! Through dragons, players move through various stages of social maturity and encounter both 'dark forces' that work to break down our social skills and 'light forces' that make us all more socially savvy.
'Ryuu' includes three different games of all different levels. The first game is simply a game of 'Memory' where you put all the cards face down and try to pick the two cards that go together (or opposite, such as the "rigidity" card and the "flexibility" card). You can then use the descriptions on the cards to start a conversation about different emotions and behaviors. The player with the most matches wins.
The second game is where the players evolve through social stages. Each player picks a certain dragon and draws cards from the deck and answers the questions presented on the card. The questions are either "conceptual" or "personal" so the players have a chance to talk about how the concept on the card applies to their real life. There are various cards that help the 'light forces' and can serve as a free pass to the players. This game is not competitive and is over when everyone has progressed through the four stages.
The most advanced version in the series is the 'Role-Playing' game. Within this game there is also a beginning and advanced version. Here the players are challenged to actually act out social scenarios. Like the second game, the dragons evolve through stages. The difference between the beginner and advanced versions is that in the advanced version the dragons encounter random 'dark forces' decided on by the facilitator where the dragons have to use their particular strengths and 'light forces' to overcome these challenges. Again, the game is over when everyone has evolved to a mature dragon.
- Players learn to label their emotions and social behavior in a meaningful way
- Players learn to respond appropriately to social situations and get to practice these skills
- Learning through the dragons makes approaching the topic less awkward and more fun!
- The three versions of the game make it relevant for individuals of different ages and skill levels
- The game comes with an interactive CD where the players can learn more about the dragons and the land of Ryuu
- The facilitator has the opportunity to individualize the questions to the particular player to make the game more relevant and meaningful!
- It is important to make sure group members are all of a similar social level and all understand the rules and intricacies of the game, especially the more complicated version
- The third game in particular is quite complex and requires upfront research on the facilitator's part to successfully moderate the game (in fact two facilitators may not be a bad idea!)
- The role-play scenarios can be very open-ended, therefore, the facilitator may need to provide more direct guidance
- Depending on the dynamics of the group, the role-playing game could be quite time-consuming so it may require some adapting
Our Verdict: It's a Winner! Although this game can be very complex, it's designed to be flexible enough to adapt to meet the specific needs of the group. For a younger child with an interest in the fantasy world, the first game is a great place to start labeling emotions and social behaviors. Then as kids mature, the second and third games allow for more personalization on the topics to help players become more self aware. Through role-playing, players can actually practice these skills in a fun and safe atmosphere. Finally, players have a chance to get lost in the world of fantasy and learn with their dragons to conquer the confusing social world!