The Case for Family Game Night

The Case for Family Game Night

The_Chess_GameThe case for Family Game Night.
I see a lot of families come into the store and see how they interact with each other.
  • “It’s his/her thing” There are a lot of kids dropped off with parents who through their hands up in the air about understanding the games the kids are playing, but are just happy their noses are out of screens.
  •  “If only they knew…” There are kids who have no idea that their parents sill have 10-12 year-olds living inside that are a little surprised every time they look in the mirror and see adults looking back, who used to play when we were kids and are a lot cooler then they can see though offspring-tinted glasses.
  • “Alright..enough you two!” There are parents who have the weary look of having tried to get the kids playing with each other or them and had such a bad time with tantrums born of games being taken as some sort of form of personal attack.
  • “Game on!” And then there are parents who’ve somehow, by joyful force of will or family legacy, who have incorporated regular playing games together as a family into their lives.
There is something beyond special about these families.  I’m truly not saying that as the dude who sells board games, but there is something about they way these families interact with each other.  An ease of conversation, a gentle teasing that goes both ways, that creates a sense of longing and envy in me every time I see it. And it makes me determined to do whatever I can to try and help foster that in every family, including my own.  I’m resolved this year to do eveything I can to help make a culture that says that in our community, in Alameda, that we pick one night a week to look at each other’s faces, rather then our screens, that we put down the lists and logistics for a couple of hours in exchange for interaction, connection and hopefully a bit of laughter.  That we realize that time we spend on this is not bonus playtime, but the work of making ourselves and our kids, the people we want to be.
Of course I’m going to push games into this slot, because that’s what I do, but obviously the same connections can come from hiking, playing sports, or building a rocket together. Just get away from the screens and look each other in the eyes.
Here are a few hints/observations that I’ve seen for those who have been able to make this work:
  1. Get regular.  A lot of the resistance to getting off screens or spending time together goes away when that time is considered sacred.  It will very likely be hard to get this going at first.  Part of what I want to do is have the kids be the ones who are pushing for this and rewarded in the store for making happen.
  2. Get out of your comfort zone.  Let different members of the family pick the game each week and have everyone look at it as a way to find the most fun out of the game.  Sometimes only finding the one game that everyone likes becomes almost impossible.  Besides, if you only experience that smallest section of that intersection, then no one gets what they most like,and everyone else misses out on tasting something new.
  3. Teasing ok, shaming not so much.  A lot of hurt feeling get hidden under playful poking at each other…if you need to set some limits on this, do so a head of time.
  4. If competition  is a problem, go co-op.  Fair play and good sportsmanship are super important, and can be incredibly draining and no fun to deal with as referees each time you play. There are a ton of great games where the game itself is the opponent, and each of you are working to beat it together.  These games are great for this situation.
  5. Advice on request only:  One thing that can kill games for everybody if one of the players is the “You should do this” guy.  People like to be smart for themselves, so instituting the “Can I give you a suggestion?” rule is a very good idea, particularly when you team it with “its ok to let other people make mistakes…its just a game”
  6. Designate a “prepared guy/gal”. If you are going to be playing a new game, make sure somebody is assigned to be the person who checks out the game before everyone plays to be the rules jedi.  Nothing bores players more then trying to puzzle out the rules of a new game together for 50 minutes before you play.
  7. Share the mantra:  Model for the kids the D20 Mantra
    • Win with Grace
    • Lose with Style
    • Play for Joy
  8. Share joy, not expectations. A lot of parents get frustrated when their kids would rather stick their heads in the screen then do the things the parents wish they could share.  .
  9. For the parents…lighten up. 😉  We get so locked into being parents that we forget what it is like to be kids. Be kids with your kids…show them what that’s like.  And related to that, don’t turn up your nose at some of the games the kids like if they have adolescent humor or even violence.  They are adolescent, and conflict as one of the things that makes games (and) entertainment fun is utterly normal.  (Shakespeare’s characters knocked each other off with stunning regularity.)  I’m not condoning hateful or truly offensive stuff, but just remember what it was like to be a kid, and also remember that while when we were kids, we tended to play in gender separated groups, that as familes, we need to cross a lot of things we might not normally like to find common ground.
What I’m going to do to get this started is create a pledge card for the store.  Anyone who pledges (and really means it) to do a family game night at least twice a month, I’ll give them a special in-store goodies (or discount) tbd. If this rings true with you and seems worth it, I’d like to ask for help in trying to make this something bigger then just the store in the community.  My goal would be to have Alameda take some pride in being a community that has committed to this, and let’s see what kind of results it has on our lives.   If you want to help and have ideas, email me back and we’ll set up a time to get together and figure it out.  The best things I’ve ever done, have been done by cool people around me.
Have a great week and go play.  😉

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