If you were born after 1950, you’ve probably played Candy Land. It is an excellent introductory game for children. I’m thankful that my father played Candy Land with me; His willingness to play nurtured in me an understanding of playing by the rules of a game as well as accepting defeat. As Candy Land lost it’s luster (let’s face it, it doesn’t have much staying power), he introduced me to other games: Checkers, Chess, Monopoly and Pinochle. He continued to nurture my appreciation of games.
Nowadays, when we get together, which is all too infrequently I might add, we inevitably play a couple of hands of cards. The game of cards is a focal point for our time together, a ritual invocation and mnemonic device for the moment at hand. I don't recall many of details of any of these games, I just know that the evening is always full of laughter and levity.
As a father, I’ve spent quite a bit of time playing Candy Land with my children; Fortunately, we've graduated from that game and now play a whole slew of other games. The goal, though not quite explicit, has been to instill in them an appreciation of games and the positive impact they can have on relationships. Part of me wishes I’d play even more games with them. After all, some of my nearest and dearest memories are those that I’m playing games with friends and families.
I am also a father in a blended family, which means that on any given day the family members at my house are:
- Me, my partner, my step daughter and my children
- Me, my partner, and my step daughter
- Me, my partner, and my children
- Me and my partner
Games are one way that we are all able to re-connect and evoke a familial spirit. There are times where not everyone wants to play, and certainly getting everyone to agree is a bit of a challenge. If you have kids, you likely understand this challenge. However by asking “Who wants to play Dungeons and Dragons today?” this benevolent dictator can get a whole family combing through dingy catacombs, defeating treacherous goblins, all in search of the Crown of Might.
Aside from Role Playing Games we've played:
- Shadows over Camelot - a co-operative game where we try to defend Camelot from the various assailants.
- Lord of the Rings - a co-operative game where we try to destroy the One Ring of Sauron.
- Rory's Story Cubes - a set of dice with a wide variety of icons, excellent for getting a story going.
- You've Gotta be Kidding - Would you rather “Eat worms” or “Eat wet dog food”?
- Talisman - A game of finding monsters, looting ruins, and backstabbing other characters.
- Star Wars Epic Duels - Who doesn't want to play a lightsaber wielding Jedi trying to defeat the Emperor?
- Faery's Tale - a rules lite RPG where everyone plays the role of a faery in an enchanted world.
As the kids understand that games involve rules, I have found that they really come back for the immersion into the story. If there is an element of “racing the clock” the kids will work together to establish a good plan. We also play a healthy mix of collaborative and competitive games; Lord of the Rings is everyone working against the system. Talisman is everyone for his or her self. Both games are important, as they teach teamwork and self-reliance; Accepting defeat together and alone; Savoring victory as a team, or knowing “you just beat your older brother!”
In case you are wondering, I've decided to participate in an A-Z blogging challenge for April 2011.
P.S. This original post was much shorter, but I was inspired to write more as a result of my first in blog comment as well as reading the commenters (Andrea S. Michaels) blog. And yes Matt, I know you were the first response on Facebook.