The Importance of Game Playing
I’ve always been a huge fan of games. I have fond childhood memories of a game closet filled with options and the endless hours spent playing pinball with my brother, card games with my parents and Mahjong with my grandmother.
This past holiday break, I stirred up those pleasant memories. My kids and I skipped the exhausting and extensive travel in exchange for a much need break chilling at home. Lots of downtime - lots of games. From ping-pong and Monopoly to Sorry and King’s corners, my two kids and I unplugged and filled the hours with good old-fashioned game playing entertainment. The more we played, the more we mindfully focused on something other than our everyday routines...and stressors. We played for hours. We stayed in the moment. It was a beautiful thing.
Maybe that’s why I’ve always been a fan.
For many years while my kids were young, we incorporated a game night into our weekly schedule. Every Thursday night after dinner we would pull out a few games and play until bedtime. I loved the educational aspects of the games and how problem-solving, collaboration and even critical thinking appeared in even the simplest of games. I also loved an excuse to turn off the TV and spend quality time together gathered around the kitchen table doing something we all enjoyed. As the years passed, homework and late-night sports overtook our routine making it practically obsolete. We all sort of forgot about game night...until summers rolled around and late night ping-pong competitions ruled our yard and backgammon marathons begged to be played. And then...they became teens. Still up for a game now and then (when I suggested it) and when they were not too occupied playing video games with friends or binge-watching TV.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about games. After co-creating and bringing to life my own card game, The Death Deck, how could I not? Gaming is now constantly on my mind and I’ve been pleasantly surprised beyond my expectations watching the joyous interactions and call to actions it has stimulated. But I needed a little break, from work and our home base, so we snuck off to the desert to visit my dad. 85 years young. Can still beat me at ping-pong. I wonder if his many activities including poker, golf, pickleball, crosswords and Scrabble have something to do with his clarity. I’ve recently read how mental activities like games keep aging minds active, can boost concentration and offer a much needed social outlet. Studies also show playing games might help patients with dementia by slowing down cognitive decline. Seems to be working for him. And so, we pulled out more games and continued playing. All good stuff. Except the losing at ping-pong to an 85yr old.
On this particular trip, I noticed a beautiful way in which games brought us all closer together. The habitual pull to our phones, computers and newspaper articles (yes, and much to my children’s surprise, people still do read them) was shaken up when a friendly competition was initiated. Games had a way of releasing our grip of screens, earbuds, and inhibitions. Playful matches led to laughter, high fives, and hugs. Conversations that sometimes sadly become one-word teenage answers to repetitive grandparent questions now flowed more freely and abundantly. Games were the great uniter. We became ageless competitors. Everyone played. We all had a really good time.
Returning home the fun continued. We were on a roll and decide to switch it up to one of our favorite gaming activities: creative indoor ball games. Hallway soccer. Office football. Living room lacrosse. Rules? There are none. We team up, create rules as we play and then compete until exhaustion, injury or breakage. The classic line from The Brady Bunch “Mom always said don’t play ball in the house” often comes to mind as we play...but does not apply here. I'm the mom and encourage this very activity that, in spite of breaking a few items over the years, has led to some of the most important game playing in our house. Along with the delight and exhilaration, many deep and meaningful conversations have started and ended this way. One soft dodgeball throw to the head, and it is on! The great uniter. Equal competitors. There’s something wonderfully bonding about tossing a ball around the house...and something oddly therapeutic to me about recklessly kicking a mini football over the dog, past a kid, and thru a doorway to score a somewhat meaningless point. Game point that is, not talking point. Those are magical. As was our holiday break.
Whatever your preference, be it card or board games, tabletop or outdoor games, or even made up indoor ball games (just not around precious family heirlooms) I encourage you to play, play often, and rediscover the importance of game playing. You’ll be glad you did.