Hey – It’s Toy Fair Season and a lot of us are busy and preoccupied, but we still have family and friends with whom we need to continually connect. How’s about taking a bubble of time and jumping out of your Toy/Game industry pants and into those of the consumer? That didn’t sound right. Never mind the pants.
Now that we’re past the magical distractions of the holidays and find ourselves thrust into the dead of winter, it won’t be long before we hear, “Mom! I’m bored!” I know I shout it into the emptiness often, even though my mom is most often out of earshot in another part of town. Before you automatically decide to just take out the garbage, you can learn to recognize this little complaint as your signal to get your game on! Have a pile of fresh games in a secret place that you can produce in a moment’s notice and change the tenor of a boring winter day into an opportunity to get reacquainted with your fam, your friends, and, really anybody you think has a reasonable attention span, or who may need to GET ONE. (This means YOU, ya screen junkies.)
Fresh games can be picked up in lots of outlets, but they can also be dusted off and resurrected after making it to the bottom of the closet, or come from the collections of friends and neighbors. Wherever you get them, these cardboard boxes hold more than just pastimes. They hold tools you can use to draw ideas out of your peeps and learn more about what makes them tick. Learn what’s on their minds. Learn your kids’ current priorities, which change as rapidly as they grow.
Does your family like strategic competition? Are you a bunch of word nerds? Do you go for suspense? Tree hugging? Intercontinental military battles? Physical challenges? Kumbaya-type sharing? Whatever floats your boat, you can find it in a game. And regardless of the themes you choose, there’ll be learning and sharing taking place… and opportunities to discuss things that don’t otherwise come up.
Games get us together and get us giggling, and they can greatly enrich our free time as families. Instead of bringing out the games when there’s nothing more exciting to do, set a special night each week to play a game with the whole family. Take turns suggesting which game to play, pop some popcorn, pour the root beer (and when I say root beer I might mean bourbon) and make game night an event everybody can look forward to with wild anticipation. If you don’t have a closet full of games, you can trade games with other families or check them out of the library. You can even plan an all-family shopping trip to the game store and see what there is to see. The trip in itself can be really fun - pick up a pizza on the way home (and when I say pizza I mean bucket of chicken) and you’re ready to play!
After you choose your games, remember this: once you own a game, it’s yours to keep! That means you can change the rules at will. Sometimes it’s fun to play a game over and over, but alter the rules each time – add stunts, ways to win more money, new pitfalls and free moves. Rules can be tweaked to level the playing field for younger players and allow them to participate and compete with older kids and parents, and rules can amp up the fun and learning in all kinds of ways. You can get out some Sharpies and write on the game, you know. It’s okay to do that. It’s not graffiti. For example, make a rule that if somebody lands on a certain spot, says a bad word, or burps out loud while you’re playing, they have to stick an ice cube down their shirt. Or refill your bourbon. Whatever.
When you play different games every week, you’ll start to get a feel for what kinds of games your family likes best – some families might be competitive strategy gurus, while others might like lighter games of chance. Some families might like to play in the dark with flashlights or to wear funny hats… mine does (because it masks the greasy chicken finger stains on the board). Whatever and however you choose to play, remember there’s a lot happening during a game... you’re learning about each other, you’re spending face-time together (and when I say face-time I mean actual real-life face-time not Apple® Facetime®), and you’re creating memories that will last. Now put your pants on (and by that I mean put your consumer pants on) (and I also mean just make sure you are wearing actual pants) and play.