Monday, October 17, 2016

One Of The Secrets

Whenever I put a board game on a table, usually our blue table, children bunch together around it. Because we're a cooperative, I have the luxury of also putting an adult at that table, who can, should the need arise, read the rules and coach the kids on how to play it. Sometimes that's how it goes, but most of the time, the adult's job is to sit back and, at my request, "keep track of the pieces," while the kids make it up as they go.

Growing up, we were a family of five, and mom loved her board games, so we would often gather around the dining table for a round or two of Parcheesi or Life after dinner. Every year Santa would bring the family a new game that we played together on Christmas morning, a tradition that remains to this day. As a boy, I would sometimes get a hankering for spinning the spinner or rolling the dice when there was no one able or willing to play with me, so I would set the game up on my bedroom floor and play by myself, assuming control of all the pawns. I once spent several hours playing four hands of Monopoly keeping a running tally of which properties were landed on the most over the course of a full game. (For those interested, the top five in order were Illinois Ave., Indiana Ave., New York Ave., Kentucky Ave., and St. James Pl., which is why I always covet the red and orange properties.)

Parents often complain/boast that their child is into video games, but the more likely truth is that they are simply into games, it's just that most video games are designed to be played solo whereas board games, my own experience aside, really require others to bring out the most fun and that can be a difficult hurdle with smaller families and busier parents. But for any parents looking to get their kid to put down the iPad, I reckon a family game night would do the trick. 

The game in these pictures is one from my own boyhood, a game called Booby Trap. A big part of the attraction is the "gadget," a spring loaded bar that applies tension to those little discs. The object of the game is to carefully remove those discs one at a time without causing the bar to move. Sometimes the children play it that way, but last week, they made up their own turn-taking game that involved collecting your favorite color as fast as you can while squealing each time the bar snapped shut a bit more. At any given moment last week there were four or five heads bent over that game, bickering, negotiating, and agreeing.

It's gotten so I put a game on that table almost every day. Sometimes we play by the printed rules, but most of the time not. Indeed, the children have taught me that there is no wrong way to play a board game, just so as long as everyone agrees to the rules. And ultimately that may be their greatest attraction: they teach us to make it up as we go along in consultation with the other people, which is also, not coincidentally, one of the secrets to living a satisfying life.

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