Lifestyle choices part 5: playing games with my family and friends

We are living in a gaming golden age regardless of the medium you play in. Whether it’s sports, board games, pen and paper, computer or console you will be able to find a game for you. As a lifestyle choice games of all kinds is an essential part of my life and want it to become an essential part of my family life as well.

While I listed several quite different categories my biggest passion is board games. Like many, I grew up with chess, monopoly, trivial pursuit and scrabble. With the exception of chess these are all pretty terrible games for various reasons which i won’t go into. There are now so many wonderful and amazing board games out there today that my generation growing up sorely lacked. Getting together with friends around a board game is a great social experience. Getting to really understand the tactics and strategies of a game and finding out the myriad of ways to win is also exciting. Gone are the days where you can only win one way. Look into games now and you’ll find them offering a rich mental exercise and an immersive theme to boot. It’s no wonder that I hope to introduce my children to this world.

There are plenty of reasons other then the sheer joy of it. There are so many different games out their now that you can find any number of different games for different mental skill development. It may come as a surprise but board games are more for adults as an intellectual challenge than they are for children as something to do on a rainy day. Fortunately there are plenty of accessible games for children to build up those logic skills so they can play the good stuff. Board games develop logic. They give you a framework of rules to abide by in which you need to solve a problem. The more games you play the better your logic gets. I should qualify that with depending on what games you play. Almost all euro-games will develop your problem solving skills. While we are on the topic of logic, there is a similarity in the logic practiced in games and the logic practiced in mathematics. This isn’t to say that while you are playing games you’ll be solving quadratic equations. It’s the logic in noticing patterns and solving abstract problems. Playing games will improve your ability to understand complex reasoning. Something that certainly can’t hurt a child’s development.

Another area that games build are imagination. There is a wide range of story building games out there challenging you to create your own stories using prompts, such as Gloom or Once Upon a Time. They reward creativity and being able to follow a story-line. I’m looking forward to the day I sit down with my two girls and make stories with them. Games offer a gateway into greater creativity. Pen and paper games also play heavily into this. Not only building creativity but also improvisation skills and creative problem solving and that’s just for the players. The role as the moderator / dungeon master / game guide or whatever else you want to call it is to paint worlds for the other to explore and be challenged by.

Of course one of the biggest exercises mental skill gaming builds is memory. There are a score of games that rely heavily on memory as the means to victory. I don’t just mean remembering where a certain thing is or an obscure fact. There are games that you have to rely on your memory to follow what is going on in the game. Games like Masquerade, Coup, Gentlemen Thieves, Libertalia to name a few require you to deduce who is who or who has what to win the game. People often take memory for granted. That is to say assume it can’t get better. The more you work your memory the better you get at remembering things. One of the things that child prodigies of all areas have in common is a fantastic memory. By developing your children’s memory you can ensure a better life for them.

In the list I mentioned computer and console games. This is a tricky area in terms of child development. I grew up with computer games and wouldn’t trade it for anything. I believe I gained many of the skills mentioned for board games. Understanding patterns and solving problems within set parameters. As an added bonus it helped me develop my computer skills. Playing computer games develops your ability to use computer programs. I have a theory that Japan’s low computer literacy stems from children playing console games instead of computer games. Thus it seems to me that I should expose my children to computer games. The tricky part is when and what games. There are so many stupefying games out there on the market but there are also plenty of interesting and mentally challenging games too. The big question is where to draw the line? This one concerns me in the same way that any long term exposure to media such as television shows and smart phones. Phones are useful but can also be massive time wasters for no gain. Same with TV shows but then there are some fantastic TV shows out there which are worth watching. My current thoughts on the matter are to try and expose my children to shows and games I value and hope they develop a good sense of their own interests media wise.

I also mentioned sports. I did that to remind people that a sport is no different to the other games I’ve mentioned except that there is an active component and often a co-operative element. A person who is pro sports but anti gaming has probably just not tried gaming. Similarly a person who is into gaming but not into sports should really give it a try. I’m sure they’ll find that there is just as much mental activity going on in sports.

I could go on and on about the merits of gaming and child development. Or the merits of gaming and having a fulfilling life. I’ll leave it there though since i feel I’ve covered the main reasons I’ll game, play sports and role-play with my family.

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