The very best board games, some would say, are family board games (a.k.a. board games for kids). Those brand new board games that come out every year just before Christmas at, you guessed it, The Board Game Store. Right there at the mall between Penney’s and Sears. Age appropriate. Educational. Bright and shiny. Brand new. What more could you ask for?
But it hasn’t always been that way. Children’s board games of the past were nothing like the new board games for kids that everyone touts as being way better than those stuffy old classic board games. Who wants to play checkers anymore? Yuck! Boring. Makes me feel like an old man. Where’s Super Mario and Sponge Bob and My Little Pony? Elmo and Nemo and the legion of Disney Princesses? Shouldn’t they be in the game? Teaching us math and science and the importance of being nice, getting along with others, sharing our toys, and taking a bath every day? And besides, Don’t they get a chance to play? Why can’t I get that kinda game? Don’t you love me anymore? What did I do wrong? I was good, wasn’t I? Why can’t I play XYZ? All my friends have it, Why don’t I? … and on and on …
Whoa! now. Enough is enough. Couldn’t it be that somewhere between “the top board games” and “the good board games” and “the very best board games” (as defined by today’s commercial society – with world aplenty of proprietary content), that there’d have to be a few board game ideas that the board game creators, the game printers, the board game companies, and all the rest have overlooked? Something besides teach this and learn that? Buy Disney or perish? Innovative ideas like imaginative play and think for yourself? What would you do if you were being chased by the bad guys and about to be caught? How can you get to The Big Rock Candy Mountain before anybody else? Or maybe those ideas and principles have been there all along.
Consider this: in the realm of “adult” board games, many of today’s board game rules are rather intuitive. Why? Because, in many cases, they are so familiar. They conform to our pre-learned sense of logic. Patterns of thinking that our parents taught us. Patterns we learned from playing such games as Chess and Checkers and Nine Men’s Morris. Monopoly and Life. Sorry and Trouble. And other games that, at the time, were considered plain old “board games” – neither for children nor for adults, just “board games”.
And then there’s the influence of cards.
Who hasn’t played some simple board games (that were kinda fun and easy to learn) without thinking that this or that rule reminded us of a similar rule in Euchre or Poker or Bridge? Or maybe it was Go Fish. You see, it really doesn’t matter. Regardless of what types of board games or card games or any other kind of games we came up playing, we did in fact all learn something. And that something guides us as we learn more and more and deeper and deeper games. One rule builds upon another. And that one leads to the next. And so on.
So the next time you take your kids out shopping for board games, Where are you gonna look? What are you gonna pay attention to? That great big neon sign that points to our most popular board games? You know, those math board games (featuring Sponge Bob, of course) that are right up there with Brussels sprouts – good for you but, honestly, something that little Billie is gonna enjoy? I don’t think so. Not for long – unless of course little Billie is a geek. In which case he or she is apt to be doomed to a life of game design and development. Horrors! (Just kidding – that wouldn’t be so bad, would it?) 🙂
Or maybe you’ll buy into the flashy glamour glitz of Saturday morning cartoons and teenage heart throbs (real and imagined). The latest fad, the newest doll, the gotta have toy. They’re all the same. Different wrapper, same thing inside.
And maybe that’s the point. Maybe board games for kids and board games for adults are just alike. No different. The same animal facing a new direction. So, take the old with the new, the classic alongside the latest and greatest. The Board Game Store can educate us on what’s trending. Grandpa can teach the kids checkers. And little Billie may just eat his Brussels sprouts and surprise us all. Try to make the best choice you can when you go game shopping and always remember that kids come in all sizes and that youth has no boundary. In the end, a game is a toy and toys appeal to the heart. If your kids want glitz and glam this week, let ’em have it. Let them have fun. Maybe next week they’ll challenge you to a classic.
FYI – No cartoon characters were harmed during the production of this post.
And, needless to say, everybody – myself included – loves Disney!