Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Transformative Power of Gaming

It's a family tradition to find the best new board game each Christmas. I'm not talking about inexpensive games that can be found at Target. No, these games usually come from a specialty game store, the type of place that regular people either don't know about or don't make a priority to visit.

This tradition was not actually my idea. In keeping with my family's quiet nature, I grew up playing genteel games that required the quiet participation of only one or two others. Scrabble, checkers and chess, backgammon. Yahtzee was about as wild as my family got. Crossword puzzles are to this day my preferred method of keeping my neural pathways open.

No, the love of gaming came from Dave's side of the family. One cannot walk into Walden-ville without being invited to play at something. Bocce ball, croquet, volleyball, badminton, yard darts, and horseshoes are de rigueur every summer. One chilly day, itching to game but hindered by the inclement weather, the Walden men built a custom cornhole platform, while we girls spent the afternoon filling hand-sewn beanbags with corn kernels.

In winter months we play Monopoly, Skittles, Scattergories...board games too numerous to mention really. And cards. Oh do we play cards. Once I asked my kids if Grandpa had introduced them to poker yet. 5-year-old Devon said, in her delicate voice, "Only Seven Card Stud and Texas Hold 'em." You get the picture.

Every now and then we stumble upon a game that even I enjoy, like Guesstures. Guesstures is a timed charades game, and I like it because it leads usually dignified people to do things that you have never, no matter how long you have known them, my entire life in the case of my dad, seen them do before.

When Dave and I split up he took most of the games, without a peep of objection from me. He furnished his basement with only tables. Pool, ping pong, foosball, air hockey. He called this newly acquired freedom "the silver lining of divorce."

At least once a week Dave holds game night for the kids. Attendance is not optional. Initially I thought forced gaming to be a bit heavy handed. Recently, weary from battling daily pleas for video gaming, iPod listening, online chatting and other isolating electronic pursuits, I've revised my opinion. It is time for me to jump aboard the train. I've informed the kids that Santa will not be bringing anything electronic this year. And I've borrowed Guesstures from Dave's treasure trove of fun and frivolity.

Devon, Lara, Eric and I played last night, until the wee hours. And today we tired girls are smiling at the recently-created memory of Eric, 6'4" newbie gamer Eric, doing things we have NEVER seen, or even imagined, him doing.

Friday night we play for keeps.


Marie Walden said...

Update: After a couple days of trying I finally won an eBay bidding war. My prize? A never-played, stickers-not-even-applied, first edition Guesstures game! Me so happy!

sue spengler said...

Your post brought back a fond memory of my mother, about a year before she passed away. We were playing Cranium with my brother's family in a big house on Lake Saranac in NY. My mother was hooked to an oxygen tank with a REALLY long cord. At one point, her clue was "roller coaster", and she ran back and forth across the living room with her hands up in the air going up and down, up and down, with the oxygen cord trailing all around her. We all laughed until we cried! My second-grade niece guessed correctly, and even though I wasn't on their team, I cheered.

Marie Walden said...

I am glad you had that funny recollection. Those are the memories that I am now starting to really appreciate. It's amazing how I can remember very specific gaming incidents even twenty years later.

It is also a wonderful thing to have an entire family involved in a single activity. And gaming does bring out qualities, like competitiveness and creativity and dramatic flair, that day-to-day living usually does not.