‘Tis the season for goodwill to all men, or so they say. So here’s a really valid question; rather than get together and have fun, why do some people insist the best way to do this is argue with each other and fall out over something as stupid as a board game? Really, I don’t think I get the reasoning…
I hate using the Daily Mail as a source, but this needs to be done. Surgical gloves on everyone! And wellies. This might get messy.
To quote the research as done by Netmums (kid you not :S) “The traditional family board game is in crisis with more than a quarter of parents admitting they play them only twice a year… Children are shunning classics such as Monopoly, Scrabble and Risk! in favour of expensive computer consoles such as the X-Box and Playstation.” There’s a lot of other crap but can I ask parents who took part in this survey a few questions; namely, why does this bother you?
Firstly there are the games. Monopoly for example is about financial mismanagement, reckless spend and burn on a pretty hefty scale. Not only that but whoever is the Banker gets to enjoy making terms and conditions and playing favourites until that person, even if they’re currently losing, can win. Once a player gets this system going, it’s always inevitably one-sided, as the banking sector in real life, and do you want your little boy or girl to become an infamous person in the financial sector who loses all your savings? No? Then perhaps Monopoly isn’t the right game to be using. Then you come to Scrabble – or as I used to call it as a student, “Word War Three”, because this is how Scrabble goes; You make a word like ‘quetzal’, 21 points. “Oh no, that’s not allowed!” I think you’ll find it is. “It so isn’t, I’m getting the dictionary!” I’ll get the Scrabble rulebook. “What is a quetzal?” “It’s a god, therefore a capitalised first letter. It’s not allowed.” “It’s a bird!” “It’s a species of bird, I think you’ll find.” “It’s a pretty series of frocks from the Lazurite Collection!” “That sucks, you got the Q and the U! What the hell do we use now?” “This blows.” “You blow.” “Screw you.” “I’m off to the pub for a drink, you can stick these tiles up your quetzal!”
Seriously, if you want your kids to get better at words and numbers, just make them watch Countdown.
Risk? For real? Even in my time Risk was seen as ultimately for the nerdiest of the nerdy, as a gamer most of my life Risk players were the sorts we looked down on! Yes, those of us at the lower rungs of the social pecking order in the 80’s and early 90’s had our own people to pick on, and these people played Risk like the boring people they were. Trivial Pursuit? Well sure, if you wanted your kids to hate you for the rest of the year for bringing up questions and quizzing on subjects most of them aren’t old enough to know about yet and will likely never have to use in any situation again (unless they one day find themselves sitting on a QI panel next to Alan Davies, but they won’t because they will hate you for making them play Trivial Pursuit!), Cluedo – it’s just a little guessing game and there’s hardly anything going on, and if your character is the one found to be the murderer in it then by golly you’ll have to bear that social stigma for days if not weeks.
In fact, the only board game I remember with any actual fondness used to be a TV show, and it was called Blockbusters.
And most of us watched it back then, with the late and fabulously great Bob Holness. The premise was simple – two on one team, one on their own. The pair had to get five across a board of hexagons, the solo player four down. You picked a letter, or a series of letters, and answered questions on that letter, like, “What L is the name given to any agent that helps to alleviate the bowel of constipation?” (Answer; Laxative), and you go on like that. The great thing about Blockbusters was that you could easily – and simply – extend it by making your own clues and questions up on your own cards, so this was really a great sort of board game, but sadly as the 90’s drew on and Blockbusters went away, people sort of forgot about it.
Look parents, my point is if you think about it, most board games sucked. Far from bringing your little ones closer to you, the chances are that there will be tantrums, sulking and general shame by bedtime and you really don’t need any of that on Christmas Day, do you? And everyone is different as well. Board games don’t really have “inter-generational appeal”, because everyone prefers something different. If you’re not arguing over the game itself, chances are you’ll be arguing over which game to play. And more specifically in this modern era, you’ll be arguing which sodding version of Monopoly to take out of the cupboard from the dozen or so variations you have stashed away gathering dust.
Like most, I think Christmas is a time to get together – not necessarily for gaming, because I do that for my blog and as a hobby and when I have friends and family here for Christmas, truth is I want to make it a nice day. Sure, they can be left to mess around with my collection of games and consoles – as they trawl through my collection of games to find out just how weird I am, I know one will put on Oblivion (or Skyrim now) and play my heavily-modded version (“The game done right!”), some will sit down for Mario Kart or Smash Bros. and I will hear them all laughing and giggling away from the kitchen area as I put the finishing touches to a trifle. My games, and my games collection, do get a thorough working – even my retro stuff is often wheeled out over this period by guests with a penchant for nostalgia, wanting to remember the fond memories of yesteryear. Some of us do have to put the effort in to make Christmas go smoothly, especially when you are hosting a gathering, but I wouldn’t want that disturbed by people shouting at each other and going for each others throats because of accusations of cheating, or because they’re arguing over words. Plus with the lack of sensation in my feet, I really don’t need small parts littered about the floor for me to step on and inflict injuries that are likely to get infected, enflamed and cause me to spend another two weeks on antibiotics. Seriously, just no on that front thanks.
For all the stigma on video games, science is finding things that fascinate and ways they can work for us. For example, games can help people to improve their eyesight, as a study showed when they got people born with cataracts to play some Call of Duty. Studies have shown far from causing stress, they can help reduce it, and could also help in reducing violent tendencies. Not only that, I can concur with Keele University when they claim that playing video games can also help reduce pain – or rather, increase our tolerance to pain. I’ve known this for years, and let me tell you, right now all of these things are important in the run up to Christmas – the stress, the urge to punch someone being very annoying, watching the little ‘uns like hawks and knowing I need to be sharp and not be wailing in pain for the day – it would appear that all my bases and needs are covered by my passion for gaming. Everyone enjoys coming round and playing with my “toys”, and my long-term exposure to them has increased my tolerance and threshold to levels most claim are saintly. It’s nice they enjoy this stuff. I like getting back to normal, but then, don’t we all?
Not only that, let’s face it grown-ups. You and me are different beasts to our childrens generation, just as we were different from OUR parents generation (where they called children ‘Buttercup’ and ‘Beetle’), as they sat around listening to what their parents called ‘vulgar music’, and just as they were different from their parents. It’s not really a sensible prospect to judge a new generational leap based on the previous values to which we became accustomed to, because the world is different. When I was a child in the 80’s, it was work-work. More adults died from stress-related heart attacks and general road accidents than they do now. Had I been a grown-up at the time, it likely would have killed me. We sometimes forget that when we look back and think, “Madonna was so much better in the 80′!” and our kids will argue, “No, she was better in the 90’s!”.
Board Games are something we idolise as a simpler, gentler way to get together. Whilst we also forget in our rose-tinted view that in such close proximity and with ample opportunity there will be tears before bedtime. If you MUST play a board game – find a copy of Blockbusters, but if you can’t, don’t worry. Because you can still play your favourite board games without the cheating opportunities!