The Way I See it: Let the games begin

A deck of cards, a book and a ball and you can be entertained for hours, without batteries, or an energy source other than the power of your mind and body.

This last couple of weeks I have come to appreciate how much fun games can be. It started with us being introduced in the summer to a game called Catch Phrase. Finally a place where my knowledge of current entertainment trivia has a use. Playing with teams of at least two people on each, you are given a phrase which you try to get your partner to guess through your clues, no rhyming or hand gesturing, and you are timed with a clock that goes faster as time runs out. We played this game several times over the holidays and I laughed till I cried.

Maybe it’s the creative way people try to describe their phrase, the fast thinkers or the ponderers, the clock ticking and the competitiveness that makes it all fun. As a family we have had a great deal of fun with it, add in the company and talents of some good friends and it makes for a great evening.

On a winter holiday we brought the crib board, cards and catch phrase and have played these every day and had a great time whether in the airport, on the beach, in our rooms or tucked into a corner in our favourite bar. Other crib players swarm like hawks offering to play a game.

Games can have universal rules so are appealing to so many. Like crib, euchre, poker, Blackjack, and on and on, it’s an instant way to strike up a conversation or engage.

Backgammon or chess played in city parks draw many observers and players of all ages and nationalities to come play, watch and learn.

Bring out a ball and you can play a variety of games depending on the size of it, and without sharing the same language people can join in and enjoy themselves. A tennis ball on a backpack hiking trip brought the boys lots of pleasure and creative options for creating new games to play. Who would have thought throwing a ball through tree branches was a game?

Learning is a big part of a game and why so many families and educators like to include games in their family activities and curriculum. My oldest learned to play chess in Grant Bingham’s Grade 4 math class and then taught his brother and I. I particularly enjoyed being the student and my son as the teacher, and so did he.

Math skills, thinking skills, problem solving, learning to follow rules, when it’s OK to bend rules, social behaviors and then if you want to get into the psychology of it the various personalities that come out in the playing of games are all part of the benefits of these activities.

As a kid we played hours of cards around the big round dining room table. Our high school cafeteria held a euchre tournament every lunch hour, with tables and tables full of players. I never mastered that game and had the attention span of a fly so was often replaced. With my kids we played a variety of games: Scrabble, Monopoly, Risk, Trouble, and these have found their way to the cottage now.

I personally got out of games over the years and preferred conversation to game playing, however after many great evenings with friends playing games I see the value once again. As we age, games can be a positive way to keep the mind sharp, to socialize and laugh, and laugh and laugh.

Competitiveness is part of it, learning to win without gloating, or losing gracefully are part of the process. Winning and losing are life lessons and very important for children and adults to learn. The games can become great stories  in themselves as we share our adventures the next day or in days to come.

Whether because you are snowed in at home, in an airport, or just wanting a nice way to connect with friends and family, bring out the cards, boards, or machines, and let the games begin.

Michele Blais is a longtime columnist for The Morning Star and a Vernon Realtor. She writes on a variety of topics, appearing every other Sunday.

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