Strategic Board Games For the Thinking Gamer
Something all parents face by the time their kids have gotten through their teen years is that most kids between the ages of twelve and eighteen are just too cool for their parents.
It’s not difficult to get your younger kids to sit down and play a game of Chutes and Ladders with you, but just try dragging your thirteen year old away from the Xbox for a game of Candyland. It’s simply not going to happen. When you hit a certain age, flying jets and causing massive explosions in front of the TV just seems so much more stimulating than playing a board game.
This only contributes to the problem so many parents have during the teen years; how do you get your teens to spend quality time with you? What can you do to find some common ground between yourself and your kids and provide an enjoyable experience for both the parents and the teens?
Well, it’s not going to be playing Candyland, that’s for sure, but… something is certainly lost in the realm of video games. While they can certainly help you hone your “twitch reflex”, teaching you to snap your sights on some monstrous space alien with your laser cannon in a split second, the vast majority of games do not encourage much else in the way of personal or mental growth beyond developing that reflex. In other words, fast thumbs aren’t all there is to be gained from playing games.
Delving into game philosophy, many players of games like Chess and Risk emphasize gaming as a path of knowledge and self improvement, much like seeking a higher education or studying the martial arts. While games like Chutes and Ladders may be fairly limited in this regard, as they are largely simplified to be easier for young children to grasp and become good at (hence, teens finding them dull and unstimulating), the opposite is true of a game of Chess.
Strategic games like Chess, Risk and Stratego offer a practically infinite number of possible situations, and within those endless possibilities is an equally endless opportunity to improve at the game.
The ‘hook’ of these board games is the bitter taste of defeat, to be perfectly blunt. If you lose your first game of Chess to your father in less than five moves, it’s tempting to ask for a rematch, even if ten minutes ago you had referred to Chess as “That boring game that old guys play in the park”. As mythologist and Jungian psychologist Joseph Campbell put forth, there’s a strong desire in most children to earn their parent’s respect, and that includes trying to best them at games of their own choosing.
How skilled you are at a game may not seem very significant. After all, who ever made it into a top ranked university thanks to their undeniable skill at Scrabble? However, learning to improve at a game teaches several habits that can be applied in life. For example, learning to do away with bad habits of laziness. In a game of Chess, it’s tempting to put all of your focus on your Queen, your most powerful move, since that seems the quickest, easiest way to victory. However, no game of Chess has ever been won with a Queen alone. Setting up your pieces to utilize them to their full capacity requires patience, forethought and some degree of imagination.
As you develop a tendency to do away with lazy habits in a game you play regularly, this tendency will often find its way into your life, as well. Just as a martial artist might work for years on improving their punch, making it faster, more powerful. They may never actually get in a fist fight outside of the sparring ring, but by learning to spot their bad traits and habits and replace them with useful ones on the mat, they tend to take this approach to life, as well.