I have loved board games my entire life. Of course, as a kid my parents bought us what you’d find in anyone’s game closet during that time period. Though these games are simple and mundane by today’s standards, I couldn’t get enough of them as a small boy. Most of my games were played with siblings, friends, and cousins; very few with my parents. In fact, my younger sister is still a bit scarred from the blackmail that may or may not have taken place in order to get her to play a game with me. As a teenager, I moved away from board games a bit. I still had a passion for them, but I was evolving. I didn’t enjoy the old classics like I once did, and I was definitely ready for something new. Magic the Gathering had just released and almost every cent I earned was spent on starter decks and booster packs. I did still enjoy a few board games like Hero Quest and Rumikub, and would spend hours playing Dragon Quest with my stepbrother whenever I would visit my dad on weekends. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties when my love of board games was truly rekindled. I remember my first time playing the Settlers of Catan, and I was completely blown away. Since its release, I know many see Settlers the same way I see this classic gateway game from way back at the turn of the century (simple, maybe a bit boring), but at the time, it was something that I had never experienced before. With my eyes now open I began to look for more interesting games and my collection began to grow. A bookshelf soon needed to be added to the coat closet to accommodate my new hobby, then permanent shelves along the wall. I remember people being amazed at all our games whenever they would open the closet to hang up their coats. It makes me smile to think of this, considering that now I wouldn’t be able to store one tenth of my current collection inside that coat closet.
As my game collection grew so did my desire to pass on my love of gaming to my kids. With my children so young, I knew that I would be resigned to playing Candyland, Sorry and Aggravation, but hey, you have to start somewhere. My oldest daughter, Amarra, has a learning disability, and my hope was that if I could get her to enjoy board games, then it may help her to develop the skills that she struggles with. The first “real game” that I taught her, and my youngest daughter, Serria, was the DC Deck Builder game. It has a theme they were already interested in and with very simple game mechanics, it was an obvious choice. It was a hit! Not only did they love it, but they would beg to play it nearly every day. It was also my first glimpse of the benefits that board games can have for individuals with disabilities. My youngest son could see all the fun that was happening at the table and also begged to play. I told him that he could play as soon as he learned how to read. I was then amazed to watch a kid who hated reading and avoided it at all costs begin to apply himself and eventually learn to read well enough that he was allowed to play. The DC Deck Builder progressed to Ticket to Ride and then to Wingspan. This year I even introduced my youngest son to Mythic Battles Pantheon, which is an epic battle game based on Greek mythology. We have only been able to get it to the table once, but he has been eager to play it again.
I have loved to not only see their abilities improve enough to start winning (I never let my kids win), but also to see them begin to have a passion for board gaming that rivals my own. I have seen so much growth intellectually, socially, and emotionally (seemingly unseen in other kids their ages) that the benefits of this hobby are undeniable to me. My girls now have jobs and are starting their own collections. They go to the conventions with me, paying their own way, and play nonstop until the Con is over. It makes me so happy to see them in the game room playing a game on their own and even bringing dates over to the house to have their own game night. My favorite, though, is the bond that has been built with each of my kids while playing games together. I feel that games have enriched their lives, helped them develop the ability to think critically, build bonds of friendship, and helped them grow as individuals.
It may seem silly to think that board games could be a tool for all this, but I do believe that my home and my relationship with my kids would look very different without this shared hobby, and for that I feel blessed and truly grateful. Have you shared this hobby with those you care for? If not, I invite you to share this amazing hobby with your family and friends. Even if they don’t get into the hobby, you will still be creating memories and strengthening friendships.