Thursday, 1 August 2019

Never bored with Board Games but can they truly wrestle us away from our screens? This Week's #ReadItTorial

This week's #ReadItTorial is partly book inspired, after all it was Ellie Dix's fantastic "The Board Game Family: Reclaim your children from the Screen" that set our cogs whirring this week (check out her Dark Imp blog via that link).

With C away at Guide Camp for an entire week, I had a good chance to thoroughly digest and absorb Ellie's book, reinforcing something that we've already known as a family for a very long time.

Board games are blimmin' awesome, and they've come a long way since the ones you probably remember playing on wet rainy afternoons while stuck on a caravan holiday as a kid.

Back then I remember the almost religious experience of digging out hoary old games like Operation ("There goes his funny bone!") or Mouse Trap (did anyone ever, in the entire history of humanity, ever get their mousetrap contraption to work first time? No, us neither!) or more action-orientated games like the mighty Kerplunk or a really obscure one for you 70s kids, "Tip-It" - a strange balancing game involving a poor circus performer balancing on his nose.

Board games are now a serious moneyspinner for a lot of startups and gaming companies. You see it's catching on, this idea that there are real and actual ways to get a family sitting round a table and having a conversation, having fun and most importantly interacting with each other.

Playing a strategic or hilarious game does more to help a family bond with each other than any electronic or videogame-based equivalent (though I do know plenty of folk who commonly bond over videogames too, good for them I say!)

Like a lot of parents, we are rapidly approaching that hideous eventuality - their kid getting their first mobile phone and become an uncommunicative hunch-shouldered screen-staring zombie.

We've had many conversations about what we hapless parents can do about it - ranging from the horrible notion that we'd have to become foul draconian monsters, limiting phone / screen time severely, ensuring phones aren't allowed in her bedroom, disabling the wi fi, all the usual stuff you see well-meaning child care experts blathering on about.

Or perhaps, just perhaps, we can head this eventuality off at the pass with the use of board games, as Ellie suggests.

A lot of her advice is sound and really brilliantly structured into chapters that show the positive effects and scope of including board gaming in you life.

It's fair to say that some of it really wouldn't work for us as a family, and other bits just sound too idealistic to be realistically applicable to anyone but the smallest number of folk (still more bits in the book make Ellie sound like at home, it's definitely her way or the highway!)

But overall the idea is intriguing, enticing and could very well be one method of avoiding that hateful eventuality.

Give kids something else that's more interesting, more engaging and (hopefully) stimulating than whatever their friends are getting up to on Instagram, Twitter or other social media bits and bobs - and they'll leave their phone in another room. In Ellie's case she's talking about board games but there are plenty of other activities that would work too (ever sat down with your kids and drawn / coloured / made books / comics, for example?)

There's also the chance for kids to get one over on their elders if they win. Ellie's very clear about her own in-house rules. All participants in games play to win, and that does sometimes mean that in certain games the kids miss out. But it's something else that's worth learning - being a graceful sporting loser as well as a humble sporting winner. That's a life lesson we could all do with a reminder of as it's seldom covered elsewhere.

We already love board games, though the cost can sometimes be prohibitive (it is definitely not a cheap hobby to get into, with some popular games ranging from between £20-50 quid a throw - about the same you'd pay for most modern console videogames, though arguably board games could long outlast those, lifespan and attention-grabbing wise). Ultimately though it feels like it'd be a worthy investment, and definitely preferable to what usually happens after we've all got home, had a meal and settled down for the evening or at weekends.

I think Ellie really does put forward some really positive points in her book, maybe there is a better way - and maybe at ReadItDaddy Towers we should pour everything into making it work before the inevitable screen zombification kicks in. I mean who wouldn't fancy sitting down to an evening of "Exploding Kittens", "Munchkins" or "Pandemic" rather than an evening looking at the silent glow of a mobile screen filled with some worthless mumbo jumbo.

(Ellie's book "The Board Game Family" is out now, published by Crown House Publishing).