When I first started Board Simple several years ago, I just wanted to help people play games. I wanted to help people get started so they could have fun and enjoy themselves. The deeper I got into the process, the more I realized that games had far more value and uses, than just entertainment. I realized that games could also be used to help people develop and hone several important life skills. This article will dive into a few of the things I have found to be particularly powerful uses of games.
Critical Thinking and Strategy
Let’s say you are playing a heated game of Settlers of Catan. Your opponent is sitting across the table from you, staring you down, and offering a deal that seems pretty darn good. They are offering you not 1, not 2, but 3 bricks for that wheat card you are holding. Based on what you were asking for last round, they know you need bricks to do what you want to do in the game. With that great deal, you could build a road and a new settlement on your next turn. It seems like a no-brainer. Take the deal, right?
Looking at this deal from a literal perspective, 3 for 1 is a pretty good deal, and it’s a deal with stuff you need. But wait, you take a moment and think about the situation. You look at the game board and realize that your opponent is only 1 point away from winning the game. Their desperation to get that single wheat card is a pretty good hint that it might be the one thing standing in the way of them winning the game. After thinking about this critically, you deny the deal. Congratulations, you just flexed your critical thinking muscles!
Critical thinking is not only taking in facts. It’s taking those facts and thinking about them and making sure they fit the situation. For example, let’s say you are going on vacation. One fact you know is that you will need clothes. You could take that fact for what it is, and fill a bunch of suitcases with your entire wardrobe, or you could think critically about which clothes you will actually need. You can leave your winter hat and boots at home if you are taking a warm beach vacation.
Games provide so many opportunities to think critically. You can learn to not only think about your next move, but how that move will impact your competition. When you take time to flex your critical thinking skills, you can move them into your everyday life. Maybe the next time you are sitting at a table with a sales person, you can think more critically about what you are buying. Maybe you will remember that time you were playing a game, and your opponent tricked you into buying something you didn’t really need. Maybe that will help you pump the brakes on that big ticket item you are thinking of buying.
Math was never my favorite subject in school. The ways we were taught were stale methods and memorization of formulas. When there were examples, they mostly seemed to involve helping someone build a fence around their property or to figure out how many apples they could buy with their next paycheck. We don’t always do the best at making math accessible and fun to people. It wasn’t until I started finding real-life uses of math, that I started figuring out just how useful it actually is.
There are so many games out there that help with mathematical skill development. I assure you, they are much more enjoyable than reading a textbook. In games, you are constantly asked to add, multiply, divide, and subtract. Most games contain some sort of mathematics. You often have to use math to figure out how close someone is to winning the game. There are several games that have a good emphasis on math. Stone Age is a game where you use math to determine how many items your dice roll will give you. You place your meeples on a space, roll that amount of dice, and divide that number by another number to figure out how much you actually get. Fuse is a fast paced game that uses a lot of math. You have to create dice combinations on cards that match whatever is represented on the card. Cribbage is another good example of a math heavy game. You are trying to add the value of the cards up to certain values. Those are just a few examples, but there are several more out there. What better way to help someone develop their skills than to make it fun with a game?
Teamwork and Cooperation
Cooperative and team games are some of my favorite games to play. There is something neat about playing with people, rather than against them. You either all win together, or you all lose together. It’s not only enjoyable to play on a team, it’s also full of good lessons on teamwork. Not only do you have to learn to work together to ultimately defeat the game or the other team, you also have to work together to balance different opinions. Maybe one person wants to take one move, but another person wants to take a different move. You can either overpower the other person to get your way, or you can develop your teamwork skills and critically think about the best move based on the team’s opinion. How many times in life will you need to work on a team? What better way to develop the skills to be a good teammate than while playing through a fun game?
My grandmother passed away recently. There is one memory that comes to mind when I think of her and games. A few years before she died, my husband and I went to visit her before an extended trip we were taking. I knew she enjoyed playing cards, so after chatting for a bit, I asked if she was interested in playing some games. We had several games with us for our trip. I remember her face lighting up with a big smile after I mentioned playing games. We ended up playing several games for several hours. We played some of our simple card games, Skip-Bo, Phase 10, and Monopoly Deal. My grandma had limited mobility at the time, so she could not stand long to go out and do anything very physical. We would have had a hard time finding something that all of us would have enjoyed watching on television. What we were able to do was enjoy an afternoon of games together. This is a memory that I will now always have.
The companionship that can come from games is an extremely powerful thing. Older people can often find companionship through joining card groups. Not only can this help them stay social, it is also important for them to keep their minds sharp. Younger people can also find companionship through joining game groups or getting together with friends to play. I remember being a shy child in school, but finding a friend who used to play Memory with me on rainy days. I also learned chess as a child to make friends when I had to come in early before school started. While moving to new places, I have sought out game groups to meet new people. Games are a great way to bring people together.
How many times have you been in a situation where you have been asked to show someone how to do something? Maybe you are training a new hire how to do their job. Maybe you are trying to teach a child how to read. Maybe you are giving someone directions, which I would say is a form of teaching. How many times have you been asked to do this and struggled to figure out the best way to explain things?
If you want a great way to develop your teaching skills, just grab a game you know and teach someone else how to play it with you. You not only get to improve your teaching skills, you also get a chance to gain a new person to play that game with you. This is known as a win-win situation. One thing I love about Board Simple is the ability to teach others how to play games. There is something very satisfying about being able to help someone go from not understanding something to understanding it.
Games Hold Power
This article shows just a few of the many values of games. I hope it gives you a better appreciation for games and their value. The next time you sit down to play a game, think about the many ways that experience is helping you.