By repeatedly demonstrating different ways of winning.
Both, but the extreme introvert in me knows that board games cost me energy while video games recharge it.
I’ve been teaching my sister-in-law Settlers of Catan by repeatedly trouncing her at every opportunity then watching the thirst for revenge well up inside until it drives an insatiable passion to beat me. Seems to be working.
At our house –I’ve mentioned this before haven’t I?– Mondays are no-screen days.
We can use computers for “creative pursuits” or “productive endeavours” for things like blogging, homework, or because I can’t tell my employer I don’t use computers on Mondays. Television is right out. And all those other devices get relegated to reading or music… so no games.
So, we often pull out the board games, instead.
For the last couple years, board games has meant drawing strictly from the variety of childrens’ titles in our collection, ranging anywhere from some mindless classics to other more recent and engaging titles.
But lately I’ve been dabbling in teaching Claire the ins-and-outs of some more advanced games. There seems to be threshold printed on the side of many boxes where the game is recommended for “8+” … and with a clever seven year old kicking around the house we have been pushing that envelope.
Take for example tonight: tonight we played Carcassonne. Not the kids version. The real, original version… the tile-laying, meep-distributing classic.
And she won. She won well. In that, no, she didn’t even gloat.
Teaching the whole ‘good sport’ thing has been a challenge, mind you. We’ve had a few tough years of a happy-go-lucky kid wanting to play quickly followed by a meltdown-inferno when things didn’t seem to be turning out the way she expected. Fair play, good sportsmanship, and being a rational loser don’t come easy to anyone. But for now at least we seem to have mellowed out the impact of not winning every time.
Thus, the lack of gloating, the level-headed just play through and don’t throw a tantrum when I scooched ahead in points for a few minutes: these are good things. We’ll take it. And maybe, someday, games night will eventually become something more that just a distraction on those days when she’s not allowed to lose herself in a screen.
We made the trek up to Mission: Fun & Games up in St. Albert yesterday to browse their mountains of board games. We try to get up there once or twice a year. It’s not that far away, but just far enough to make it an out-of-the-way trip for reserved for a day off with nothing else going on. Of course we spent some money, adding a pair of new games to our collection. First, we picked up the kid’s version of Killer Bunnies, a card game called Kinder Bunnies, which Claire promptly informed me that “There are too many rules!” …shortly before winning two out of two rounds. Second, we nabbed another expansion for our Ticket to Ride, scoring the Netherlands map set. Karin and I had a round of that last night, and it’s just different enough to be worth the added price, involving the strategically complex addition of “tolls and tokens” to the playably robust game. I lost that round, too.
Another installment from my third week of lists, a clinging-to-the-trees, back-to-school-special, dreading-impending-winter edition all about video games, families, and balancing your work, life and play to the max: the sun setting a little earlier each day, the ever-cooler-evenings all making for perfect gaming weather, tucked into an agoraphobic corner in your basement and plugged into some multi-player epic, awesome, pixelated fun.
One caveat: For us gaming geeks who have powered-up over the stereotypes of our creed, built into our digital lives the welcoming embrace of spouses, children, pets, and other responsibilities, there remains the common sense situation of putting life and family first. No kidding, right? But how… exactly?
6 Gear-Up-For-Winter Tips for Gamers with Families
Being a family guy that tries not bear any real word resemblance to its television namesake requires a bit of planning. Oops… Did I say a bit?
[ 1 ] Plan Ahead: No… Waaaay Ahead
…gaming as an adult is not only more acceptable to our peers, but actually a form of social interaction…
Spontaneous moments for epic gaming can still happen, but any responsible gamer dad is going to tell you that those moments get further and farther between as life progresses. We, the thirty-somethings of the twenty-first century are cutting new paths here too, remember. We are from a generation that has not only been among the first to have access to toys of such awesome digital immersion, but we are the first to forge through a new kind of real-life versus artificial-life balance that our ancestors didn’t have to deal with. My parents did not need to plan out time for gaming, and why is that? Gaming when you were an adult was a thing you did after a dinner party with grown-ups, playing checkers or whatever. Every other type of gaming was for kids. But now we live in this universe where gaming as an adult is not only more acceptable to our peers, but actually a form of social interaction: I don’t go to the bar with my friends as often as I should, but we do meet up online to kill virtual zombies on a fairly regular basis. Guys night is not about sneaking out to the pub — though I wouldn’t mind a few more of those too — but instead scheduling in some quiet time in the basement basking in the glow of my dual LCDs.
Abandoning your spouse to the solitude of an evening alone could be one of those epic fails that sends you to the doghouse, to be sure. But it doesn’t have to be: hand-in-hand with plenty of forewarning goes the general rule of ensuring you don’t compromise the only entertainment venue in the house… (and if you do: plan B? Or maybe you’re just on your there own, bud. Good luck!) While she might be first in line to contest my claims in the comments below, Monday night game nights while super-awesome game time for me are just as much a bonus for my wife. She gets full control over the television, Netflix, and the laptop (which is pretty much useless for gaming.) I hobble downstairs to plug in, and she usually waves a casual “see you later” while snapping up the remotes and booting up some girly-tee-vee. Compromise? Mutual respect? It all plays a role here.
[ 3 ] Get a Headset
…because you’re in mixed company, that’s why. The kids in bed trying to sleep is just one obvious reason, and I don’t think I need to list many more. You get the idea.
[ 4 ] Remember to Dust Off the Board Games, Too
Gamers, no matter who you are, should diversify once-in-a-while, too. I don’t care if you are a strict digit-arian, going analog on occasion is good for your sensibilities: this goes doubly so for you if you (a) have kids, or (b) are into MMORPGs… though the latter is a subject of a completely different article that I have yet to write. Board games may not exercise your keyboard trigger fingers, but they remind you of the broader origins of the play that has a lineage reaching into the modern digital counterparts. I won’t be so lame as to tell you that board games are better for kids, either: I’d say the research is probably still out on that one. But as much fun as I have playing Minecraft with my daughter, I think we have a little more fun plodding through a game of Kid’s Carcassonne. We get to interact, look each other in the eyes, laugh, learn, and hang out — all while playing a cool game. And in the heart of a cold winter, that is sure a lot better than just watching yet another Disney movie marathon. Make sure you have a few good family board game titles in reserve along with your epic Steam collection this season.
Some of the same guys who I play online with routinely make a more personal appearance at a live-action gaming party. I need to host more of these. I really do. And sure, this might be a micro-LAN party in someone’s basement, but as a collective of gaming fathers this has more often than not been a round-table, anything goes, board gaming extravaganza with food and drinks and kids running everywhere, the older tots popping in to investigate the multi-piece epic play of their parents. Getting together with friends to play games doesn’t need to be either (a) reserved for the post-dinner aperitif-hour or (b) a secondary outcome: build a party, gathering, or general all-round fun evening around some gaming.
[ 6 ] Stick to Your Bedtime
And ultimately, being a responsible gamer dad is really all about being serious about time limits. Those killer robots aren’t going anywhere. You still need to get up for work in the morning and drag your sorry self to the office. Say good night, pack it up, and get to bed.
All these screenshots were captured during the author’s personal game-play and are probably copyright by the folks who made the game: have respect and don’t steal or post without attribution. Know any other ways you can show some gaming respect? Comment below and share the secrets!
Here we are in the last weeks of June… Summer has officially arrived, school is out for the season, the days grow a little more lazy and for the second year in a row I continue partaking in my daily blogging exercise, marginally focused along a question-and-answer theme I’ve simply called Those 30 posts in June. Still no planning. Still no writing of these words days in advance. Still just this: each day a meanderingly vague prompt drives a meanderingly vague post… and today that post just happens to be:
June 21st // Something You Want To Experience
I thought about diving into a single topic, a lone epic item, from my dream list here and then attempting to justify it, but instead I thought about it some more and opted to go the bucket list-list route. Some of these are very do-able. Heck, a couple would just require going out at doing them. Others are monuments of effort and skills honed over many years of work. Yes, some of these are fairly prosaic… but in many ways I too am merely the product of my society and generation, so some of my dreams actually are just that commonplace. Deal.
Driving a Coast-to-Coast Road Trip. I live in Canada, so this means — probably — finding my way to Victoria and driving cross-country towards some pre-determined point (in my mind, a rocky, be-lighthoused penninsula) overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Publishing a Photo. I’ve upped my chances of this with the quantity of photo’s I’ve taken, but still I think this might rely on either (a) getting discovered, contracted, and subsequently paid, or (b) being in the exact right place at the exact right time and capturing a moment everyone wants to see.
Completing a Marathon. Hey, I’ll be HALF way there in about two months. Again. Other than having a very good idea of the effort I’ve put in so far for THAT half goal, I see no reason I couldn’t strive for this pre-40.
Selling Some Words. Like the photo… effort, chance, or some other bit of coincidence.
Reaching the Summit of a Famous Peak. I’d say Everest, but everyone says that. Honestly, right now, I’d be happy doing Fuji or K2 or some other mountain you’ve heard of.
Speaking at TED. Of course, this means doing something noteworthy in my field of expertise, and having something unique and awesome to say about it. Right now I can barely justify attending as an audience member.
Hiking the West Coast Trail. Maybe when Claire is about ten. Family trip?
Conversing Fluently in a Second Langauge. Something tells me that if we keep Claire in French Immersion, my fatherly duties might lead me to this path whether I want it or not. Luckily, I think I kinda do.
Designing a Board Game. I’ve had ideas. Execution, and wrangling a bunch of friends to help play test it would be the big obstacles.
Giving Away Something Valuable to Someone Not Expecting It. I have this notion that were I to ever get something really valuable, I’d like to experience the complete and utter astonishment of giving it to someone deserving of it that wasn’t expecting it. Weird, I know. It just seems like it would be a cool and memorable moment.
A “reloaded” post is a quick-clipped summary of a bunch of small things from the past few days. I want to write them down, but I am either lacking in (a) details or (b) time. That’s just how it goes sometimes. Enjoy.
On the Tick
For the fourth year in a row, approximately mid-morning on New Year’s Day, I found myself standing in the start line of Resolution Run garbed in a brand new (blue) race jacket and in some state of freezing and recovery from the holiday past. The five click jaunt around a neighborhood in South Edmonton isn’t meant to be much more than a primed start to the turn of the annum… followed by a pancake breakfast. It had been a warm week leading into the holiday followed sharply by a cold snap which left the considerable melt water as a slick, icy surface on many roads and sidewalks. A few of my running mates an I gathered right near the front of the pack, hoping to avoid the typical glom of mixed-speed walk-joggers who (in this race in particular) seem to populate the middle of the group. I got a good start, was pushed for the first click or so by the need to grab some speed (for the benefit of those at my back) where the passing wasn’t so good, and maintained a solid pace for the duration. My time, personal record and all, was a thirty-minute plus zero second watch time, on the tick. I still hurt.
Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
I don’t usually sucumb to buying new video games within any reasonable timeframe of their release. Why bother? Year-old games often sell for one-fifth to one-tenth the original price, have been patched to a state of stability usually not seen during the first few months of any new game, and — heck — I still have a small stack of games to make any progress in already. But, with my co-workers and others talking up the latest Elder Scrolls RPG, and the Steam holiday sale handing it over at a reasonable discount I fell into the Boxing Day shopping spirit and bought a copy late on Christmas Day. A combination of a post-holiday illness, some family-down-time, and lots of free hours between then and now, and I’ve logged (approaching) twenty-odd hours in the land of Skyrim, succeeded in grinding up my character to a reasonably powered tank, and slayed a half-dozen dragons. I find it very much like (by the same developer) Fallout 3, minus the post-apocalyptic wasteland and with the added benefit of less reliance on ranged weapons (Fallout 3 is all guns, which sucks for melee guys like me.) It’s a good game. I’m enjoying it.
A few months ago a scored a copy of Small World for the iPad. I don’t remember why. I’d never played the board game, but the reviews all raved about how this was the best game since Settlers and Ticket to Ride and… hey… I like those games, too. I bought it. I downloaded it. I played it. I didn’t get it. I stopped playing it. Fast-forward a couple months until we attended Chris’ annual games night on New Years Eve-Eve, and someone pulled out a copy of Small World and asks if I want to play. “Yes.” I reply without hesitation. “Teach me. I want to know why this game is so great.” Two hours later, fingers greasy from the pizza that mysteriously appeared while I was playing, I was pronounced the absolute loser in a tutorial-speed game, trounced by an experienced player, a nine-year old kid, and some guy who wandered in to take over from another novice who had to go home half way through. But, in understanding the game, I now can be counted amongst it’s fans. And I can beat the iPad, too.