The Good Ol’ Board Game: A Stay-at-home Pastime


How have you spent quality time at home with your family during the COVID-19 crisis? Watching movies? Eating more meals together? Joyfully working as a team to complete chores (tongue in cheek)?

More specifically, has the recommendation (or mandate) to shelter in place together for more than two months impinged upon opportunities to do a meaningful activity as a family? Have you found creative ways to pass the time and create a new meaning of what represents family time in this new normal? Have you discovered (or rediscovered) long-lost, traditional activities that were once the staples of family time at home?

What prompted me to ask these specific questions was a recent New York Times story, “Trapped at Home? Board Game On!,” by Alexis Soloski.

It’s a revealing account of how she has found board games to be the invigorating and entertaining activity to pass time with her husband and kids during this strange and unprecedented moment in our world. She noted humorous anecdotes of how playing board games transported her back to an earlier period in her life when a game of Battleship or Sorry was fun but not an activity to be taken lightly. And she spoke fondly of reliving the “indecent pleasure” of diving into a game with both a winning and rambunctious attitude.

Soloski also included enlightening data from board games experts. They noted to her the lasting benefits the interactive, tabletop fixtures have on relationships, brain function, and problem-solving abilities in addition to their creations of a “magical” and “safe” space for adults and kids alike. It brought to mind my childhood experience of sitting at the kitchen table, playing a board game with my mother and two brothers. 

As her story transported me to my early years, I recalled a time of playing games that had a missing pawn or two or a worn, bent game board that made it all the more fun to play (especially when missing pawns were replaced with pawn pieces from other games or with LEGO bricks—my personal favorite). I also recalled a time when there was no hand-held device in the back pocket or within arm’s reach that provided the instant gratification of feeling socially connected to the outside through one of several social media platforms. While video gaming, during that time, was a burgeoning industry and at the forefront of dominating the time and attention of would-be video game addicts, I recalled it as a time when the industry didn’t suddenly supplant the pleasure of coalescing for a game of Monopoly.

Yes! That was the board-game world of yesteryear—for me at least. And it’s quite amazing that just a generation ago, we, as a society, did well (I think) without the temptations that today’s outside distractions, such as a news feed on a smartphone app or the latest video game console, draw out of most of us. But I don’t make this statement as a criticism of anyone unable to resist such temptations. 

Like many individuals, I keep a mobile device in my back pocket and, unapologetically, have been tempted by these very distractions. I found myself, however, sobered and enlightened by Soloski’s story. I also found myself somewhat disheartened by what appears to be her realization that her family’s use of board games as a “healthy escapism” during this pandemic will significantly decline when life returns to the old normal.

Does this suggest my recent venture into the world of table-top games, including an escapade with Hedbanz, Pictionary (two awesome games to play with kids), and Twenty-One (I had to include a card game in this story) with my wife and kids, will be forgotten? Will it be viewed by our future selves as a grandiose moment in time? One can only wonder. And upon our return to the old normal (which may not occur for some time), the biggest question should be whether re-acclimating to a lifestyle of running in different directions to hopefully resume many other desirable activities will suddenly find us also desiring a return to the new normal of having more time for board games.

In the meantime, I hope Soloski finds herself and her family with an ongoing passion for board games long after the pandemic. I also hope to experience the same outcome in my household. Her story indeed made a positive impression on me. It speaks to the value of exploring meaningful ways to create quality time at home, with family. And it speaks to a past when it was a pleasure, not an inconvenience, to avoid interruption during a family activity that created laughter, promoted a competitive streak in all participants, revealed selfish, cheating motives (in a fun way, of course), provided enthralling, tabletop recreation, and, most of all, brought the family together in an exciting and worthwhile way.

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So when you’re contemplating an entertaining and health-promoting, leisure activity to do in your household, with your Android phone, iOS device, or Nintendo Switch out of reach, and with the pleasure of knowing it will create a lasting memory, look no further than an old fashion board game. Hopefully, it will become a tabletop pastime for years to come.

P.S.: For anyone interested in reading more about the positive impact of board games, especially on an individual or a community, I recommend “Former Homeless Woman Becomes ‘Board Game Santa,’ Giving Out Free Games to Make People Happy.” It’s a quick read that tugs at the heart and reminds us there are good people in this world.

© 2020 Gill Wellness Therapy and Consultation – All rights reserved.

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