Still Unsure… (Why Join a Community? part 2)
This post was written by guest contributor Chrissy Wissler.
Still unsure about joining a board game class, café, or convention—a gaming community for you and your kids?
Last time I started addressing the question many families have: Why take a board game class, visit a gaming café, or go to a convention when I can just do this at home?
I talked a bit about the scheduling and the planning, and a lot about the rulebooks. Deciphering those texts (which feel like they’re written in a foreign language), and the difficulty of explaining the meaning (how to play) to kids – and in a way that made sense. Before they lose interest.
But besides explaining those pesky things called rules, the other thing that’s really important, especially when you’re playing with kids, is understanding the games they like. Figuring out the kinds of games that work for them.
We want kids to love games, to love this hobby. So it’s important to play games that bring joy and not games our kids will hate. Plus when you’re doing something you love, you often learn a ton.
You need a good working knowledge of games, a familiarity of which games do what (as far as game mechanics go), and teasing out which games will work well for each child… and which ones won’t.
Any good gamer, whether at a class, a convention, or a game café, will be able to point you in the right direction of which games to look at.
If you’re at a class or store, frankly that’s part of the job.
And what doesn’t?
I brought home a copy of Munchkin a few months ago to play with Kate. I hadn’t had time to check online or even look at the back of the box (it was one of those running-around-crazy moments). And besides, I was borrowing it from a friend, so why not give it a try?
But the moment I got home and read the back copy, I found out this game was about a bunch of adventurers going through a dungeon and back-stabbing each other—
And I immediately stopped reading. Why?
Because I knew—that quickly—that this game wouldn’t work for my sensitive daughter. She will often get quite emotional about not having the exact colored player token she wanted. And yes, this includes tears. Lots of tears.
It’s important to have this wide knowledge of games: how they play, their mechanics, how simple or complicated a game is, how long or short. But also be aware of who your child is and what games will work for them… or in the case of Kate and Munchkin, which games won’t.
How do you find out?
You can (and will) learn from trial and error, because despite our best efforts, even those of us “in the know” don’t always get it right. Or it will be right one day but not the next, since kids are constantly growing and changing.
You can learn all this on your own, but it’s so helpful to just ask someone. Let them point you in the right direction.
If you have a child (or even an adult) who has a hard time wrapping their heads around complex rules, it’s important to have a good understanding of which games will work for that person. Mage Knight or Scythe is probably not a game to pull out and try.
If you have a child who needs a lot of movement because focusing is a challenge, there are great movement games like Happy Salmon or Silly Street. These games still requires the child to focus, to be mentally present—there are still rules that must be followed. But they can stretch and grow those areas while bringing out what they are good at: movement.
Or maybe you have a child that’s more into the physical nature of games. The kind of kid who needs something in their hand to turn over and examine.
Games perfect for this are Dr. Eureka, IceCOOL, or Drop It.
If a child has a bit more maturity and care (because not all games can be used roughly as toys), then Planet is another great game to offer them.
Or maybe you have a different struggle…
Let’s say you’re playing with kids of multiple ages, and it’s pretty easy for the youngest to derail the games the older kids are playing. (Two-year-olds are notorious for this. And quite opinionated about their role as well.)
Or perhaps you’ve made it work, and your youngest is finally settled in (meaning: no longer destructo-saur)… only to have your oldest decide:
“I’m done. I don’t want to play anymore.”
It doesn’t matter that you took twenty minutes to set up and review the rules and those pesky details for Trekking the National Parks. Doesn’t matter that you were just plain excited to play this game together…
(Patience and a lot of breathing required, right here. Trust me.)
If you’re at a meet-up or playing with a larger group, then you have the opportunity for someone else to take some of that frustration off your back.
Parents, we don’t have to do it all.
When you join a group, a community of gamers, it means you’re not in this alone. You’ve got help. You might need to wrangle the two-year-old, but the older kids can still enjoy the game because there are others wanting to play games with them.
Another great reason to join a game group of whatever kind works best for you (besides doing the initial research on games and keeping up with the latest board game releases), is having a large collection of games to pick from.
Everyone has different interests and everyone has different abilities and play styles—and everyone likes choices.
A game café like the Game Häus or even the shelves of playable games at the Game Chest have that option, the giant library for you to choose from. Or if it’s a gaming meet-up, everyone’s bringing plenty of their own games to play.
Now you have choices. Now you have a breadth of games, at everyone’s different levels, to pick from.
And those people bringing the games? They know their games pretty darn well. Again, they can point you in the right direction.
This isn’t to say you can’t (or shouldn’t) push boundaries of your child’s abilities. But keep in mind that it’s no fun being frustrated. No one likes feeling lost, unable to understand the language everyone else is speaking.
It’s important for your kids to have fun. It’s important that they play and learn and have a great time playing games.
And it’s just as important for them to have a community to do this in. People they see and grow comfortable with, week after week. They need people they can share stories with—the stories of actually playing a board game and how things turned out in the end, even if they didn’t win.
Joining a group to play board games is such a wonderful social opportunity and chance for connections.
While you can build a game group of your own, grow and curate your own game collection, it’s nice to have someone else handle all the legwork. To give the responsibility for those pesky rules and explaining to another person, allowing yourself and your kids to simply enjoy playing games. Then you can focus on playing games with other people, building social connections… and of course, having fun.
Next time, I’ll talk about why you, specifically, should play games with your kids…
How about you? What are some reasons you’ve joined a group? How have you carved out time in your busy life to play board games with others?
Chrissy Wissler is a professional writer of fiction, parenting blogs and raising differently-wired kids, and also—a gamer. She runs the Homeschool Board Game Club in Torrance, California, sharing her love of games and supporting kids with the community. If you’d like to learn more, check out: facebook.com/chrissykidsboardgames and ChrissyWissler.com.