Anyone who knew my family when I was growing up, and I’m blessed that there are still many in my life who did, will tell you that our house was at the best of time organized chaos. With four highly rambunctious boys into all kinds of activities each usually with a friend or two in tow, a special needs sister, a grandmother and a slew of cats, it was a world of perpetual motion and more than a little pandemonium.
Except on game nights. That seemed to be the one time everything calmed down for a bit—or had the semblance of calm—and spent time as a family. When adults were at the table, it meant that disputes were solved with discussions rather than flying tackles, and in addition to fun, it was also a time of learning and communicating. Games are inherently social, and over the relative calm of a game of Monopoly, Life or Scrabble, we would hear stories about my parents’ childhoods, other family members and all the lore, whether true or apocryphal, that gave our family its identity.
We would also play games with our great aunts and other family members that we didn’t see that often, and it gave us a place to share around a common activity that everyone could participate in.
Ultimately the games you play with your family don’t matter so much as the quality of the experience that you create around them. Brian Hersch, who was the mastermind behind such classic titles as Taboo, Out of Context and Outburst, always maintained that games are “social lubrication.” I had the privilege of working with Brian early on in my career, and I saw a lot of his ideas in practice. Good games get people talking, pure and simple. In the best of situations, the game itself recedes into the background and the individuals emerge as the stars of the evening.
In the context of a family, games allow family members to be freed from their traditional roles in the family as they play, offering opportunities to be a little freer and for kids to know the more human sides of their parents. (Hard as it may be to believe that they have them.)
Take a look at all the games we’ve highlighted this month, paying particular attention to my favorites. (Kidding!) and give yourself and the family the gift of a fun evening.