Video games have never quite managed to kill off board games, and not just among those whose parents refuse to invest in a Switch. Whether being played just for the fun of it, or to fulfill learning or social goals, board games represent a type of play that benefits people of all ages.
Young children can learn a lot more than states and capitals from board games. They can learn what rules are and how to follow them. They can learn how to lose without feeling like a loser, and how to cooperate with other people in an activity. If their parents are lucky, they may even learn how to sit still and play quietly for extended periods of time.
More difficult games can help older children explore their creativity, advance their social skills and exercise higher levels of cognitive thinking. Strategy games can help them learn to channel aggression. Unlike in real life, in a strategy game conflict is projected onto a board and resolved by a roll of the dice.
Board games can also create a space for healthy emotional interactions between teenagers and parents. When a board game brings family members face to face for intergenerational play, it creates a positive common experience. This experience can become a joyful shared memory that affects relationships long after the game has ended.
Board games also benefit seniors in multiple ways. They help prevent social isolation, one of the most harmful and painful experiences of old age. They also strengthen cognitive abilities, which helps seniors remain active and independent.
Board games help players of all ages learn that not everything is under their control. Sometimes in games, as in life, things just happen. Learning to let go and roll with the dice can help players learn to let go of their anxieties.
Choosing the right board game can be difficult if you haven’t played one in a long time. Board games have come a long way since chess, checkers and Monopoly. Each year the American Mensa society gives an award to five board games. All of the winners, since the awards began in 1990, are listed in Wikipedia. Not all of these games are still available new, but many of the ones no longer in production can be purchased second hand. Excellent game reviews are available on YouTube game review sites. The Parent’s Choice Foundation has also been giving annual awards for “best” board games since 1978.
If you pick one game and it doesn’t work out, pick another. There are board games for all ages and all interests, even for those who would prefer to have a Switch.