What Gaming Teaches Us

Here is an excerpt from an upcoming interview with the guys from The Spiel.  It struck a note with me so I thought I would pull it out so that we could spend some time on it.

I asked Stephen about his most memorable gaming moment.  He answers:

Stephen: I grew up in a family that loved games. Some of my earliest and most fond memories are of my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and my parents laughing and playing cards until all hours of the night. In rural Indiana, where Euchre is King, it was considered a rite of passage for my grandfather to sit down and teach me the rules and take me on as his “apprentice” partner. For my Romanian grandparents on the other side of my family, their game was Pinochle. The day I was allowed to join the adults and play Pinochle, I knew I had found my new home: the game table.

This resounded with me.  Here is my response.

Tom: This story is so familiar now. Almost everyone interviewed has a similar experience. Their gaming started as children. I’m no different. I can remember playing Uncle Wiggly when I was in first grade with my sister. And playing cards, Catch The Five specifically, with my grandmother and her friends and my cousins. I believe gaming in childhood definitely leads to a lifetime of gaming. You talked about gaming’s social interactions and that touching us on a fundamental level. This has been echoed by other guests. I believe that this is what bonds us to gaming. Gaming can teach us how to behave and interact with each other in civil and productive ways. The rules of a game control the interactions of the players. Or at least confine these interactions in a certain way. They allow us to engage with each other without having to deal with discovering ‘the rules’ of the interaction. They enable us to bypass those rules or delay them. We are able to learn them with a layer of protection, the game, so to speak.   Games can enable us to learn how to be social creatures.  When you ask most gamers why they play games, usually the first thing they say has to do with the social aspects of gaming – being with like-minded people, hanging out with friends, meeting new people. This is a valuable lesson as we must interact with people every day.   It is one that kids use all the time.  It’s called ‘Play’.

So, what do you think?  Let’s get a discussion going.  Leave a comment.

5 thoughts on “What Gaming Teaches Us

  1. We played Monoploy when the hurricanes would knock out the power for hours, sometimes days. We’d play by lantern light if need be. We also played Monopoly all the way up to Wisconsin and coming back, with a huge Grandfather clock in the back of the station wagon taking up half the backseats folded down: we laid the board out on the box! Also Hearts. We also had a game about horses that taught us horse safety. And of course “Horse” basketball and swimming games, and all those GI Joe’s and Breyer horse models laid out under magnolia trees and swimming in satiny pools of old dance costumes.
    Then in high school my friends and I enjoyed the activities we played in our youth groups at church so much that we started playing them together. I remember fierce Scrabble battles, full contact Wink, and even emotionally charged and days-long-during Spring Break “Psychology.” We made up games, we played games, and we really didn’t keep score from time to time. We especially loved non-board games. It seemed if it involved a board then it bored us.
    Fascinating concept, Tom!

  2. I think you are on to something with the childhood gaming. We had weekly or nearly weekly family game sessions as far back as I can remember, usually card games. In our case I don’t think the game rules provided a way of engaging with each other without having to deal with discovering the rules of interaction. We always tended to lots of ranging conversations and social interaction. What a deck of cards provided was an entertaining vehicle for it. The life lessons I picked up from childhood games was 1) playing by the rules, 2) looking at things from another’s position, 3) planning ahead, and 4) resource management.

  3. It is unfortunate that we still need to justify games and play. But, since we do, I just wanted to add my thank you for giving us one more thought-provoker for our conceptual arsenal.

    1. Thanks for visiting the blog and for the comment Major Fun. The post wasn’t an attempt to justify playing games. That needs no justification at all. The post was simply a thought of mine that was spawned by Stephen’s comment. And your comment has spawned another post idea. Thanks!

  4. I played some of the traditional “family” and “children’s” games when I was little, but the game that had the biggest impact on me back then was Dungeons & Dragons. And, interestingly enough, I wasn’t even playing.

    I can remember being something like 6 or 7 years old and watching my brother Tony (who is 9 years older) play D&D with his high school friends. I’d sit there for hours, hanging over the back of a chair in the living room, watching them gathered around the dining room table playing out the adventures he had put together. I’m not exactly sure how he felt about it at the time, but he was always patient with me and never seemed to mind. For me, thought, it was definitely one of the defining moments (maybe the defining moment) of my childhood.

    A few years later, when I was tossed into middle school and struggling to find a new group of friends, what do you think was the element that brought us together? It was D&D, of course. The context of the game helped us connect, and our common passion about games in general (and fantasy roleplaying specifically) brought us together and forged friendships that have lasted throughout the last 25 or so years.

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