Games are the most elevated forms of investigation – Einstein
Many of you may remember a time when Monopoly, The Game of Life, Guess Who, Connect Four and a myriad of card games where something that occupied much of our free time. Nowadays we have so many more activities that can occupy our time, what is the value of the board game?
Games these days include the classics mentioned above but there are so many more that you can choose from. Their designs are more intricate, and the mechanics allow for many layers of strategy to try to win the game. Some games are cooperative, some games require a ruthless approach and others require high levels of thinking to win over great lengths of time. In the past twenty years we have seen an increase in games stores, game cafes, escape rooms and a large population that regularly play these games.
So, are these games just a bit of fun or something more than that?
From my own personal experience, I would definitely say more. The development that I have seen in my daughters’ ability to understand the way games are played and how to win has been mirrored in their approaches to learning. They understand that there may be many different ways of achieving the same goal, that sometimes (often) you fail, and it is always worth trying again. Further, they have learnt to communicate ideas, increased their vocabulary and can communicate with adults. But that is just my experience, is there any real evidence?
When you research these ideas, there are varied articles on the psychological effects of board games including boosting cognitive function, logic and reasoning, memory improvements as well as the concept of being able to lose and communicate with others. These have been replicated and discussed by many different researchers and it makes sense.
Given that a successful game player must learn to control her impulses, follow the rules, and reflect, it makes sense that gaming experience might translate into better performance on academic tasks that require focus and self-control. – Gwen Dewar, Ph.D.
There is another layer that is worth considering. When we learn often we like to watch what others do. This helps us reflect on our own performance. Some of us ask why people do things a certain way and then attempt to replicate this to improve their understanding. We model this in my home. We play a lot of card games. Often during the game, when we are learning it or if someone makes a poor choice, we pause and discuss the strategy. In doing this we have seen that the girls’ ability to tailor their approach has improved. They are now formidable opponents. In encouraging children to articulate reasons for choices and then understanding the consequences of their choices is the key to gaining the most educationally from playing games.
There are a growing number of cooperative board games that involve a number of people working together to win a scenario; ones that people may know are Pandemic, Forbidden Island, Betrayal at House Hill and of course any escape room game. These games involve complex coordinated play, with a number of different scenarios arising and different skills available to resolve them. These games develop cooperation (obviously) and computative thinking both identified as skills required for success in the 21st Century.
So, given that we are spending lots more time at home, perhaps it is time to rediscover the benefits of board games.
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Photo by cottonbro