A House of Games and Gamers

Crazy for Candyland!

My daughter, V, calls them “gamies.”  V is 23 months old and already a game aficionado.  She loves to play Dora The Explorer Memory, a rather hectic and random version of Candyland, and Hi-Ho Cherry-O (though we have to watch her like a hawk with the cherries).  She “plays” cribbage with us; her version is really a card game of war where my hand is randomly selected and she keeps track of her “points” using the cribbage board.  Yep, in our household, we start playing games early.

My husband can technically be given the traditional title of “gamer.”  He plays those Warhammer 40K and Warhammer Fantasy and assorted role-playing games; basically your average nerd stuff (yep, I love me some nerds).  When we were dating, I impressed him with my willingness to try my hand at Magic, Samurai Swords, 007 Goldeneye, and other games I haven’t touched since I got a ring on my finger (I maintain that this really wasn’t intentional…but it’s true!). I remain the household champion of Warhammer Fantasy as the two games I have played with him over the course of 12 years I won (with a lot of assistance since I have no idea what I was doing).  Really, I know they weren’t serious victories and that while not “letting me win,” he certainly was being a good sport.  V has already had her baby interest peaked as she helps Daddy paint his Warhammer figurines and rolls the dice for him during their excursions to the local game store for Warhammer Fantasy games.

Despite M’s greater commitment to the gaming world, I have to say, I am a gamer’s wife.  I like playing somewhat obscure board games:  Agricola, Bonanza, Race for the Galaxy, Cave Troll, Aladdin’s Dragons, and Guillotine.  Though I also love  traditional games like Monopoly and Clue, I have enjoyed the world my husband has opened up for me; we have spent many pleasant hours together playing two player board games (Cold War, War and Sheep, Balloon Cup).

Growing up, some of my favorite times with my family involved games.  We would play board games and classic Nintendo on New Year’s Eve, munching giant bags of popcorn we picked up at the local supermarket.  On rainy days, as we spent summers at our cabin in “Up North” Michigan, we entertained ourselves with game after game of Yahtzee and Solarquest.  I loved cozy winter days where we would map out quests of Zelda with my parents, and watch my dad swing the remote control as he tried to get that little Mario dude to jump already.  These moments may seem simple, but they linger like a worry stone in my pocket, I caress them in my memory because they are times we enjoyed as a family.

I think enjoying board games is kind of a litmus test for belonging in my husband’s family.  I know where my husband gets his love of games, as I have spent more hours at my in-laws’ dining room table over a board game than I can count.  We have some competitive folks in our family (no names mentioned…um, cough) so we keep it crazy when the games are going on.  We have the rule-obsesser, the lucky and deceptively confused trickster, the coy diplomat who relies on her niceness to avoid attacks from other players, the difficult to beat champion who explains rule after rule with infinite patience, the prone to whine if losing individual (I think we’ve all taken a turn with this role).  Despite the fact that games have resulted in some notorious, humorous exchanges (someone being called a “tw*t,” someone shouting “F, F, F”, sulking silences) we LOVE the gaming family ritual.  It is time we spent together, enjoying each other’s foibles and the fun of the game.  I don’t know who we would be as a family without board games.  They are present at every family gathering, formal or informal.

M and I have spent many an evening working out some stress through board games.  We spent sleepless nights during graduate school, through some marital struggles, and during my pregnancy playing mindless games of cribbage and backgammon.  We have played our way through the pain of family illnesses and deaths, when you need a distraction from the hurt but you just don’t feel like talking.  Games mean something in our family; they are a means of connection.  They are time spent.  They are a medium for working things out when tensions are high.

So I’m glad our daughter is joining in the spirit of her family by professing an early love of “gamies.”  I hope we will have many enjoyable evenings that will linger in her memory as her childhood fades; evenings where we’ll pull out a game from the pantry (we keep games rather than food in ours) and settle in for a laugh.  I hope games will be a way for us to keep connected in a world where people increasingly isolate themselves through individual activities and impersonal technologies.  For us, I can’t imagine life without games.

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8 responses to “A House of Games and Gamers

  • Laura Davis

    I love this post Pam! (I also love that you keep gamies in your pantry, lol.) We are a family of gamers too, and I was introduced to them mostly through my husband and his family. Joe’s brother and a friend often come over for frequent “game-nights” where we play many of the nerdy games you mentioned above (I love me some nerds too and think I can finally call myself one.) 🙂 It is a wonderful way to spend quality time, let loose, shrug off the stresses of the day, and bond with those you love. We have two little dice-rollers over here until they are old enough to join in on the strategic side, and we were beyond excited when Glory became old enough to play Kingsburg with us, though it should be mentioned that Carlos gives me a run for the money in Blokus. 🙂

    During game nights around our table, we are accompanied by “Johnny-Takeback” who after deciding on the perfect move, rediscovers something that would have won him the game so just give him a second while he readjusts….yeah – he looks like a magician the hands move so fast. 🙂 We have a “coach” who likes to give everyone the best advice since it’s just not a challenge unless everyone is playing their very best, a “blood ninja” who is always out for the win no matter who gets stepped on along the way, and a few other gamer types that we roll the dice with, lol. Oh how I wish we lived closer to you. We love us some games, and I could completely relate to this post. 🙂

    Excellent writing, as always.

  • Pamela

    Hilarious; I love your characterizations of the players in your family! Also interested to hear some of the new games you mentioned…we have to find some more V friendly games for our cupboard. I wish we lived closer too; we’d have fun!

  • Cat

    Nice post! We are also gamers. Same as you with nice memories of family travels and get-togethers playing games. Also cards were big in our family.

    Hugs!!

  • Kristin @ What She Said

    Oooh, now I want to play backgammon – I used to love that game as a kid! i’d have to brush up on how to play, though – it’s been a while.

    J and I love Scrabble. Well, *I* love it… when I win. When I lose, it’s a whole different story. We’ve actually gotten into some serious fights over Scrabble before – silly but true. J’s a little skeptical of playing with me anymore as a result. I supposed my sportsmanship could use some work.

    I hope V will also love games. I guess she’s getting to the age where we could break out the Candyland. I love Candyland!

  • becky gomez

    PAM, Finally caught up with past blogs–love your GAMES and your characterizations of gamers in our circle (joking of course but true!!!)

    Mom

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