We were surprised by iPods. House-flipping escaped us. Flash mobs were big news. We’ve only been ahead of the curve once and it’s had a huge impact – board games.
It all started as a solution to a problem. As the teen years approached, we spent less time together. Obviously, we didn’t want them joining a gang so we made a decision that every Sunday afternoon we would play a game.
In the early days we played a lot of Hearts. It’s still a big part of our family culture (and, frankly, worthy of a whole column by itself) but things really took off when we discovered a local game store. Mynde Games hosted a Family Game Night once a week and it was there that we first learned about Euro games like Settlers of Catan.
I remember playing a complex board game at this store and asking if anyone minded if I stood up to better see the board. “Oh!” exclaimed the proprietor, an enthusiastic young man, “I’ve got something for you!” He returned with a little pin that said “Real Gamers Do It Standing” and it’s a family treasure to this day.
The store owner taught our family a game called Liar’s Dice that I have shared it with hundreds of students over the years. It’s the same game played in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. With sixth-graders, you teach it one day and let them start playing the next (Pro tip: NEVER pass out dice right before you want them to pay attention!)
To this day I carry a box of dice in my purse. I once brought them along to a party with our daughter’s friends and asked a couple of 20-somethings if they’d like to learn the game. Within minutes I had millennials waiting for a turn to get their hands on some dice. They were so bright and learned so fast – I’ve never had such fun teaching! If only I could find a job doing THAT every day!
After Mynde Games closed, we joined a game group that met monthly in a hotel conference room. It was called Southwest Area Gamers but, in honor of its founder, our family always referred to it as Floyd Fest. It was populated mostly by 30-something men who brought snacks like Little Debbie snack cakes and Pop Tarts (think comic book guy from The Simpsons) but we were glad to provide more substantial fare because they brought SO MANY GAMES.
If you’re not familiar with this world, you might be surprised at the price of some of these sets. Intricate pieces, gorgeous artwork, clever mechanics – all of these are expensive and those in our group had all the best.
In a new city we always look for a game store and try to purchase something to support these small businesses. They’re usually run by young and earnest gamers who get a kick out of people their parents’ age who can discuss the newest titles.
The Mecca, for us, is Café Mox in Seattle. One side is a restaurant filled with players hunched over cards or game pieces. Some are deep in concentration while others shout in victory or groan in frustration. The other half is an amazing store with games organized by types – role-playing, deck-building, cooperative. . . a true gamer’s paradise.
Our daughter is a lawyer for a huge game company (yes, really!) and our son has gotten us into a little online board-gaming. Every couple of weeks, he sets up a game for us on a virtual table and the 2,600 miles between us melt away. We play and talk and laugh and simply spend family time together, just like always.