Why These Games?
“Nothing reveals Humanity so well as the games it plays.” – Hartley
Lately I’ve been writing a lot of reviews about games…board games, video games, what have you. I know that turns a lot of you off…*shrug* different audiences, different interests. Anyway, some people look at games as a mild annoyance and a waste of time while others center their entire weekend around one long, good dungeon crawler. What is it about games that makes ME want to play them? I’m so glad you asked…
Would you be surprised if I told you that there are games out there that can make you smarter? While games may not directly increase your IQ level, some do actually improve one’s critical thinking skills. A lot of people underestimate those two little words, but they actually roll several key concepts into one giant ball of awesome.
Critical Thinking as Defined by the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking, 1987
“Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.”
Told you that critical thinking was pretty awesome, and yes…some games help develop some or all of these skills. Chess, as an example, taught me how to think ahead and plan out my moves…while taking into account how, in each instance, my opponent may respond. Once you grasp and embrace the concept of “what would I do in my opponent’s situation”, you’ll immediately see an improvement in your game and better yet, how you look at life’s challenges in general.
Games do more than teach a person how to think ahead…they help people develop and improve on their social skills. For one, games help people learn how to lose and just as importantly, how to win.
Not all games are competitive…some games like Pandemic, Castle Panic, and Shadows over Camelot are cooperative in nature that force players to work together against the board itself. Let’s see…learning how to win, lose, AND cooperate? You could almost say that games teach one how to be patient as well. Sounds like a pretty important set of social skills to learn, in my opinion.
While we are on the subject of social skills, games help families spend quality time together. With the stresses of every day life, it’s important for parents to find time out of their busy day to spend a little time with their young ones. Most, if not all children, don’t fully understand the whole work to pay bills thing…some understand it but only know the concept in theory based on observation as opposed to practical experience. What they see, and often remember, is mom or dad being too busy to spend time with them. Luckily, games come in many shapes and forms with a varying range of difficulty levels…
What about the people who claim that “games just rot your brain?” People who often say this are either sexually frustrated or lived solely off of “Connect 4″ as a child.
Do games exist strictly for entertainment purposes? Absolutely not…some games are indeed educational. Some games touch on math, some on history, some on vocabulary…you name it, it probably exists. Some kids respond better to learning when they are actively engaged and are having fun…games help to make that possible. Word on the Street, a board game I recently reviewed, is one such example.
Then there is of course, the physical aspect to consider. No, I’m not taking about the muscles you exert when you rage and destroy property after losing Asia after several hours of carefully planned attacks (Risk for you non-gamers)…I’m talking about games that incorporate physical exertion into the mechanics themselves. The ever so popular Dance Dance Revolution is one such example…you may also have heard of Wii Fit or Wii Sports Resort. Whether people know it or not, they are burning calories through aerobic exericise…and it’s actually FUN! Well, it depends on who you ask I guess.
Some games require “out of the box” thinking…forcing players to adhere to a brand new set of rules than what they are used to in an effort to advance or beat the game. If you aren’t sure of what I’m referring to, play Portal on the PC, Mac, XBox 360, or PS3. I’d really enjoy observing the look on your face as you first dismiss a puzzle as impossible…then work your brain into slowly realizing that it might be possible if this, this, and this…then finally smiling in silent satisfaction (I’m watching, remember) when you actually do beat the puzzle. “Out of the box” thinking is key to any scientific breakthru…after all…the whole idea around research is to discover ways of doing things that were completely foreign to begin with.
Personally…I’m a fan of strategy and simulation games. Strategy games force players to out-think either each other or the board itself…depending on what game you are playing. Simulation games like Tropico, a “SimCity-esque” kind of game, makes me think about how to best place my buildings to accomplish whatever objectives I’m tasked with. I enjoy thinking and the overall feeling I get when I succeed at overcoming a challenge. I enjoy finding the most efficient way to do something…sometimes obsessively. Some people collect stamps…so whatever, right?
I’ve seen people use the word “gamer” as if it were a bad, derogatory thing. What these people fail to see is how much more gamers get out of what they do as compared to someone who obsesses over the plot line (*snicker*) of Jersey Shore…because you know, that’s really important, dawg.
For those of you interested in games and do not know where to begin…for crying out loud…ASK! Google! Research! There are gaming communities out there that are always happy to recommend their favorite games and possibly bore you to tears as to why. I regularly frequent YouTube for game reviews…it helps me to gain insight into how prospective purchases actually look. Those “on the box” taglines can be often misleading.
I’ve already mentioned that games come in various shapes and sizes…find a genre that is right for you, whether it’s electronic or physical in nature…and play it. Most people don’t even realize just how in-depth the board game market alone is. Sure, people know their Monopoly or Scrabble…maybe even Sorry or Trouble…but how many of you have heard of Ticket to Ride or Ingenious? You’re really missing out.
So the next time someone asks you…”Why These Games?”…you’ll have an article to point them to. Of course, you could always add that you’re awesome and they aren’t…just as an added bonus.
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