ENTERTAINMENT ALTERNATIVES

I recently submitted the following to a local paper at their request. A good place to start.


THE ECONOMICS OF ENTERTAINMENT & TABLETOP GAMES - THE OTHER OPTION

   Fun night for the family - let’s do the math. Dinner at McDonald’s for four - $25. Movie for four - $25. Plus popcorn and a soda? OK - add $15. Total for the Friday night splurge - $65. But let’s be honest. The kids enjoyed the movie so much, we’ll be buying the DVD at WallyWorld - $20 more. That’s $85. What did we get?
   Dinner together was good, but not much interaction during the movie [everybody has to be quiet]. Evening with everybody doing the same thing - better than not.
   Interested in an alternative?
   Welcome to the new world of boardgames. And, no - these aren’t your parents boardgames. If you go to Target or Wal-Mart and check the boardgame section, you’re going to find all the staples you remember from the past 50 years are still there… plus quickie designs that reflect the current pop culture. 
   Not much to hang your hat on if you’re looking for something new or that challenges the players. But if you look carefully, you’ll find a game called SETTLERS OF CATAN. It’s the industry standard for a whole new breed of games - EuroGames. These are  games that challenge the players, and involve the players more with each other through the game itself.
   Pricetag? $42 at Target. That’s half what we spent for dinner and the movie and only $2 more than what we spent on the movie alone.
   What did we get? 2-3 hours of constant interaction with the family [as long as the kids are about 12 or older]. But not just for one night - this is a game that will get played and enjoyed by the family over and over for the next few years.
   Bonuses? You bet! Eurogames challenge the players - they are not only required to use critical thinking skills, but to develop social interactions as well. Things like bargaining, trading, planning ahead, deferring rewards and how to lose gracefully [we used to call that sportsmanship].
   You’d like a little more than that for your $42? How about a special bonus just for mom and dad? Surprise! This is a game you will invite your adult friends over to play - try that with SORRY! 
   One more bonus - this is a game that you can play with your children as they become adults. If you’ve already established a history with them of a Family Game Night, transitioning into positive adult activities may be the sweetest bonus of all.
   A little history on Eurogames - in Europe, playing games as a family and as an adult oriented activity has established a rich and deep tradition. The invention of the Eurogame in the ’70’s has exploded in European countries. For example, a Eurogame published in the USA might sell 25,000 units here. In Europe that number is easily multiplied by ten. Germany by itself sells more boardgames per capita than any other country.
   How about time spent? Dinner will run about 1 hour, plus 2 for the movie = 3 hours [not counting travel time/gas]. The boardgame at home? About the same. A little more or a little less depending on what you are playing - or how many times you played it.
   But - let’s ask that question again… what about the time spent?
   At the movie we all sit quietly as each experiences the movie in our own way. 
   At home - we each interact with everybody else at the table as a group and individually. Some of the things we do when we play games together that challenge us:
 - learn to win and lose graciously. The more often you play, the more opportunity you have to teach this concept in a hands-on way in a safe environment - your home. As schools and sports [especially for children] have nudged personal achievement towards the fantasy realm of ‘everybody wins’, I wonder if anyone has noted the correlation of the disconnect in sportsmanship that has produced the ‘hyper-bully’ and the ‘hyper-victim’ which explodes all too often in tragedy. Boardgaming teaches a more balanced and thought out way of dealing with problems and situations - and does it with fun.
 - learn to problem solve within a set of rules. Eurogame rules run 4-12 pages. Once gone over - they remain easily accessible for everyone. Learning to control our environment by understanding and using rules of play in a social setting - cooperation AND the rewards of individual effort at the same time? You bet!
 - everybody gets second chances. Boardgames have a special aspect of ‘do over’ that rewards effort and tenacity. Nothing boosts a child’s self confidence [note I didn’t say self esteem - the two are very different - esteem comes from without, but confidence comes from within] like effort rewarded. Even if it takes ten times to beat Mom or Dad at SETTLERS or anything else, every bit of effort expended toward that day wipes away all the losses - all that will be remembered in that magic moment is the feeling of accomplishment.  
   And then we can do it all over again. 
   I don’t think of boardgames as ‘frivolous expenditures’, though they certainly can be. I think of them in the long haul as ‘family investments’.