The benefits of playing games are far-reaching. I often talk about the huge impact games can have on family life & relationships, but it can go further than that… supporting and strengthening our relationships with friends and colleagues.
Firstly, let’s get one thing clear. I’m not just talking about board games like Monopoly (aaagh), but all sorts of non-digital games – card games, party games, quiz games, role-playing games… There’s a huge range. With over 4000 new games published every year there really is a game for everyone and every situation… even five minutes in the office kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil.
So let’s do a whistle-stop tour of some of the benefits that playing games can have on our attitude, outlook and relationships.
Benefit 1: Playing together brings us closer
Many interactions parents have with their children are functional or transactional – this increases as children get older. And It is all too easy for parents to get caught up with what needs to be done (homework, tidying, chores) and forget about stealing moments to have fun together.
And many (in some cases most) conversations we have at work are related to the work we are doing. In a work environment, games help us to connect with others, to disconnect the person from the role.
Really – it’s about developing connections and improving relationships. Games help us do that because they take us away from the transactional and into a world of play where we can build trust and unity.
Benefit 2: Games don’t matter
Here the stakes are low; it doesn’t matter if we lose. Games provide a platform for us to fail, over and over again. Odds are that most people playing games will lose. As we become more comfortable with failing, we start to learn from it.
At school & at work we are usually being measured, or measuring ourselves. The outcome of a game really doesn’t matter. It is of no consequence whether we win or lose. This is liberating and makes us behave differently. More experimentally, more freely.
Benefit 3: Playing games develops learning skills
Playing games improves memory formation and cognitive skills, increases processing speed, develops logic and reasoning skills, improves critical thinking, boosts spatial reasoning, improves verbal and communication skills, increases attention and concentration, teaches problem-solving, develops confidence and improves decision-making.
Games encourage us to think in new ways.
Benefit 4: Every player is equal
In the workplace, there is a hierarchical structure that can seep into most interactions.
Families too have inbuilt hierarchies. Parents mostly make the decisions for the rest of the family to follow. But all players are equal in a game. A temporary balance is achieved and this can be liberating and exciting for everyone.
Benefit 5: Games create shared experiences
In busy households and workplaces, deliberately shared experiences can be rare – as everyone is going about their own business. Good games evoke all sorts of emotions; happiness, delight, tension, intrigue, awe, trust, anticipation, surprise. Our emotional reactions connect us to the game, the experience and the people we’re playing with.
Benefit 6: Games spark conversation
Your children often don’t listen because you don’t say anything interesting. Your adult day is of no real source of intrigue to them. But carving out moments for doing things together, like playing board games, gives families a natural focus for conversation. The same is true at work. A quick lunchtime game will get you talking. Tabletop chatter spills over into post-game analysis. Great experiences act as bookmarks in our mind, giving us memories to chat about time and time again.
Benefit 7: There are both physical and mental health benefits
Game playing has proven health benefits as it induces laughter and reduces stress, boosting the immune system and lowering blood pressure. Board games help us to escape from our daily worries and focus on something else for a while. They bring us balance and help us to relax. Teenagers may seem to want to spend a lot of time on their own in their room, but it’s not usually in the best interests of their mental health. Taking time to play together reduces isolation. AND… People who play games are less at risk of cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer’s.
You are responsible for creating the culture you want at home and at work. Culture is created through action…. through doing things. Why not find a game you can play with others today.
I am a board game designer and run my own board game publishing company – The Dark Imp. I specialise in games for families and adults who don’t play lots of games. Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve created a range of games that can be played via Zoom with any number of people, including downloadable ‘print and play’ games. I also run games on Zoom for teams and extended family groups. Please do have a look at The Dark Imp website, browse the online shop and get in touch if you have any questions.