The Good Life – The Pleasure of Games

This year, as per usual, my husband and I bought a family Christmas present instead of exchanging individual gifts. It’s an approach that we’ve taken for quite a few years now, and it seems to remove some of the gift-buying stress. The rule is that the family present must involve some sort of an activity, something that we can enjoy and that doesn’t hang around the house afterwards. In years past, before we became parents, it was things like cooking or kayaking lessons. In the last few years we’ve spent the days following Christmas doing such things as riding the train up to Whistler or venturing up the local mountains for cross-country or downhill ski trips. It sure beats spending time in line at the mall waiting to return a blouse that doesn’t fit or a computer doodad that’s not compatible with the specific type of watchamacallit.

This year, we broke with tradition and decided that we needed to get a new board game. Our friends recommended Cadoo, the “hot item” game of the season, which is a children’s version of Cranium. When we went to the neighbourhood toy and game store, though, the only one left on the shelf was the deluxe edition, complete with metal box, selling for fifty dollars or so. After spending a breathtaking amount of money earlier in the day on a free range turkey, some organic vegetables and a few bottles of wine, we decided that we would have to opt for a lower-priced alternative. Rifling through the discount bin, we dug up a battered looking version of Trouble (with the pop-o-matic bubble) and Snakes and Ladders.

Coming from European backgrounds, we always have our big Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve, which means that Christmas Day is a lazy, lazy time of eating turkey sandwiches and leftover mashed potatoes, and drinking coffee with Bailey’s Irish Cream. This year Christmas day brought gray skies and rain. None of us, including our daughter, had much inclination to leave the house, so we spent the day listening to the stereo and playing our new board games beside the fire. It was an absolutely wonderful day, totally carefree and relaxing. The next day, our fiends came by for dinner, along with another couple, and we spent the evening talking and watching our kids playing Cadoo. They were right, it is a great game, educational and fun, involving play-acting, drawing, riddles, and logic problems.

One of our friends told us she’d read an article about a growing trend in Europe that involves toy and game libraries–places where a family can check out a board game or a toy for a period of time. This sounded like a great idea, and we wondered what it would take to set up something like that in our community. The whole evening was so enjoyable that we decided to set up a monthly games night, a time when we can all get together and, instead of just sitting around talking, eating, drinking, or watching a film, we can spend our time playing with our kids and being kids again ourselves. I think I’ll stay away from Risk and Monopoly, though. They always bring out the worst in me.