Humans have played board games since at least 3,500 years BC. Today, the market for table-top games is booming, confounding those who claim we are addicted to technology-based games. Recent research shows we are playing family table-top games as enthusiastically a sever.
Did you grow up playing table-top games? The ancient Egyptians did; so too the Aztecs, the Indians and the Chinese. The game ‘Go’ is today played by 40 million people worldwide, just as keenly as when it was invented in China 5,500 years ago. It is said to have ‘more possibilities than there are atoms in the universe’ – little wonder that games can last for days.
These days, board games and action games may come and go with fashion and the latest Hollywood blockbuster, while some are so firmly fixed in the popular psyche that mention of their names alone is enough to evoke strong happy memories. The pleasure of sitting down with family and friends for a spell of gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) competition, endures for all age groups. Even against the intense allure of computer and tablet games,with their mesmerising colours and animations, we have never fallen out of love with table-top games.
Gather round the table…
Independent research carried out on behalf of table-top games manufacturer Drumond Park found that on average a family with children aged 4-9 years old own six table-top games. A quarter of the parents surveyed said their family possesses up to 10 games. And they’re not stuck away in a cupboard and never brought out – these parents say they sit down to play table-top games with their children at least once a week.
Almost nine in 10 children said that they prefer face-to-face play to online games, an interesting conception given the general assumptions that have been made about the current addiction to mobiles, tablets and PCs.
It may be that the parents who took part in the research recall the pleasure of playing table-top games from when they were themselves children. On average, they used to play at least once a week, while 30% said they played two to three times a week. Almost 9 in 10 (87%) of today’s parents say it lets family members sit down and interact with each other, and over three quarters (76%) now regard playing table top games with their kids as a good bonding opportunity.
For the love of the game
What is it, at heart, that keeps the love of table-top games alive? Perhaps it’s the spirit of competition, the opportunity to lose yourself in the game, the mental challenge, or simply the chance to learn, either by expanding your knowledge or by understanding your own ‘games personality’ better. Perhaps, as adults, it’s because of what and how we played as children and, crucially, our shared experience of play.
Remember the times when a single game used to last several days? You all rushed back to a friend’s house after school to pick up where you had left off the day before. And when it was over, the winner decided and the board cleared, one of you would look up and say ‘Another?’… and the process would start all over again. Remember the fight to secure your favourite playing piece, the squabbles over whose turn it was to start, the belly-laughs, the thrill of competition and winning, the acceptance of losing?
Table top games made us experts in gamesmanship. We learnt who the weaker links were, who would always help others, and who was ruthlessly competitive. We began to recognise in ourselves whether we relished the cut-and-thrust of a game of chance, or preferred the measured logic of strategy games. Friendships were won and lost on the game battlefield.
The skills we learnt through play prepared us for life – problem-solving, mental arithmetic or a sharp memory, to name just a few. There were softer skills too, such as sharing, teamwork, listening, waiting your turn, empathy for those who didn’t win. It was amazing what a simple board game could unleash.
Never too young
From a parent’s or grandparent’s perspective, we see our children enjoying exactly the same pleasures as they play their own table-top games today. From as young as four, they can start to learn about colours, shapes and number from the appealing images on the board and the bright pieces they play with. It’s significant that table-top games are often used in the classroom to support and reinforce what’s been taught in lessons.
Drumond Park’s new multi-award winning Pickin’ Chickens (age 4+)is a lively, fun and supremely tactile game. The aim of the game is to collect coloured chick, and to try to safeguard them from the attentions of the sneaky jumping. Young players quickly grasp the concept of taking turns, learning their colours, making decisions and practising memory skills – and how to win or lose respectfully.
And Drumond Park’s new Dig In! (age 8+) enhances children’s sorting and matching skills, as everyone ‘digs in’ to the pot to find the right shape and colour they need to complete their collection. Each card has pictures of six very recognisable items - an ice cream, dog, plane, rabbit, boat, scissors, starfish, teddy - on it; each one a particular colour. Players have just 15 seconds to rummage through the contents of the bowl, trying to find all their objects.
Although the Drumond Park research showed that the amount of time parents spend playing table-top games with their children decreases as their offspring get older, around 75% of the children surveyed confirmed that they loved it when their parents played with them. It remains a valuable shared, family experience in a world of increasing separation.
Table-top games have been a fixture in our lives for centuries. We continue to love and play them down the generations. They are up there with music and sport - for enduring popularity and pleasure.
For more information on the Drumond Park range, and stockists - please visit www.drumondpark.com