7 Days of Gratitude – Games

It is hard for me to express how much I enjoy playing games. Hard because I really enjoy it, yes, but also because it means that I have to admit it. Thanks to the Protestant work ethic that dominates our society, the notion of playing a game, at any time, seems the same as being idle, indolent, or wasteful. There is almost always something more meaningful that I could be doing than playing a game, something more exemplary of Christian duty. And yet, I play games.

I primarily play video and tabletop games. Being socially awkward, I have found it to be an easy way to make friends. Much like eating together, sharing experiences brings people together and if there are puzzles to be solved and imagined feats of derring-do? So much the better. I’ve often said that telling other people about Dungeons and Dragons games that you’ve participated in is like telling people about your dreams; nobody who wasn’t there is really interested. But, like a dream, game sessions can linger with you, revealing things about yourself and the people around you. And it is always fun to remember something particularly ridiculous or advantageous that you or a friend did in a game.

I started my relation to games by playing cards with my father. He loved to surround a card table with family and get the smack-talk and competition going. He was quick to take advantage of opponents’ mistakes, but also quick to teach people how to improve their game. He lived for the challenge that his children eventually brought to the table. It was a way we could become his equals. It taught me to lose with good humor, to win with more good humor, and to enjoy the process as much as the result.

At the end of the day, I can’t argue with the notion that I could be doing something “better,” but it is a truth universally acknowledged that humans, once they are blessed with a little free time, will spend it doing something they enjoy. I doubt Joseph Smith leg wrestled because he needed the work-out; if God’s children are meant to have joy, then we’re meant to have some recreation. Certainly this, like all my thoughts on gratitude will, demonstrates my privilege; there are plenty of people without the time or ability to spend periods idly playing a game. And yet, most humans do. Perhaps some day my soul will become so refined that the enjoyment I take from engaging in Christian charity will eclipse my other pursuits, but in the meantime I’ll take joy in the games where I find it.


  1. Well done! Play is so important! We play many cooperative board games at our house because turn taking as well as loosing/winning are advanced play skills that we hope to one day acquire. Castle Panic was our game of choice tonight and is a family favorite. Don’t belittle the importance of play. Play skills/independent leisure skills are vital to function, yet not always acquired intuitively or easily. And skills acquired through play are retained in big, splashy, important ways. Play is how we are supposed to learn. It’s a more efficient and effective model of learning than a lecture or even a group discussion. Play _is_ meaningful. The vehicle that my children access their therapy is through play with their therapists. The way my children can most easily socialize these days is through a game of chess or battleship. Yes, it is play. BUT it is also really important and meaningful socialization/emotional learning/executive functioning practice. Even if you don’t have an alphabet soup of diagnoses, play is important and a legitimate use of time. It’s why wildly successful companies, Google for example, incorporate elements of play to their offices and encourage their employees to have 20 % projects that are just for fun.

  2. Card games growing up. Totally. This was the entrance to the adult world.

  3. Three cheers for games! We circled the family at least once a week to play a game together. Love the memories and the feeling of belonging.

  4. Blessed with a father, and an extended family, that made Rook and Pit a part of my life growing up; blessed with brothers with whom Dungeons and Dragons have been a constant (if not always uncontroversial) part of our siblinghood for decades, and blessed with a wife (and her extended family!) and children who have similarly made game-playing and learning new games (Pandemic! Betrayal at House on the Hill!) a huge part of our lives together. As Barb just said, three cheers for games! Well done, John C.

  5. Games used to be the way you survived family road trips, before the advent of private video screens. Just as important as packing your suitcase was preparing grids for Battleship or arrays of dots to connect.

  6. I think I’ve posted this anecdote on BCC before, but it’s relevant to this post.
    One evening while attending BYU, I had a girl over at my parents house for dinner. My grandparents showed up, we ate dinner and played a game of Uno. While driving back to Provo my friend turned to me and said “That was the most amazing thing I’ve never seen.” I look around, don’t see anything amazing and reply “What?” “A family played a game of Uno and no one got into a fight.” She then went on to explain how at every family gathering the Uncles would play Uno, fights would ensue, and then they’d go their separate ways and not talk to each other for months. Every family gathering she experienced (at least on one side of the family) always ended with hurt feelings, and everyone leaving hating the other family members.

  7. It saddens me to say I’ve poured scorn on play all of my life, except amongst my children. I was the eldest child of a divorced parent and what she needed was a small adult, responsible and biddable. And all attempts at adult games would end in sore feelings, so I discouraged even that amongst my kids past 12. I so regret it, our family has no culture of coming together over play, which I now see is essential to preserving relationships over time. ‘The family that plays together, stays together’. I don’t think the prayer bonded us in quite the way I’d hoped.

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