It’s no secret that play is essential to learning. We learn best when we’re having fun. For this reason, games are widely acknowledged for encouraging development in a variety of different areas: empathy, reasoning skills, mathematical ability and vocabulary – to name a few.
Whatever aspect of yourself you’d like to improve, there’s a game for it. Educational games are used as experiential learning tools in schools for children of all ages, and some have even touted the benefits of playing puzzle games and doing crosswords in staving off Alzheimer’s disease and neural degeneration associated with old age.
The kings and noblemen of medieval times would test their wits and fortitude in games of chess against one another. In the ancient Greek kingdom of Lydia, the people survived famine for 18 years by eating only every second day. On days they didn’t eat, they’d distract themselves from hunger by inventing and playing games.
When we think of games today, most people think of immersive PC or video games like Call of Duty or addictive mobile apps such as Candy Crush, but it’s important that we not overlook the many advantages of bonding with family or friends over a good old-fashioned board game.
Here are just a few reasons why you might want to get out some of those dusty boxes in your cupboard and start planning your next games night:
Games can make you more successful
Strategy games, such as Monopoly and Robert Kiyosaki’s Cashflow, teach logic, critical thinking and analytical skills while demonstrating the advantages of investing, financial independence and economic responsibility – crucial skills for success.
Cashflow, for example, has players caught in a “Rat Race” – a circuit on the board that you can only escape from once your passive income exceeds your monthly expenses. Once out of the Rat Race, players are moved to the “Fast Track” and only then stand a chance of winning the game. The game remains fun and entertaining for players (ages 14 and up) while teaching basic accounting as well as valuable, real world, fiscal insights.
Another strategy game worth mentioning is the award winning game, The Settlers of Catan, where players must engage in a strategic feudal conquest to compete for land and resources on the fictional island of Catan. The game is simple enough to learn to play that it is suitable for players of any age. Because of the infinite possible outcomes, the game remains exciting and nuanced even for more experienced players.
Games can make you a more interesting person
We all know the stereotype of the sweaty nerd playing Dungeons and Dragons with his equally awkward and equally male friends in his mother’s basement, but this stigma couldn’t be further from reality. The surprising truth is that role-playing storytelling games like D&D, World of Darkness and Aye, Dark Overlord! are great for building confidence and social skills by requiring players to exercise creativity, verbal intelligence, problem solving skills and even acting. Imagine all the benefits of reading, writing and spending time with friends all rolled together!
Dungeons and Dragons relies heavily on the creation of characters and storytelling. Finding interesting character quirks and drawing from personal experience enriches the game, and may even boost your own charisma.
Aye, Dark Overlord! involves similar quick thinking and imaginative storytelling, as players assume the roles of the goblin servants of an evil overlord (a preselected game master). Using card prompts, the players must then weasel their way out of wild accusations thrown at them by their merciless leader. This game not only requires wit, creativity and skilful negotiation, but also an enormous sense of humour. It’s said that no one can teach you how to be funny, but you’ll definitely get your practice in playing Aye, Dark Overlord!
Games can improve reaction time
Intelligence is not just about how much you know or good you are at solving problems, it’s also about how quickly you can operate at a level of efficiency. Games such as Speed, Jungle Speed and Snap are excellent for teaching or developing dexterity and quick reaction time. Whether you’re a parent wanting the best for your child, a teenager or adult simply wanting to sharpen up the reflexes, or a fighter pilot whose ability to make split-second decisions could mean the difference between life or death, you’re sure to benefit.
Other ways games can improve overall intelligence
UNO is a great game for anyone looking to improve their ability to pay attention, as your success depends on concentrating on not allowing your opponents to run out of cards before you do.
There’s no better way to improve vocabulary than by playing Scrabble. Scrabble rewards players who can arrange the most uncommon letters into the longest words. Playing with people much better than you is a great way to expand your lexicon (if you can resist the urge to throw a dictionary at your cocky wordsmith friends.)
Dixit is a clue-based party game that dazzles you with imaginative artwork while training you to decipher often cryptic clues given to you by your opponents. The great thing about Dixit is that the difficulty of the clues relies entirely upon the creativity of your fellow players and so it can easily be adjusted to be suitable for players as young as six years of age.
The right game for the right age
To get the most out of the board games you buy, be sure to choose the right game for the right age group. A game should be just advanced enough to be challenging for younger players without becoming frustrating. Conversely, children may grow out of games designed for younger players because there is not enough of a challenge to occupy their attention.
Remember, it’s just a game
In the end, it’s important to remember that while educational and often thoroughly involving, the point of games is to escape from the troubles of everyday life and become immersed in the world of fun and imagination. As in life, the important thing is to win and lose gracefully. If you take either too seriously, it ceases to be fun. The point is to learn, have some fun and enjoy spending time with the people you love.
David J Salmon is an editor and blog writer for writers-house.com. He’s passionate about reading fiction, watching good TV series and giving good advices on self-development and creative writing. Follow him at: Twitter, Google+