Meng from Australia writes…
Hey Cyrus, greetings from a former opponent and fellow lover of Gem Quest.
This blog focuses on one of the few topics that has yet to reach web saturation point, not to mention a subject very close to my heart.
Since my first children’s game purchase in 2006 (Go Away, Monster!), I have been constantly looking out for games I can enjoy with my son and daughter (now 3 and 5). I have used games to encourage sharing, compromise, taking turns and valuing enjoyment above winning.
We don’t play video games, because we don’t own a console, and I’m not in a hurry to start!
I’ll be following this blog closely, and I hope to make regular contributions too. Thanks for your fantastic efforts.
And thank you, Meng, for taking the time to write in. Why you had to bring up Gem Quest, most possibly my least favorite of games (I’d rather play Hungry Hungry Hippos), is both humorous and painful. I am sarcastically grateful to you for bringing up old and ugly memories.
I also struggle to find that “perfect game” that can capture the attention of my children and reinforce important social and family values. At a glance, all that one can glean from a game box is what the game looks like, suggested age range, number of players, and time to complete. This is all very useful information, but I would love to see the game box also go into detail about what life lessons are carefully weaved into the fabric of the game mechanic.
Until then, I find creative ways to sneak in life lessons such as those you mentioned. While easy to make statements to our children about good sportsmanship, the importance of “thinking” before you act, and learning to share and respect others, the real trick is timing. Mess it up and your wise words will wash over them like so much wind in their hair.
In addition, take into account the child’s age and ability level. Do not, for example, get Star Wars Monopoly if your child loves Star Wars but doesn’t know how to do simple counting yet. Your goal is to straddle that thin line between easy and moderate difficulty as best you can. After all, you want to challenge the child, not frustrate them.
This “thin line” is actually incredibly important. You must find that sweet spot where the level of engagement does not eclipse entertainment, difficulty does not trump fun, and focus is not lost to mindless distraction. If you can create this environment, you have the perfect opportunity to insert any and all life lessons into the experience as it will feel natural to do so.
Best of luck to you and your epic quest of raising children. I look forward to any and all tips, stories, and game suggestions you might want to provide!