‘Learning through Board Games’


Often, when we hear the term ‘board games’ instantly the colourful images of Snakes and Ladders, or Ludo, or Checkers, or Monopoly, or Carom, fill our thoughts and senses. As mostly all of us have grown up playing these games with our friends, cousins, parents and grandparents, we have fond childhood memories associated with these games.

But, if we ask the new age parents,

    ‘Are you actively engaging in Board games with your children?’

Most probably the answer is – NO.

Unfortunately the fun of board game playing, which used to be a family bonding time, has been replaced with the on-screen solo gaming options on phones, i-pads, tablets, psp’s, x-box’s, etc…

Even though a whole new world of amazingly enriching and engaging board games has opened up since we were children, most of us are not even aware of them. These new age board games, have the capacity to drive you gasping with not only the variety of options but also the range of essential life skills that they help the players to imbibe. Skills ranging from very basic functional skills to the complex higher order thinking skills, and that too without the use of any content based learning barriers.

With nothing against the available digital gaming options, can’t ignore the fact that various researches have linked the pronged playing of most of these games to various psychological and behavioural issues, apart from the biological issues of too much screen exposure.

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This leads us to probe the difference in learning that a board game can provide but is unlikely for a technological gaming platform to match up to. Given below are 7 such learning differences for all you parents and teachers to think about –

1. Waiting/Patience – The foremost opportunity that a board game provides to the player is the ability to wait. There are times to act and there are times to wait patiently, while playing a board game. This is true for both the single player game playing environment as well as the multi-player environment. While drawing a random card from the pile or analysing your options, while rolling the uncertain dice or moving your pawn consciously, all requires a balance of action out of inherent patience.

2. Taking turns – Board Game playing environments being real and dynamic present itself with an in-built rule of having an appropriate time for everything. Whether its grabbing the dice, or tossing your card, or moving across the board or even verbalising a command… all actions need to be initiated and taken only at your turn. And to do so, the player has to sequence the other players and remember once own turn. An essential basic functional skill, required in real life in general.

3. Observing and Understanding social context – The social engagement scenario of multi-player board games allows the players to observe the social norms and thus, equips them in adaptation of appropriate social behaviour.

4. Team Building – A lot of multi-player board games are actually based on cooperation strategies. These games allow the players to strategise, work and play together toward a common objective. Even if the game is a competitive game, the inherent goal of each player still lies in cooperating with each cone to achieve the common objectives i.e. to have Fun. Thus, inculcating the skill of working with each other’s strengths, which is also an important real life skill. But with no real human interface, this is impossible with the screen games.

5. Graceful Acceptance – Acceptance is essential for the ever changing environment of game playing. Whether it is the acceptance of the opponent moves or the result of self-actions or the defeat in game or failure of a plan. The board game environment puts the player at the centre of the interplay of all the dynamics and prepares for the graceful acceptance in the similar real life environments.

6. Balancing the interplay of personal emotions and strategic situations – Games often require one to choose between options seeming to be either equally rewarding or punishing, and playing these games builds one’s ability to decide the relevance of the criteria while balancing risks and rewards. But as the board games engage almost all senses, they have an ability to take the choice and decision making of the player to the state of player’s conflict between logic and emotions.

7. I am creating my options – In the board game environment a player is engaged in the game playing with a minimum of five sense perceptions including visual, auditory, tactile, proprioceptive and vestibular. Thus, excluding only taste and smell. Thus, giving a real experience to the player of the decisions being made by the player. So, the consequences that follow are the consequences created by the player himself in the experience of the player. Unlike the electronic screen games where the experience is not driven by real sensations of the objects, there is always a distance between the creation created by the player and the ownership of it.

Whereas, in contrast to the board games, the screen gaming is mostly driven by solo interface playing environment and non-stop continuous engagement. Thus, speed is usually central to all such games. As a result, it usually doesn’t allow the time to reflect and internalise the learning from the game. However, these games end up thriving the instant gratification drive of the players.

Which is true with even the multi-player options of these games where the opponent is either an imaginary character or an online player with no real interface. Thus, the player’s behaviour never gets faced with a challenge of regulation, due to the external social observance and as a result lack the ability to work on social skills or interplay.

In the end, would like to quote Wade Boggs, as he expressed for his dad,

‘Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad, and that’s why I call you dad, because you are so special to me. You taught me the game and you taught me how to play it right.’

Ultimately the choice is ours, how we teach a game to our children, and what we want to be for them…

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