A family gathers around a table with the soft, subtle green of a Monopoly board laid out before them. Dice fall across the sturdy cardboard in an audibly satisfying way, quelling the laughter and conversation blanketing the room. Everyone quietly watches as a family member moves their silver piece across the board, each hoping that they’ll become the one and only game-night champion of the week. But most know that the title of champion is trivial compared to a comforting night of conversation, critical thinking and healthy competition among loved ones.
Unfortunately, such stimulating evenings are rare in the modern-day. While plenty of people still have game-nights, it can’t be denied that they’re nowhere near as popular as they used to be. With an ever-growing selection of technological alternatives—from smartphones to virtual reality systems—board games seem to be fizzling out in an age where catching the latest Netflix original is of a higher priority on the weekends. Nowadays, most might like to make the pun that they’re “bored of board games,” yet many fail to realize how advantageous board games are to one’s cognitive and communication skills. The endless growth of modern technology isn’t a bad thing, but it shouldn’t get in the way of people dusting off their Risk or Chess set every now and then.
Perhaps one of the most indispensable advantages board games can offer are their benefits to developing children. Playing board games with preschoolers has been connected to numerous improvements in their math performance, such as increased numerical identification, counting, number line estimation and numerical magnitude comparison. This isn’t surprising when games like Chutes and Ladders are at children’s fingertips since it introduces kids to the concept of a number timeline, demonstrating how numbers compare to one another. The benefits for children go beyond this when there are games like Monopoly and Life that allow kids to practice effective money management, as well as games like Scrabble and Upwords to enhance children’s linguistic capacity.
Replete with social enhancement opportunities, social groups are often known to teach and play board games with kids that have learning disabilities, showing them how to respectfully win or lose a game, wait their turn and strategize with fellow teammates. And while these benefits are utilized to assist kids with learning disabilities, that doesn’t mean it can’t have the same effect on children without learning disabilities. Board games can also assist people in developing their self-confidence due to how the games require a person to put themselves out there, encouraging an individual to play an active role in a game that several are involved in.
Some might say that the enjoyment and advantages of board games are strictly limited to children, yet their benefits can be applicable to the life of a college student as well, 20% of whom report feeling stressed most of the time. Board games are known to boost a person’s happiness by triggering the release of endorphins, so playing a game of Mastermind or Clue with a couple of hallmates can bring you closer to them and act as a fun little way to laugh in between arduous study sessions.
Board games go beyond even this by reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s in elderly people. This can be attributed to how board games stimulate the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex of the brain, which are the parts of the body responsible for complex thought and memory formation.
What makes board games more important than ever is how multi-generational they can be. There’s a distinct generational gap that separates one generation from the other. It’s rare to stumble across a 90-year old bonding with a 16-year old over Instagram, or a 22-year old versing an 80-year old in Fortnite. It isn’t unusual to find an individual from the Greatest Generation playing a Millenial in Chess, however. This is because the intricacies of a board game can appeal to any age, gender or ethnicity. An individual can take a chessboard anywhere in the world and be sure to find another equally enthusiastic player, its rules transcending language barriers.
As people open their laptops to another evening of surfing the web, updating social media and browsing the latest hit on Hulu, one shouldn’t forget about the stack of board games gathering dust in their closet. While it can be easy to disregard board games in the midst of the current technological boom, it’s imperative that the world acknowledges the interpersonal, cognitive and generational benefits that board games are still capable of offering. Sometimes, the simplest way to bring people together can be a pair of dice on a Friday evening. Don’t let board games be another distant memory as our world continues to progress into its technological future.
Ian Welfley is a junior communications/media arts & design double major. Contact Ian at firstname.lastname@example.org.