by Eric Brezina, Fair Game store owner.
Gaming with your family is a great experience, on so many fronts. Not only is it fun, but it gives everyone a chance to unplug from those digital devices, make some memories and connect with each other. In addition, gaming with your family provides so many great learning opportunities – as a parent of four kids, having the opportunity to model good sportsmanship and talk about a variety of subjects (like emotions) that can be hard to tease out of kids has been invaluable for my wife and I.
At Fair Game, we love having the opportunity to meet folks in store and help them pick out a few new games. It might seem intimidating at first, but we have a few pointers that can help to ease the crew into a new weekly or monthly tradition.
Step 1: Choose the right game
The first step is always going to be trying to figure out what game(s) to play. This is especially important if you are trying to get some reluctant teenagers involved. Our suggestion is to look for a game that is thematically aligned with an area of interest of one or more of the players. Have someone who really enjoyed the Stranger Things series on Netflix? Try a Dungeons and Dragons themed card game like Dungeon Mayhem. Is your 10 yr old is really into cats? You should give Cat Lady (a game where players are looking to collect as many cats as possible) a try. There are a number of really great games that are easy to learn and quick to play with very different themes – you just have to know where to look!
Other great options for initial selections for a Family Game Night are what we call “gateway games. You might have heard of Settlers of Catan or Ticket to Ride. These are games that are not only easy to learn and have good game “flow” but help to lay the foundation for games with more strategy and depth later on. In our store, you’ll find many of these titles under the “Modern Classics” section. If you’re browsing store shelves and see a “Family Game Night Approved” sticker….you’re on the right path!
Step 2: Pick a night
There’s no question that finding a free night where both kids and adult calendars are completely open, can be tricky. Our suggestion is to try and find a night on the calendar in the next month that seems open – and put Family Game Night on the calendar. That way, it’s in writing and will be much more likely to happen. In addition, you can get the family involved and start to build some anticipation and buy-in for the evening. Maybe each person gets to choose a game to play that night, or you schedule out the next few game nights, with every person in the family getting to choose a game for their particular night.
We’d suggest keeping that initial game night to around an hour. Don’t be surprised if people are having fun and it ends up going longer than that, but you want to make sure to keep things light and fun so that there is a willingness to do this again in the future.
Step 3: Try and Limit the Distractions
When you are deciding on what time and night of the week makes sense to try and work in a Game Night, do your best to avoid a time slot when there might be distractions like a Blackhawks game or a night that regularly has a lot of homework for the kids. We also have a rule in our family that phones get turned off and put out of sight to avoid any potential in-game distractions (for both parents and kids alike!).
Step 4: Bring in some special treats as a participation reward
Our family is a big ice cream family….we love trying new flavors and when there is a VERY special occasion, the sundae bar comes out with a variety of sweet toppings. Look to have some special snacks and drinks available for the evening to add some extra incentive to get the family involved. You could even decide to have your snacks correspond to the games that you’re playing (one of our family favorites is Go Nuts for Donuts!) if you wanted to go all-in. Add a little extra “special” to the night.
Step 5: Learn the Game Ahead of Time
This is an important part of making sure the event goes smoothly. One of the players will need to take on the responsibility of learning the rules and teaching the rest of the group if this is a new game for folks. You want to avoid having someone spend 10 minutes getting the game set up and reading a rulebook verbatim to the group. We recommend the teacher should not only read the rulebook ahead of time, but possibly play a few sample turns on their own. It goes a long way towards getting an good understanding of how the game is played and lets you explain the rules to the players in a much more natural way. Also, try and focus on just the important rules they need to know upfront, and handle any of the more obscure rule situations as they come up. The sooner you can get people playing, the better.
Also….this is a good time to mention something that we call the “Fair Game Guarantee”. If you purchase a game from us and are ever struggling to figure out set up or the rules, just let us know and we’ll teach you! There are tons of online resources to help get people started and we also are happy to provide 1-on-1 instruction and help to our community. Just ask!
Step 6: Above All, Have Fun!
Not every game is going to be a hit with every person (although we think we’ll be able to help to make sure there’s a good possibility that everyone will enjoy themselves). The key is that you are all trying a new experience and it’s ok if a game doesn’t resonate with someone. Once the game is over, don’t be afraid to shelve it and play something else. We have several really quick, “fun forward” games that are great options to wind down after a more strategic or competitive game. You want everyone to be engaged and enjoying themselves and end the night on a high note.
Good luck with starting your very own Family Game Night and be sure to let us know if we can ever be of help with game or puzzle selections!
Fair Game is located at 19 S. La Grange Road in downtown La Grange and 5147 Main Street in Downers Grove.