Writer still likes holiday games

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My Views

By Stephen Thomas

    I still enjoy celebrating holidays, so much that I always supply a list each month at www.pioneernews.net.

    That way Bullitt County can share the experience with me.

    One of the bigger holidays, Labor Day, is approaching, which has me wondering what everyone will be doing over the extended weekend.

    When we were kids (I’m the youngest of five), we’d spend a lot of time together. These days, with eight nieces and nephews, our families remain close and still tend to get together for numerous occasions.

    A couple years ago at Christmas I was reflecting upon things. I noticed that Christmas seemed different. Sure, I was older now, and there’s more focus on the young folks, but it still seemed different from the year before.

    As I looked around I noticed what the change was. It wasn’t me, but it was obvious when I noticed it: All the kids had handheld gaming devices.

    Each kid was at a different point in the house, quiet and focused upon their new games, or their cell phones or their iPods.

    That’s when it really hit me; that was the difference. It was so quiet.

    When we were kids we got games, too. The difference was, our games were for 2-4 players.

    Board games were a big part of our family celebrations. We got them as gifts for Christmas and birthdays. It really didn’t matter which of us got the game, we’d all play it together.

    Every house in my family still has a decent collection of these games, and they still get used. But not as often as the Game Boy or the Wii.

    It was around this time that I first heard of the Million Minute Family Challenge, sponsored by Patch Products, a gaming company.

    The idea of the challenge is basic: Individuals, groups, families and organizations keep track of how much time they spend playing board games over a three-month period. Minutes can be posted online and added to a grand total.

    The challenge is a great way to promote playing games. The importance is not actually the time spent playing, but the time spent with family and friends.

    During the time it takes a family to play together, they spend a lot of time talking about school, sports teams, church, activities... anything on their minds at the time. It becomes quality family time, drawing everyone closer together.

    In comparison to electronic gadgetry, not to mention individual games, board games are a lot cheaper. Batteries and plugs not always needed.

    Electricity can be saved, as opposed to watching television or renting movies. Plus, there’s more family interaction with board games than with TV.

    According to millionminute.com, children spend an average of 38.5 minutes each week in meaningful conversation with parents. In comparison, they spend an average of 1,197 minutes in front of computers, TV and video games, about 20 hours per week.

    The Million Minute Family Challenge is not just for families: Schools are encouraged to use the event as a way of enhancing student interaction. Some board games, such as trivia or strategy games, can be very educational.

    Families and schools can create teams on the millionminute.com site where members can constantly add their game-playing time totals.

    Organizations such as church groups, scout troops, neighborhood organizations or library clubs are encouraged to create a team. Members can meet once a week or even once a month to play their favorite games.

    Senior citizen organization make up a large number of the teams signed up for last year’s challenge. Board games are a good excuse for planning social events.

    Families and groups can play board games anytime, but why not make a special event for it? Pop some popcorn or make some hot fudge sundaes. Create a theme night based on what the games are.

    The challenge lasts three months, starting Sept. 1 through Dec. 31. Play games involving Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas themes. Select some fun games for holiday gifts.

    I think back to some of my Christmas memories. I recall everyone playing Family Feud together. One year we all played Trivial Pursuit. The only time we played a maximum eight-player game of Monopoly was during a family gathering.

    Numerous hours of Monopoly, Checkers and Chess, Life and Connect Four likely contributed to my siblings remaining close today.

    I’ll encourage my family, especially the kids, to play games now and add their minutes to the challenge. I invite Bullitt County to do the same. Maybe we can round up 1,000 minutes countywide (that’s less than 17 hours).

    The Million Minute Family Challenge is also presented by KOA and Wendy’s. For more information visit www.millionminute.com.