A worthy competitor to screen time in any household: Board games. How they still rule Friday nights in our house and how they can in yours as well!
I’m on summer holiday right now and I zoom back to a time when I was on summer break as a student in highschool. Before summer jobs and summer school, the way I filled up those days away from school was not on a computer, or cell phone, or even a TV screen (although I did watch my fair share) it was by hanging out playing sports with friends in nearby parks and by playing board games. Summer afternoons were filled by 3 favorites: Monopoly, Risk, and a good old game of Chess. Chess in particular was a game that filled my time and even till this day I must begrudgingly admit I am probably the third best in the house after my brother and Dad. We played after lunch many times and after losses I would insist on rematch after rematch which would inevitably result in a stalemate or a loss. When we played with friends it would mostly be Monopoly with both my next door neighbor as well as other friends who lived in our area and then we inevitably moved on to RISK, a dice game that mimics wars for global domination. One year during Ramadan I remember staying up from the time of Isha (the last of the 5 daily prayers Muslims should complete especially during Ramadan) to Suhoor (the morning meal one eats before beginning the fast). Although playing RISK is not exactly devotional to God, we couldn’t help ourselves as my brother as well as myself and two of our friends played for hours and hours and would get heated as we trashed talk, rolled the dice with verve, and not a cell phone or computer to be checked for 5 hours.
Fast forward about 25 years. Our household is like any other. Screen on screens on screens. Phone screens. Laptop screens. TV screens. Even a projector screen in my living room. We all have them and at any given time Whatsapp, Netflix, Disney + can be concurrently going on in different parts of the household and at times it certainly can be the wild west of our eyeballs being glued to a screen and our brain waves being turned off. That being said, one remedy that I have found to this is the good ol’ fashioned board game. In our house we have a few. When the kids were younger we used to play a lot of Jenga (I still call it a board game although this classification is questionable). Other games which we have are Monopoly, Clue, Scrabble, Chess, and The Game of Life. Despite playing all these games (and remember I used to love playing Monopoly, Risk, and Chess in my childhood) there is a new board game champion in my life: Sorry. I had never played Sorry in my childhood and was introduced as I purchased from Toys R’ Us as a new game that I could discover with Z and Z. Over the years Z and Z and I have spent many Fridays and Saturday nights listening to Saturday late night radio remixes and playing round after round of Sorry. It is a simple game of racing your pieces across the game board but each player picks up cards that can either move their pieces up the board or their opponents pieces back. As we pick up steam, this is the one game that three of us loved playing 5 years ago and still love playing today. One Friday night recently we played a marathon number of games with Little Z emerging the victor and celebrating like he had won the NBA championship while Big Z and I cried foul but all three of us had laughed and trashed talk through all the games. No screens, only face to face interactions and authentically staying in the moment.
In this day and age of more realistic video games we have ever seen in human history, 101 apps on our phones or devices, and 1000 shows or movies to pick from on our favorite streaming service, family board game night is still one of our favorites. The key is to find your family favorite: maybe it’s Chess like it was for my dad and my brother and myself all those years ago. Maybe it’s Sorry like it is for the Z’s and I right now. Or maybe something altogether new. Remember besides the board game, it is the fact that you and your family are trash-talking, smiling, and staying in the moment with the rest of the world put away.