I grew up playing games and not just the electronic kind. Before Super Mario Brothers stole my heart and well before I spent weeks of my life launching bird after angry bird across a screen the size of my fist, I used to sit with my mother or a friend or my sister, if my begging wore her down, and move actual pawns around an actual piece of cardboard. I remember from those days the feel of cool, smooth Scrabble tiles slipping through my fingers, as I chose letters from the heavy burgundy sack of our Deluxe Edition. I remember perfecting the art of the “bridge,” my mom’s preferred method of shuffling cards, my mom who still considers not knowing the difference between a spade and a club by middle childhood to be a sign of parental neglect.
It’s not that I don’t like the modern iteration of gaming. I have no aversion to screen time. My kids are digital natives through and through, the little ones masters of Toca Hair Salon as much as the bigger ones are seasoned architects in the fields of Minecraft. I’m not pining away for a bygone age of chiseled wooden toys and Cleaver family fun. Far from it: I think there is room for both types of activity. But as my children get older and I watch them begin to navigate in earnest the landscape of real relationships, I am struck anew by the crucible of morality the more traditional games are able to engender.
You can read the rest of the essay here, at Brain, Child Magazine.