Chicago dad says gaming helps him stay closer to his kids

Elliott Miller enjoys playing Conquest of Planet Earth with his daughter Katie, son Matt and their friend Becky.

Elliott Miller

As a father of five kids growing up in this information overloaded world, I've faced the same struggle as many parents. It is harder than ever to find quality family time. Facebook, video games and headphones are all distractions that keep our children busy, but also keep them isolated from spending time together as a family.

I always had a love of board games when I was growing up, but life and raising a family pushed the games to the back of the closet. As family time grew scarce, I remembered the board games of my youth and thought that playing games might be a great way for us to spend some time together.

But I wasn't looking forward to the run-of-the-mill Monopoly fare (is it over yet?). So I headed to my local game store to find something everyone could enjoy. What I found was a treasure trove of entertainment.

The board game industry is much larger than the shelves of your local whatever-mart would lead you to believe. There are games for every age and interest. There are educational games, dexterity games, drawing games, strategy games, fantasy, science fiction, silly, cooperative, challenging, and many more covering every interest in every genre. All you have to do is find them and give them a try.

Every major city has specialty game stores. In Chicagoland we have Cat & Mouse Games in Chicago's Bucktown neighborhood, Gamers World in the Woodfield Mall and Fair Game in Downers Grove, to name a few.

I wanted to find games that were easy to learn and could spark the interest of each family member. They like zombies, so I picked up "Zombies!!!" (with glow-in-the-dark zombies!). My wife likes movies, so we tried "Consensus-Movie Edition." I managed to pull my oldest son in with a complex strategy game called "War of the Ring." Over time, through trial and error, I was able to find games everyone liked.

We finally did lose the electricity one stormy summer night. It didn't take much convincing before we pulled out some candles and two kerosene lamps, popped some real popcorn on the gas stove and sat down to play a couple of board games. We had such a great time that everyone actually said "Awwwww…" when the lights finally came back on.

Today we have regular gaming nights. Sometimes the kids even bring a friend or two over to join us. Invariably they have a great time and we get to actually know them rather than just know of them.

Family Game Night has given us time together that we will all treasure forever.


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