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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Cooperative Board Games

My daughter recently received a cooperative board game for her birthday. It’s the best children’s game I’ve ever played for one simple reason. Either everyone wins, or everyone loses together. It’s a “cooperative” game where all the players work together for a common goal. In the case of the Princess game we have, the objective is to save a princess from a magic spell before night falls. There are several obstacles to conquer, and all the players work together to figure out the best way to do so. Cooperative games encourage players to use their imagination and creativity.

In the Princess game, there are cards that are used as tools to get past the obstacles. For example, some of the tools include a firefly, a pair of glasses and a bone (among others). One of the obstacles is a guard dog that you have to get past. Working together, the kids figured out that the obvious choice to distract the dog would be a bone. But if the bone card isn’t available yet, you can either wait until it shows up, or use your imagination to find something else to distract him, such as a firefly who lights up in different places every few seconds, swaying the dog’s attention, or a pair of glasses (because when you put glasses on someone who doesn’t share the prescription, their vision gets blurry!)

Every time we play the game, we use the tools in a different way. Sometimes we save the princess before nightfall, and we all cheer together! And sometimes we don’t get to her in time, and have to try all over again. Either way, we’re all in it together. Nobody is feeling like a “loser” at the end of the game. “Normal” games are often fun while being played, but usually leave me dreading the end, because they always leave at least one person feeling sad or inadequate when they don’t win. This game is so wonderful in that the game is fun from beginning to end!

Our whole family is now excited to get more of these games. My son already has his eye on the “Save the Whales” and “Beautiful Place”, where we can work together to save whales from poachers and pollution, and make the world more beautiful by recycling and such.

Following are some quotes from the flyer on “The Benefits of Cooperation” that was included with our game:

“…It’s ironic that we play games to be together yet spend our efforts trying to bankrupt someone, destroy their armies, conquer the world, etc. – all goals which create hostility and separate us. Success doesn’t require someone else’s failure.”

“It is hard to maintain positive feelings about someone who is trying to make you lose. Hurt feelings and arguments often result from competitive play. In cooperative play, challenge, discovery and success are shared. Emphasis is on participation, acceptance and the “joy of play”. In the end, it’s your relationship with each other that counts. Children gain stronger bonds with parents, siblings and playmates.”

“Competition makes it difficult to share our skills, experiences and resources because each person is separately involved in his or her exclusive goal...The challenge shifts from “striving to be number one” (competitive activity) to working toward a mutual goal (cooperative activity).”

“Most competitive situations are highly stressful: the possibility of failure creates agitation if not out-right anxiety. The fear or anger generated from being eliminated or losing often causes embarrassment, tension and hostility. Cooperative activities are non-threatening and non-judgmental. As a result, this creates an atmosphere for relaxation and well-being-the foundation for more genuine, healthy and playful fun.”

These wonderful games can be purchased at Cooperative Games . You can also request a free catalog and get more information about cooperative games at Family Pastimes.

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