Recently, three of my out-of-town grandchildren spent a week at my house. Born in a different century, these teenage and pre-teen kiddos have never known an analog world. Digital electronics are attached to their bodies in the form of cell phones.
We call them phones, but children rarely make telephone calls in the old-fashioned sense. Instead, they utilize a dizzying array of ever-changing programs on these multi-functional communication devices. Facetime is probably the closest they come to a phone call, because why would they want to talk without video?
Nor do they make use of email. Texting and chatting are their go-tos, since only real-time communication makes sense in their instant gratification world.
These kids have had digital devices their entire lives. Any concerns their parents had about digital media being harmful for young children was outweighed by the sheer convenience of constant contact with their offspring. Each phone is loaded with the Life360 app which allows their parents to constantly monitor their whereabouts.
How did this generation fare during their week spent with Grandad and Grandmom in Johnson’s World?
I’ll give you a clue. Yes, Clue: Hasbro’s (formerly Parker Brothers) classic detective board game. Released in 1949, Clue has remained wildly popular throughout its history. Last year Better Homes & Gardens magazine rated it #2 on its 50 Best Board Games of All Time list.
Unusual for a game, Clue has spawned a movie, books, a play, a musical, a TV show, and many game variations. Even though there is a Clue cellphone app, none of my grandchildren had ever heard of the game. In fact, it is safe to say that board games, like newspapers and magazines, have never been a part of their leisure activity.
So how did the kids like Clue? They loved it. They loved the tactile sense of rolling a die and physically moving a playing piece across squares on the board. They loved sitting around a table in the living room, getting the big picture of the playing field rather than squinting at a 2½ x 5-in. screen.
They loved devising their own methods for notating clues and using pencils to mark the printed Detective Notes sheets instead of typing and swiping. They loved holding the playing cards, and unveiling the winning solution sequestered in the printed envelope in the middle of the board.
They asked to play again and again as they developed a mastery of the game, but the single best “clue” to their enjoyment was the complete absence of cellphones from the play area. Not prohibited by grandparents, cellphones were voluntarily (and subconsciously) relinquished as the game fully absorbed their attention. Like printed books, physical games engender deep thinking.
Of course I’ll note that Clue is a printed product, from the mounted and wrapped board to the coated and die-cut playing cards, to the Detective Notes pads for which I still have a PDF sent to me by Parker Brothers many, many years ago, to replenish my supply.
The season of gift-giving is upon us. You could give the kids more gift cards (yes, those are printed products) but why not put a bit more thought and effort into this year’s Christmas presents? C’mon, get a Clue.