Not video games; still nerd time, just not screen time.
Since I found out I would have a son (Yuri), I’ve been considering what games would best give him an edge. I picked three initially that I enjoy and wish I’d learned as a child. Parenting is, after all, a vicarious life style.
These games topped my list
I find it best to play with friends. Defeating strangers isn’t as savory.
Go, the perfect strategy game
I came across Go online while browsing to pass the time. The first game I played, I simply copied as best I could what the other person was doing. My ego was tickled when it took my opponent a dozen or so moves before asking if I was new, and was surprised that I didn’t even know the rules.
Profoundly simple and complex, Go stands in stark contrast to Chess. Chess is primarily a tactical game whereas Go seems to have a strategic focus. I find Go fun and oddly meditative, and I have a talent for it. However, I’m not particularly good at Chess and so am biased against enjoying it. I did have fun this one time in Russia though, catching a much better player in a stalemate after he’d decimated my pieces.
I fell from like to love with Go when I learned how much trouble computers have playing it. Until recently a competent amateur would be expected to beat any software. Now computers are catching up a little, but only a little. They aren’t close to beating a master without a handicap.
Patterns sooth the mind. Go makes a game of them. I think it suits a quilt maker as much as a scientist. Different sorts of thinking may just mean different starting points, but the stones draw all eyes to the lines of life and power.
Diplomacy, in the game of world domination…
It is really meant to be played with seven people, no less. Only one is fated to rule them all, and no chance. No dice rolling or cards, it is a game of convincing betrayal. Getting seven people familiar with the game and willing to set aside a day for it is a feat I’ve rarely achieved.
Playing games online lessens the experience, but is worth trying. However, in person only for my son, I am trying to avoid screen time. Plus, I want to see him running around and lying to people in fifteen minute increments.
Texas Hold’em, No Limit. Is it really gambling, or is it just really good at paying attention.
For a time I organized monthly games. A small buy in, with the house taking no cut, it was casual and I’m pretty sure legal. Also, whoever won was obligated to buy food for the next game.
I’m still bitter about a friend’s thirteen year old son taking it all with pocket kings. It wasn’t that he was lucky.
It was down to the two of us and I had a significant chip lead. The half dozen others that had already lost their chips were circled around, all rooting for the young underdog.
Every hand he was going all in before the flop. With the lead I was playing cautious, sacrificing my ante and trying to convince him to hold off until I could put together five cards. I tried to ignore catcalls as I folded my hole cards time after time. I was getting some bad luck with those, low numbers spaced, not even matching suits.
Finally I got ace-king, and coincidentally my snarky opponent didn’t go all in. A king came with the flop, so when he went all in I did too. He took it all and I’ve been mocked about it for years.
I should have folded. I remember he went quiet. Some part of me knew, but I went in anyway, playing the odds. I hope Yuri can learn to know the odds, but play the people.
Agricola stands out as a champion of passive aggressive play, which is great preparation for the modern workforce.
Armed with the strategic mind from Go, the charismatic lie from Diplomacy, and the tactical awareness of Hold’em, my son is well prepared for direct confrontation. But in the real world backstabs aren’t as straightforward as F(Lon)-ENG.
I want him able to anticipate needed resources being claimed by smiling neighbors that assure they just want to build the best farm and didn’t mean to hog all the reed.
Most games have clear rules for fighting.
Agricola doesn’t even admit there is a fight. It’s just about building the best farm each person can build.
I worry about Yuri at school saying or doing something considered violent. He likes to play fight, with guns, swords, or just explosive sound effects. It’s all about the perception.
I worry not just that he will get in trouble, but that I will have to choose to try and repress his imagination or defend his play style. I’d rather he learn discretion, subtlety, and that there are combat alternatives accepted by tyrannical pacifists.
Agricola is fun and social. It’s also very competitive, but more in a isn’t my farm awesome sort of a way than I just conquered your capital or I just took all of your actual money.
Also, of all games with rules, I’ve had the easiest time finding women players. Agricola is a great excuse for my son to get to know a girl and figure out if she’s a bake bread, cook sheep, or basket weaver type.
Have fun Yuri, that’s what’s important. Now go ahead and take that reed so she can’t build a new room.