Traditional Board Games May Be a Dying Breed

Article excerpt

Board games line an entire wall of the Toys R Us store in Dorchester, Mass., but they draw so few customers at any given time that young visitors could hold a tricycle race down the aisle without hitting anybody.

Someone would surely get hurt in the two adjoining rows of games, though. They're filled with Christmas shoppers snapping up cartridges for their Game Boys and PlayStations, jamming their carts with electronic gadgets and computer games.

Those scenes are repeated every day in toy stores across America, and they provide far more than just a snapshot of the nation's technological revolution. They mark the little-noted closing of an era, the irreversible fading of a Norman Rockwell scene in which mom and dad sit around the kitchen table with their kids on a rainy Sunday afternoon, moving pieces and chatting happily away. And, as dice rapidly give way to mice, analysts say the trend simultaneously reflects and accelerates profound changes in our country's culture. "Without a doubt, we're seeing the end of the board game as we all grew up to know it... (it) was part of family life for many, many generations," said Michael Brody, a Washington child psychiatrist who studies the role of games in behavior and development. "The effects are unfortunate," added Brody. While noting that other influences in children's lives also play integral parts in their upbringing, he listed several areas in which he was troubled by the move toward less personal contact in game-playing: "the acceleration of the disintegration of the family unit, the lessening of parents' influence, and the loss of socialization benefits that came with board games and the interaction that was required to play them." Other specialists in child and social development said too little research has been done on the effect on such skills as conversation, dealing with competition with a sibling, or abiding by rules to make judgments as pessimistic or conclusive as Brody's. Some said, for instance, that another reason for the waning popularity of board games is an increase in after-school sports activities, which also teach competitive and social skills. …