Codenames

We were joined by someone new today, who wasn’t quite sure what we were about, what to expect, or what he wanted to do for the day, but he said he was up for anything.

The group listened intently to him, open to anything he wanted to do, not too worried about their own agenda or their own ideas. There was a feeling of wanting to be very inclusive and open for this new young person, to welcome him into our group.

Games, he mentioned, he liked playing games. There was a game store down the street, memories of my childhood (and adulthood) flashed through my mind when thinking of the game store, the back rooms for playing D&D, the snacks that I once bought there — free to choose whatever I wanted with my own money, away from my parents’ judgements about sugar. But I stayed mostly quiet — this isn’t for me to influence too hard with my own biases.

They chose to go to the game store first.

They picked out the game Codenames. While we were reading the instructions and learning how to play, a few others read trivia questions out loud. Strange ones, like what percentage of people in the United States eat pizza at least once a month. Any guesses?

As we played Codenames, a game built on the need to give verbal clues about visual cards, clues that will lead players to pick certain cards but not others, and the trivia questions continued to flow, us arguing our different answers and trying to beat one another’s guesses, I didn’t think anything of it. My unschooled mind just enjoyed what we were doing, and how we argued over trivia answers while trying to think of the best clue for our comrade in Codenames to be able to figure out what we were thinking. Later though, I marvel at how much you learn in moments when you don’t even notice it. Quiet moments, argumentative moments, agreeable moments, thoughtful movements, playful moments, all moments.

Games are one of those things that are often demonized by society, because they’re so enjoyable, we think, they couldn’t possibly be teaching us anything. Unless of course it’s a game designed to teach, with names that prove it (such as Cranium). But there is so much in games that we don’t even see — the strategy, the thoughtfulness, the pause to think carefully, the rush to think faster than your opponent, the teamwork, the reading other people’s faces, the consideration of every move and how it might affect future moves, or other people — all of it. There is so much in games you never find in school. But don’t let me ruin games by telling you all how much you’re learning while playing them. Just keep enjoying them. We are learning all the time, in every moment of life. Once we accept that, we can be free from analyzing when and where we will learn every little thing.