Growing up, I detested just about everything my mom made for Thanksgiving dinner and she would reluctantly end up fixing me a hot dog just to make sure I ate something besides all of the caramel corn and m&m’s we consumed while playing board games to keep us occupied in the family room as she slaved away in the kitchen. Sweet potatoes with broiled marshmallows on top? No thanks. Gravy? Eew. Green bean casserole? As if the girl who wouldn’t let any of her food touch could possibly manage a plate full of foreign foods all crowded together on the good china. It wasn’t until I was a freshman in college that I finally appreciated Thanksgiving. And not just the fact that it was a break from school and an amazing spread of (now) favorite home-cooked dishes. I also missed my family and getting together with them, even for just a long weekend. Thanksgiving was now something I looked forward to, especially for the games my brothers and I played while mom prepped the bird and all the fixins. There were Risk, Monopoly, and Crazy Eights tournaments, an occasional jigsaw puzzle competition, even some Atari and Nintendo challenges, all played with good-natured ribbing while we fell back into our familiar family roles (in my case, unilaterally the first one to lose).
Which is why it’s no surprise (to me anyway) that the week of Thanksgiving is also National Game and Puzzle Week. Whether you partake in an annual touch football game after the big meal, break out the board games to keep little ones engaged, or crank up a generational Guitar Hero Battle of the Bands on the XBox, games are a great way to connect and spend time together with friends and family. With $15.4 billion in 2014 sales, video games continue to flourish (as personally evidenced by my 10 year-old’s obsession with Minecraft on his XBox, tablet, and my phone as backup). Even board game sales are up annually, with one industry expert going so far as to say we’re “living in a board game renaissance.” Thanks to the marriage of so-called “Eurogames” with America’s storytelling strength, consumers are discovering new games as fast as entrepreneurs can create Kickstarting campaigns to fund them. The time-honored tv genre of game shows has evolved to include re-invented games, like Pictionary from charades, being played by celebrities pitted against audience members on Hollywood Game Night.
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