Five year old Jack has been bugging me lately to play poker. He saw the game board and chips in the game closet a couple weeks back and he said he wanted to play. I tried explaining how hard it was, but he fired back that he’s already played at paw paw’s and he’d beat paw paw with a “big house”. Right.
He was pushing again Sunday to play and I think I finally convinced him that now is not the time. So, he shifted to wanting to play any game in the closet. I figured why not, we’ve got Sorry and Trouble and other kid’s games…can’t be that bad.
Well he emerged from the closet with backgammon. I asked if he know what it was and he said he didn’t. He also couldn’t be persuaded to get something easier to play, so I figured I’d give it a shot.
Like a nerd I showed him how to set up the board properly, explained that he got to roll a pair of dice and he could roll doubles and how he could move pieces off the board to win…blah, blah, blah. This all seemed to be going in one ear and out the other until I mentioned that he could also land on a space that had one of my pieces and “bar” my piece.
Now in backgammon, barring means you put the other person’s piece out and they have to roll the proper number to get that piece back on the board. It wasn’t necessarily me using the term “bar” that got Jack’s attention, but when I broke it down into Jack terms and said it was “killing”…well then it got exciting. All of a sudden he was happy to know that he could “kill” my pieces…kinda like he could “kill” my pieces in Trouble and Sorry.
Ah…violence was the key. The killing also became his strategy. It didn’t matter that I tried explaining about getting his pieces around the board safely until he could move them off and WIN! No, that no longer concerned him. The whole point of the game now was KILLING! Sadly for me it proved to be an effective strategy: he’d see a piece unguarded and go for the kill. I spent the whole game (two games actually) being unable to advance any pieces. And, my attempts to explain how this was not a good strategy…well those were useless because he was happy “killing” my pieces.
I did finally run out of pieces in his path that could be killed, and he eventually refocused on getting his pieces off the board and winning both games. I admit I did take it easy on him while trying to explain the proper way to play…so he didn’t really “beat me”. I’m just thinking maybe Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers need to look at possibly repackaging and reengineering the classic games to draw more interest from the kids: get rid of “checkmate” and “king me” and “bingo” and start using terms like “death grip” and “kill” and “slay”. Just an idea.
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