The Value of Playing Games

Recently on Morning Air, Glen Lewerenz and Sarah Tafoya welcomed Kim Morgan on to talk about playing board games, how it helps stimulate fun in a family environment, and how playing games can actually be beneficial for cognitive development and capability retention.

Kim began by explaining that the benefits of playing board games have been proven not only in her own household but by a myriad of studies. While Kim never planned on board games becoming a big part of her family life, it just so happened that organically, they proved to be fun, accessible, and a healthy alternative to boredom or reckless behavior. Kim said she got a healthy dose of games when she was a kid from playing board games with her mom to seeing her dad play bridge and RuneQuest with friends.

Kim went on to talk about how even though the board game era has been overtaken by the video game era in some regards, board games live on, even if not in their traditional forms. Creators who have seen the digital age arrive have taken to creating fun, group-oriented activities that have simply been built in a digital form-factor rather than a cardboard and plastic one. Some examples include Jackbox Party games, Drawful, Heads Up!, and Tabletop Simulator. All of these are “board” games, but just without the board!

While other analog industries have suffered and died while lagging behind the digital era, the game world is alive and thriving. But the thing about games is that typically there’s a winner. And when there’s a winner, there’s at least one loser. And when there’s at least one loser, there’s always the potential for over-competitive spirit, poor sportsmanship, and fights. So, if we’re to indulge in this medium of game-playing how do we learn to win gracefully and lose humbly?

Glen said people that take games very seriously often want control in the game because they have very little control in their real lives. While that could be misconstrued as a generalization, there is certainly truth to that, but Kim said that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to put your will, desires, and ambitions on hold in life, playing a game can often be practice for how you want to build character. How are you going to deal with obstacles, setbacks, opponents, goals, and relationships? In one way or another, you can find the metaphorical answers in games.

It’s similar to the way that we learn to win and lose. We experience both and compare them to our past experiences. Things do not go well when we act unvirtuously. So, we play with trust, integrity, honesty, and above all, humility. Kim spoke about the benefit of certain role-playing games that allow you to create a character, make choices, and observe the benefits of doing good things and the consequences of doing bad things. It may seem like an on-the-nose analogy, but it makes a subconscious difference.

Kim also spoke about the cognitive benefits of playing games, especially for those who are older.

“Not only do [games] give us virtue, but again, there are cognitive benefits to all of these games that affect all of us, but especially those of us in aging society; those of us over the age of 50, that need to have more consistent brain stimulation to ward off a lot of ailments that can come in our later years.”

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh did a study on the effects of board games on older minds and they found that people who regularly played non-digital games scored higher on cognitive tests in their 70s than those who did not. Additionally, people that increased game-playing into their 70s were more likely to retain their knowledge of certain skills as they age.

While education has much to offer us, we have much to learn in leisure. It is in leisure that we can effectively observe the wonder of God’s creation, whether that be nature or the cosmos, or our fellow human beings. We see God’s life when we look into another’s eyes as they laugh out loud, exclaim in celebration, or sigh in disappointment.

Tune in to Morning Air weekdays at 5am CT

John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at and on the Relevant Radio® app.