Playing Clue - Photograph by Sharon Feldman

Playing Clue – Photograph by Sharon Feldman

“It was Colonel Mustard in the Ballroom with the Candlestick!”

Clue.  A timeless board game.  A staple of family night for decades.  A Sherlock Holmes showdown.  Once the most highly anticipated snow day activity, now forgotten by the new age.  The screen age.

This past Friday night I was charged with the babysitting duties for my 13 year old brother and his two friends.  As we licked clean our plates from take-out Chinese, we pondered our after dinner options.

“We can play Wii” my little brother exclaimed.

“We can watch TV,” his friend said.

“I don’t care….” The last one muttered.

Stuck in babysitter limbo and with no clear direction to navigate this evening, I proposed that we all play Clue.

“Clue? What’s that?” his friend asked.

“A board game! My childhood favorite!” I exclaimed.

“That’s going to take an hour…” my brother moaned.

Before anyone said another word, I marched up to the game cupboard and lay the game smack on the table in front of them.  They looked at the dust covered gawky box as if it were some anachronistic alien.  So I made the first move, setting up each piece and explaining the rules/strategy to them as they struggled to listen.  I was not going to budge, however.  No matter how much they rolled their eyes and looked down at their phones, we were going to get through this game the old fashion way.  No smartphones, no distractions.  We only had the spirit of competition and a burning curiosity as our glue.   

As the game progressed, our eyes were locked.  Nobody made a move for their phone.  Nobody even left to go to the bathroom.  We were disconnected, and it was absolutely beautiful.

When the game ceased and I began to fold up the board, the kids pleaded with me to play again.  Unable to say no, we embarked on a board game marathon into the night.  For hours, we talked, we laughed and bonded with one another.     

This night taught my brother and his friends both a simple and valuable lesson about conversation and togetherness.  On a normal evening by the ‘screen age’ standards, kids play video games, check social media, or browse the internet.  While these activities seemingly connect kids with more people than ever before, kids have never been more alone.  As the sources of entertainment become so short term and so instantaneous, it has become nearly impossible to enjoy the experience with those around you.  When screens become the primary source of interaction, it is as if nobody is even there.  Nobody talks, nobody laughs, nobody even moves.  By putting their phones down for a short hour, however, these kids spent an evening laughing, thinking, and competing with each other.  It was beautiful to see as a group of kids connected over a simple board game.  By being present in the room, not in the cloud, they experienced a true sense of togetherness.  I hope that they take this night and this feeling with them far into the future.  Funny what a board game can do to people.  Stratego is next!


By Reed Feldman / Bates College 19’

Screen’s guest blogger