Making life lessons a game
New board game teaches families about communication and important life decisions
A mother sits down at the kitchen table on game night with her two daughters, who are in Grade 6 and Grade 9.
This night’s feature is “Decisions,” a new board game that has recently been released by GBT Amusements, a Newfoundland entertainment company.
The colourful game board is inviting, with yellow, blue, red and green outlining the perimeter, and different life situations written on each of the spaces.
Mom rolls the dice and lands on a space that reads “bullying.” She proceeds to tell her children a story of when she was bullied in school. Her story opens up a dialogue between the threesome about issues that the daughters have witnessed in their own schools.
One of the daughters rolls the dice next and lands on a square with another life challenge on it — “gossip.”
Although this family and situation are fictional, the story is an example of what Hubert Ryall — creator of the game Decisions — says happens when the game is played.
A path to communication
Ryall began the game four years ago — three years creating it and one year testing it out — as a means to get families talking.
He explains some situations in life are taboo. Some children and their parents do not have open discussions about things like racism, negative thinking or asking for help.
Ryall believes this game will create more in depth communication among families and, hopefully, prevent the children from performing some of these negative things in the future. He also hopes it will instill positive thoughts into each child who plays the game.
Sowing the “seeds of life” in children was an important message Ryall wanted to get across in the game.
“Some of these seeds get planted,” he noted. “Some children may see their parents acting in a certain way against what they were told, and the seed just doesn’t grow.”
This is especially true for bullying, he notes.
Bullying an influence
“Bullying became a real hot issue while creating the game,” he continues.
He tells a story of some primary school children who destroyed an elderly woman’s garden and smashed apples from her tree. When the woman confronted the children, they ran away, so she went to their mother about their behaviour.
Ryall described the mother as someone who did not care about the mischief, telling the woman to, “not be so foolish.”
The kids and the mother got reprimanded by the police, says Ryall, and it was the act of bullying the elderly woman that led to the childrens’ first run-in with the law. The mother did not prevent it.
“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and most parents don’t see it,” Ryall says. “Kids look at their parents and learn from them. So if they are rude, their kids will be rude. If they disregard the law, the kids will probably disregard the law.”
Reaching far and wide
Decisions has already been purchased by several teachers around the country, who intend to play it in their classrooms.
Ryall says some of the schools that have already requested or purchased the game are located in Nova Scotia, Quebec and Alberta. “Teachers are grasping onto it,” he said. The government of Newfoundland and Labrador has also been in contact with Ryall. Officials with the Department of Education is reviewing the game to determine if they should recommend it for use in schools.
The department did tell The Compass the government is, “currently completing a consultation process around Safe and Caring Schools.”
The current safe and caring schools policy was introduced in 2006, and an evaluation was completed in 2012 leading to programs and groups being developed across the province to prevent bullying.
Ryall believes now is the time to change how bullying is dealt with in schools and in general by updating the legislation.
“There are too many kids taking their own lives,” he says. “We need stricter laws. We have started introducing legislation around cyber bullying, but we need more. I haven’t seen (the government) come out with any big suggestions.”
When the game is launched, Ryall explains the price will be low because he does not expect to make a profit. He believes the lessons learned in the game are payment enough.
“The game is not a high cost,” he says. “Children and parents can afford it.”
Although it says the game is for ages 13-and-up on the box because of small playing pieces, Ryall says the game is suitable for ages six-and-up, pending parental consent.
One dollar from all game sales will also be donated to feed the hungry and protect the homeless, Ryall states.
Ryall says draws will be done throughout the weekend for a free game and there will be other specials offered at that time.
The game is set to launch at the Trinity Conception Square shopping centre in Carbonear Nov. 29 to Dec. 1.
To learn more, visit www.DecisionsBoardGame.com.
Hubert Ryall is passionate about his board games, especially the newest one, “Decisions.” He created a game to help families communicate more about life issues such as bullying and racism.