Mak­ing life lessons a game

New board game teaches fam­i­lies about com­mu­ni­ca­tion and im­por­tant life de­ci­sions

The Compass - - THE COMPASS - BYMELISSA JENK­INS Melissa.jenk­

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.”

Game launch

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.De­ci­sion­sBoard­

Photo by Melissa Jenk­ins/Spe­cial to The Com­pass

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.

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