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I’m typing this on my phone quickly after a long, tiring and fun day. The little ones are in bed, and Matt’s still at work, so I’m taking a little time to myself. Today Super Mario Odyssey came out in stores, and into our house. And Player 3 got his promised Mario time, so with Player 4 cuddled in my lap, chewing on a teething toy, we took our first short foray into our newest game. And I can already tell we are going to be there for a long, long, time.

But that’s not really on the forefront of my mind, I’ll probably put together my initial impressions of the game later. But today, my tired mom brain found itself talking with, listening to and being an encourager to a varied collection of people in GameStop. There was the equally tired store employee who was juggling rushes of people and phone calls; a young man who was watching us, and told me all about how much he misses playing games with his dad; and a Muslim woman in her forties, who was so excited to see another mom there, getting ready to share a new adventure with their kids.

One thing that struck me was every conversation involved shared hobbies between parents and children. I started playing games with my dad when I was about the same age as Player 3. That developed my entire mindset on gaming, it is my only type of play I almost exclusively want to do with others, especially family. My sister and I burned through games as kids, and we still play together regularly. And gaming together is a default part of Matt’s and my stay at home date nights. (Which I highly recommend, since little kids can make it so hard to have date nights out.)

This is the reason for this blog in the first place. It’s not just about gaming, gaming for us is just an example of the main goal. To encourage people to see the value in play, and genuinely sharing it with others. We were given play as a way to learn, communicate with others, build bonds, and share.

Scientists have divided play up into types: attunement, body and movement, object, social, imaginative and pretend, storytelling-narrative and creative are the types according to the National Institute for Play. And the first of these, attunement, is the initial form of play we develop as infants, shown in the enjoyment of a baby and their parents bonding through eye contact and baby talk. Both of my boys, if they look into my eyes, see me smile at them and speak to them with gentle encouraging words, break out into huge grins and almost immediately come for a hug. This is the starting point for a person’s psychological development, and its main purpose is to build security, which is a huge building block for all future growth in small children. This core relational type of play you can find in many other types of relationships, especially romantic. Staring into each other’s eyes is a huge part of bonding, and it’s even something we naturally avoid when we’re trying to hide something, or feel distressed.

Sharing play with others, in my opinion, relates back to this natural attunement we form with people we are bonded to: playing a board game, reading a story out loud, sitting together and crafting something, or just telling jokes and laughing together, helps strengthen that bond. While having hobbies and play that we can do on our own is good and important, especially to introverted people like me. I cherish the time I get to sit alone with a novel, knit, play a game by myself, and even write this blog. But at the same time, I can’t allow them to cause me to neglect the things I need to do, such as chores, and maintaining my relationships, especially with my kids, my husband, and God.

Think about the ways that you spend your time with your family and loved ones. Are you making time to focus on maintaining your bonds in your relationships, though conversations, time together, and fun? Or are you neglecting that for work or just focusing on entertaining yourself?