Finding your Keepers

When I was holding game tastings in Redondo Beach, chief Taster and good friend Marc Gilutin and I were talking about what we should call games that were even more Major Fun than the games we called Major Fun. He suggested “keeper,” and that seemed like such a perfect description for those really special games. Keeper.

Some games you loan out. Some games you give away. Some games you hold on to. For a very long time. You hold on to them, not so much because you are such a master at them, but much more because there are some people you like playing with who like playing those games with you. It’s the people you hold on to, because they’re fun, because you love them, that determine the games you hold on to.

These are games that you can play again and again, whenever the time is right and the mood is right. Because there are so many different times and different moods, the games you hold on to the longest are the games that you still like playing, even though the time has changed and the mood has changed. So when you feel like keeping score, you do. And when you feel like playing just for the fun of it, you do. And when you feel like making up a different way to play together, you can, and you do.

Most of these games are table games. Some are also toys. A few are game you play on an iPad or -Pod or -Phone or maybe on a computer. Those, the computer games, you tend not to hold on to as long or play quite so often because most of them are harder to change, harder to adapt to the changing moods and modes of you and the people you love playing with. Because you play from different places, different times.

We, my wife and I, have a few games that we think of as Keepers. Only a few. Currently, the only computer games we seem to be playing together are solitaire and Draw Something. We like to help each other find answers, we share the funny. Also, most of our Keepers are tile games: Bananagrams, Qwirkle, Rummi-Cube. There’s something so flexible about these games. Not just the pieces and configurations, but the rules. Maybe because there are so few rules. And we don’t usually keep score. We more often just take turns appreciating each other’s brilliance.

There are other games that we play from time to time, just for variety. Some dice games, some more word games. We hold on to them, so they’re what we might call “Keepers-in-Waiting.” Some Keepers we keep for company. Word on the Street and Reverse Charades, for example.

A Keeper is some kind of game or toy or plaything or -place that keeps you together with the people who keep you together. May you find a lot of them.


  1. Natalie M Kinsey on August 2, 2012 at 10:02 am

    What a lovely distinction. I thought, at first, you were talking about the Keeper in Harry Potter which will protect the three goal hoops in the game Quidditch.

    But than, I realized you are talking about another kind of keeper, but by that time, I’d already fallen in love with the metaphor of Quidditch, so how about, not only are those games that we let help us stay uptodate with our loved ones, called The Keeper (s) but the games we have not yet found, in the relationships that have not yet found their open shared playspaces are still, the games ahead become “The winged Snitch… enchanted to hover, dart, and fly around the pitch, avoiding capture while remaining within the boundaries of the playing area.” (wiki), and you, my dearest Berniekins, becomes “the Seeker, usually the lightest member of the team and equipped with the fastest broom, is tasked for searching for and capturing The Golden Snitch”

    In my world, the game Sequence holds a steady space for my parents and I to scheme and trash talk and enjoy sharing a space that’s compelling enough to hold our attention and let us laugh and wend together, a bit. With my oldest daughter, it’s either a very adapted version of Spit, or writing prompts that involve each of us drawing a creature, than giving it to each other (or we often play with lots of others) and everyone having to write a short bit about the encounter with the creature in your hand. With my youngest daughter, we play a game she made up called “Differences” where you take turns giving prompts and you each draw the thing than you get to share, and in the sharing, you get to see what gorgeous stuff is on the inside of the person you are playing with, which, is, in the end, one of my favorite things about games.

  2. Lily on August 2, 2012 at 11:23 am

    I love the “seeker” analogy Natalie. :)

    Our family’s best Keeper game is pictionary. It’s one of those games that needs to be played in person because there’s so much to be gained from the unintentional charades portion of it.

    And yes, we find new ways to “cheat” when the game becomes boring, and sometimes we don’t bother with the timer, and sometimes we let the other team guess.

    Love and laughter,

  3. Marc G. on August 2, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    You, Sir, are a Keeper. A Major Keeper. You’re just too darned far away. My Keepers from those days? Qwirkle, Blokus, a couple of others that escape me now. (Escapers?)

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