"Kids need to play together. It breaks down a lot of barriers," says Enrico Nardini. Nardini is founder and editor of www.PlayUnplugged.com, a locally based website and blog that promotes board games, table-top games, role playing games, any game that doesn't need a plug or battery.
For Nardini, the movement away from traditional group play to sitting, slack-jawed, in front of a computer screen, severely reduces the socializing effects of play.
It's not that he doesn't respect video games, he is quick to point out, only that interacting face-to-face is still superior to the Internet's facsimile. For one, sitting around a table with a group makes it a bit harder to scream the obscenities and slurs that squawk from your headphones when all you're trying to do is play a nice round of capture-the-flag in Halo.
Nardini doesn't have any kids himself, but he does have a master's degree in elementary education. He founded Play Unplugged just this past January because games were the one constant in his life to that point, and something he wanted to devote himself to promoting.
To that end, Play Unplugged is hosting a contest to score a family four-pack of tickets -- an $80 value -- to the upcoming LEGO KidsFest, where all the entertainment is tangible and all the friends corporeal. LEGO KidsFest visits Pittsburgh for the first time June 17-19 as part of its national tour that shares many goals with Play Unplugged: hands-on fun that might teach you something.
Entering the contest is free: Simply snap a photo of you and your family enjoying the wonders of the little Danish bricks and send it off to Play Unplugged by Wed., June 15. If nothing else, it'll get you to play again.