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Have More Fun with Co-op Games
Episode 72nd June 2021 • Practically Useless • Charles Burgess
00:00:00 00:10:29

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Think back to all the classic games you might have played as a kid: Monopoly, Uno, RISK, Skip-Bo, Sorry, Battleship… the list goes on but they all have one thing in common - they are competitive. And if you’re like me, a naturally competitive person from a competitive family, these games always ended in hard feelings when the whole point of playing them was to have a fun night together as a family.

I’m here to tell you there’s a better way. In this episode, I’ll introduce you to the magical world of cooperative (or co-op) games and how they might just make board games and video games the go-to for your Friday night with friends and family alike.

Thank you to our sponsor, Serenity Flow Arts for making this episode possible!


Hey there, and welcome to Practically Useless, the show that mixes practical life tips with totally useless trivia. As usual, I'm your host, Charles. And in this episode, I'll discuss how one small change has made everyone I love feel like a winner on board game night. But before I get ahead of myself, I want to thank today's sponsor, Serenity Flow Arts, for making this episode possible. Game night is one of my favorite ways to connect and have fun with people that I love. But if you'd rather move your body after a long week sitting in front of screens, I feel you. Serenity Flow Arts makes custom hula hoops, offers live in-person classes in the Tampa Bay area, and even offers online classes in the Flow Culture Facebook group, so you can move, shake, and flow from virtually anywhere. Visit to find your flow today.

Monopoly, UNO, Risk, [Hippos:

Competitive games usually center around one person winning and everyone else losing. But cooperative games usually allow you and your friends or your family to play as a team to battle a boss or to, in the classic example of Oregon Trail, make it across the United States. It's not about one person winning. It's about everybody working together to see how far you can go as a group and see if together you can beat the impossible. Now, for a lot of reasons, I love cooperative games. One, obviously they have a whole lot of wholesome value to them. But two, they're just easier. If you're playing a competitive game, you have to do everything yourself. But if you're playing a cooperative game, you can lean on the collective expertise of your family, your friends, and whatever skills or characters that they're playing and allow everybody to bring something unique to the table. Cooperative games also allow people of all ages to get together and solve problems.

I know that through big brothers, big sisters, my little guy is 11, about to be 12, that's not a fair match at almost any game. And you get this dilemma as a parent or a mentor or even sometimes as a friend, where your skillset is not matched to the person that you're playing. So then, you have a choice. You either have to go easy on them, make some obvious mistakes, and allow them the opportunity to win, or you play hard, you play to the best of your ability. And most of the time, unless it's a game of pure luck, you're going to come out on top. And that's not really building esteem for the kid. It's not helping you. It's not helping your relationship with them. It's just you beating a kid at a game. And I know for me, that never felt good. But I also don't want to make it super easy on him because I don't want him to think that he is always going to win or it's always going to be super easy because life just doesn't work that way, right?

But the way life does work is that by using your strengths and partnering up with people that can help you out, you can do things that alone you would not be able to do. So, we've switched from playing the classic competitive games to play more and more cooperative games. And now that he's around 11, there are way more games that we can play because he can grasp them, he can do a great job with them. Everything from RPGs that riff off of the classic Dungeons & Dragons to simple things like Oregon Trail. There's a whole wide world of games where you as a team can compete to win. And it doesn't even just apply to board games. There are escape rooms and other adventures you can go on as a family or as a friend group and work together to solve a problem. The best thing about this in my opinion is the memories are going to have of these things.

There are so many poor memories I have of losing a game of Monopoly that I swear to this day was rigged. I'm not saying that my sister wasn't a great banker, but I may be implying that she was not a fair banker. I love her, but that does not breed fond memories of us playing together, working together, loving one another. It creates a little bit of resentment that takes a whole lot of not so cheap therapy to work through. So instead, choosing these cooperative games where you play together, even if you lose as a group, you still were in the trenches together. And if you've ever had a job with a crunch mode or a really hard period you need to get through with your partner, you know that some of your deepest memories don't come from the high, beautiful moments that you had together in climbing, I don't know, the mountains of the Andes, or whatever the cool couples do these days, or getting a promotion at work, or meeting a deadline, it comes from those terrible moments.

Those dark places where you didn't think you could do it and you either pulled together and you did, or you just accepted where you were at and you were all in that place together. And that feeling of being together in a situation, in my opinion, is what creates those beautiful memories that you're going to remember forever. You're going to remember that when you were in a dark place in this game or you didn't think you could beat it, that your friend or your mom or your sibling gave you a heal and gave you an extra turn so that you could do that move that you were really excited about, or maybe you were the one that saved the day. You resurrected a friend or you put a shield on somebody and you gave them what they needed to have one more turn to give the whole family, the whole team, all of your friends, a shot at winning the game.

The last point I want to make about cooperative games is that everyone does have a role and this is what mirrors life so well, right? In competitive games, everyone's doing essentially the same thing just slightly differently. But in a cooperative game, it would be really strange if you just had four people doing exactly the same thing. In most cooperative games, everybody has some sort of specialty, especially in video games or board games that simulate a role-playing game. You've got people that need to do a lot of damage to a boss. You've got people that need to do healing and keep people alive so they can continue to do damage to that boss. And you've got a protector of the group known as a tank, and this is the person that's usually at the front of the pack and shields the rest of the group, takes the brunt of the damage, and tries to keep everybody else safe.

They distract the boss. They keep them throwing daggers at them so that the healer doesn't get hit and the damage doers can keep doing damage. And this dynamic of everybody having a unique special job to do, usually with different skills and abilities, makes everyone feel special in their own way. And no two jobs are alike. So, everybody can have a shared experience as a group while still having an individual identity with a special unique purpose. And if there isn't anything in this life that is more relevant, it's that every single person has a unique purpose and a unique set of gifts that unless you tap them for what they're really meant to do, we're never going to see it.

Let's recap together. Most board games and video games are competitive, which means that there's one winner and at least one sore loser. Cooperative games allow players of any age to work together, solve problems, and win or lose as a team. This builds tighter bonds from being in the trenches together and gives you all something to talk about with glee or to staying later. And even if you all get eaten by a boss or catch dysentery on the Oregon Trail, at least you were all there together. You can use different roles within a team to let younger players learn the value that each person brings to the game. It can seem glamorous to do the most damage and be the star of the show, but support characters are essential to winning and it reinforces the truth that no one person can truly do everything all on their own. We need a little help to get by from our friends.

That's it for today's show. Theme music was brought to you by Ryan Jones. Emotional support came from my friend, Mikey, for introducing me, educating me, and constantly saving my rear in so many wonderful games. Our sponsor is everyone on Patreon, thank you, and Serenity Flow Arts. Our host is, well, me, Charles. And disclaimer, I'm not a doctor, lawyer, financial adviser, mental health counselor, dungeon master, dragon trainer, or remotely decent banker in the game of Monopoly myself. But I do hope you learned something useful today. And if not, here's some useless trivia you've been waiting for, courtesy of Cristina in Tampa, Florida. IPKN powder is now often made from rose hips, but it used to be made from tarantula hairs. Gross. If you've been itching to share your own useless trivia or your own favorite co-op game, I want to hear about it. Go online to, or tag me on Instagram, @cvburgess. No matter what you do, I hope you have a wonderful fun day.

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