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Although probably not a game in the strict sense of the word, "First Home Memories" shares some of the same qualities of my other games. It can be enjoyed by one person, but is best "played" with two or more siblings or close childhood friends, preferably close in age.

The only materials needed are a sheet (as large as possible) of white drawing paper and pens or pencils. Different coloured pens could distinguish each person's markings, but this is not essential.

young Stanley, farmhand

Young Stanley, farmhand at first home

Everyone agrees on a familiar place from their earliest memories. Ideally, for siblings, this would be the first house they remember living in. Other possibilities for siblings or close childhood friends might be the first school attended, or a favorite childhood park, or the secret meeting place for the club -- anyplace where lots of time was spent living and playing and "doing stuff" together.

The process is simple and fairly unstructured. Start by drawing a rough outline of the house floor plan (a second story or attic might be off to the side or on another sheet of paper) or layout of the general area if it is a park or school, etc. Then everyone just starts adding things to the sheet. Where was each piece of furniture located? How about toys and trinkets and treats? Where were the secret hiding places? Where did certain events occur. Try working your way outside to the yard. Clutter the sheet with as many things as you can remember.

The interesting part of this process is that drawing the primary objects brings to mind other lesser objects and these lesser ones still more, along with the collaboration of the others in the group, so that you find yourself remembering many things you hadn't thought of in years.

One note of warning: I've been told that psychiatrists use similar but more involved techniques on some patients to dredge up repressed childhood traumas. First Home Memories is not intended for that purpose. It has a more innocent and pleasant "Grandma, tell us about the old days" mood. If you feel the need to find out what your uncle was really doing back then, don't use this game to do it; go get some professional counseling instead.

I've considered ways of turning this idea into a full fledged game like adding a set of cards with suggestions of things to add to the drawing, but I kind of like its informal, unstructured form the way it is.

If you try it out, let me know how it went. Did you remember more than you thought you would? Did you remember anything differently that others in the group? Did anything not work well? I found it very entertaining, myself. It seems like the physical act of drawing brought back a lot of good memories that pure mental effort would have failed at. On the other hand, I was only seven when we moved away from my first house. Perhaps my memories of that house are more elusive and poignant than for someone who lived in their first house for many years. I'm curious about other people's experience with the process.

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