WHAT MAKES BOARD GAMES SPECIAL
Hey! I am Jim.
I go by Jim.Gamer on Instagram and run the community website What Board Game. I “met” Favouritefoe virtually through our shared love of board games. And have since shared some fantastic articles from her on my site. Reviews and features that have blown me away.
I was therefore somewhat intimidated to return the favour and write something for this site. I do not consider myself a writer. More a talker. I find putting my thoughts down on paper in a clear and concise way very difficult. “Be more pithy” is a regular piece of feedback I welcomely receive! But I wanted to offer something for this site. I love what Favouritefoe is doing and I want to be a part of it.
So, I have thought long and hard about what I wanted to say for this. Would it be a review of one of my favourite games? Perhaps a feature on a certain style or game, publisher, designer, or mechanic I am fond of?
None of the above felt right to me. It didn’t hit home with what I wanted to say in this glorious space for the hobby we all love so much.
And so, I have decided instead to write a short piece on what I think makes board games special. I wanted to try and convey my feelings for why I think boards games have been the life-saver (literally in some cases) for so many. Especially over the last year of disruption and isolation. And perhaps what we can all do to help spread this.
Board Games To The Rescue!
Let’s get to the core of board games. There are a lot of variables and nuances here so forgive some generalisations. I am just trying to make a point. Largely, we are adults playing games. That is rare.
It is looked upon by the “outsiders” as perhaps childish. Maybe strange and “geeky” too. And I understand that. There is a lot of tribalism in the world. People like to associate with others like themselves. People with similar beliefs or ideals make us feel safe and comfortable. That’s fine and just makes the world go round a little easier for most. Nothing wrong with that.
Where I take objection is when people judge others for not having the same beliefs as them. When certain people think others doing things they don’t do is wrong, bad or strange. Simply because they don’t do it themselves. I have little interest in many hobbies but I have zero opinion on others doing different things. Other then I hope they are enjoying themselves. And I am often curious as to why it is so fun for them and would like to try it for myself one day.
Board Games Are Childish!
Why then do so many people have such strong opinions on board games when they don’t play them themselves? Is it because they appeal childish to outsiders? Is it because they themselves feel judged for their own habits that can be more focused around screens or less sociable behaviours? Perhaps they are jealous of the connections board games are giving other people? The social side they miss out on makes them resent others who have this perhaps.
I also think for some, the feelings of negativity their childhood experiences with board games brings flooding back to them that can create this negative reaction too. I stayed well away from board games in my early adulthood for this very reason. I felt belittled, frustrated, and even bullied when playing games as a child. Why would I want to feel like that again? Why would I bring those feelings to my own children or friends?
For whatever reason people judge us gamers, really it doesn’t matter for this point. What I want to try and cover is how I have in my life, tried to overcome this. What methods I have used to bring my friends into games. The friends who previously took the micky or judged me for my “obsession” but who now enjoy playing along with me, almost as much as I do!
And why is that? Why can games polarise opinion so much. But also be something that is so easy to change people’s perceptions of? I don’t see this happening with other parts of life that divide. If people who have different opinions on religion or politics, spend evening talking about it, it wont then change one of their opinions. Well, in most cases I would suggest! Other hobbies would be the same I would argue too. I don’t think that if someone tried cross stich, or yoga, or even something as universally accessible as sudoku, would suddenly completely change their evenings, spending and home storage for the rest of their life in the way we do with games!
But I have had many people round for games night or met them in a café, and they have said they are happy to chat and have a beer but probably wont play anything. They then say “Okay, let’s try one s we are here.” And by the end, they are loving it and ordering a game on their phone or asking to borrow some games! (Ticks another one of the list!)
Think about it. How many of us who tried board games, now sit in a house full of boxes? Hundreds of pounds later and hundreds of hours now invested! And not just in playing. But researching, watching videos and rules run throughs on the internet, and interacting with likeminded gamers on social media. So many of us move from zero to hundred with board games!
Would someone do this for any other hobby? They may really enjoy it and start doing it two to three evenings a week. But would they start talking to others enthusiastic about the same thing in the way we do with games? I suppose often yes, they do. But would they invest so much time and money into it so quickly? I am sure it happens. But I doubt it happens as often and in as big a way as we often see in our funny little hobby. We become so quickly obsessed with board games and find we can “convert” non-gamers quite easily. Why is that?
I think one reason is because of the sense of humanity within games. Many hobbies are a conduit to a social experience. But the interaction comes maybe before or after the event is over. You can’t really chat meaningfully during a hot yoga class or in the middle or a game of football. I know I played team sports mainly for this aspect, but it was more about what happened after the game down the pub, not during. And not everyone could give that much time up.
But board games is all about this, throughout. Before, after, and importantly during. But crucially, with board games, it requires zero experience. No kit. Very few physical restrictions stop us playing games in the way sports can. I am not about to start Rugby in my forties for example! Although I am mindful or those who cant play games as easily.
I Love Humans!
I love board games. But I love humans more. And I love how board games gives me the base to focus an evening or afternoon around spending time with a friend or family member. It would be weird for many to set up a one-to-one meeting with a friend if not focused on something. This is why we often meet people for a drink, coffee or dinner. We need that focal point. Games does the same. “Want to come round to sit around my table and chat for a few hours?” This should be more widely acceptable and less strange. But let’s face it. It is odd for many. “Want to come round for games night?” Way less off putting.
This is one reason I love games so much. Why I think games have helped so many people. It reconnects us. Lifts our heads up from our phones and away from our screens. Diverting our attention back into the eyes of our fellow homo sapiens. It’s a true human experience.
Sure, solo gaming is huge and I have embraced it like many others during lockdown. But the real joy for me and many of you out there comes from the shared experience of a game. The interaction. The battle. The competition. The cooperation. The laughs, cheers, moans and sighs! All the great moments that unite us as humans. It connects us back to what we all are. Social animals, craving likeminded individuals to share our lives with.
Jerry Maguire Bit!
Now. I am not bind to the isolation many feel in the world. Especially during the last 12 months. It has been so hard for so many.
So, this is the main point for this blog. I want to celebrate a reason why I love games for sure. I want to understand why they are becoming so universally loved. I want to appreciate the human and social aspect they bring to our lives. But I also want to remind myself and others that not all feel this way. Not everyone has access to humans right now. COVID or not. Maybe they are physically isolated from the pandemic.
Maybe they are mentally isolated for another reason. Whatever it is, not all have this contact right now.
So, what can we do to help? So much, I think! And I am going to try and make it a focus moving forward.
Why not reach out to other people to say “hello”? People you know in real life. People you don’t know on social media. Drop them a line and say “hi.” Offer them some contact and a person to talk with. It’s easy with games as we have that to start with. “Just wanted to say hi. What games are you into?” That doesn’t feel odd to me.
How many people can we all help simply by reaching out and chatting about the thing we love with like-minded individuals?
So, what games are you into?