When I first tell others about my board gaming addiction hobby, I hear a variety of reactions that usually go something like this:
- “You mean like (insert mass market game from 50+ years ago)?”
- “Like Dungeons and Dragons?” Tabletop RPG’s are a whole different subject, though there is some overlap in the hobbies.
- “Have you played Catan?”
- “Oh we love Cards Against Humanity.”
- “I haven’t played board games since I was a kid.”
I often explain that there are a lot of great people making unique and innovative board games these days and offer an example of a current favorite. Here, I have attempted to gather some of my deeper, though scattered thoughts about the board gaming hobby and the benefits I derive from it.
Board Games as a Social Activity
Board games have almost completely replaced video games for me and my family. This was largely unintentional, but in hindsight I can offer several thoughts as to why this occurred. Today’s multiplayer video games are largely online affairs. Interaction is largely limited to what commentary can be slung from a keyboard or hurled through a microphone. The nature and tone of this suffers from the sense of anonymity online play grants. The days of gathering friends or family around a gaming console and playing splitscreen multiplayer games, or passing the controller around taking turns to beat a level or stage have faded into memory.
Board games offer a great opportunity to gather around and interact, without screens and devices separating us. Modern boardgaming allows these interactions to take many shapes, with games ranging from highly competitive to fully cooperative affairs. With all the technological distractions surrounding us, board games “force” us to set aside our devices and interact face to face.
Another perk of board games is the “social contract” that exists when playing games. These unwritten rules may vary from table to table, but the general idea is that everyone playing a game has an understanding of the expectations. In a world where divisiveness abounds, the ability to sit down and play a game offers a great opportunity to interact and even compete, without taking things too seriously.
Board Games as an Experience
With so many talented people working in the board game industry these days, games have become increasingly adept at creating a thematic experience that rivals any digital game. The hobby has come a long way from the drudgery of moving a pawn around a board in decades past. Want to build a civilization or conquer your enemies? There are games for that. Prefer to make a quilt or subsistence farm? There are games for that too.
My favorite games all offer a level of escapism. My gaming experiences are full of memories and stories of “that one time”. We all remember the game of Merchants and Marauders where victory was snatched out of my hands as war broke out in the Caribbean, closing down the port I was travelling to and resulting in my ship being sunk by an enemy warship. Or the game of Robinson Crusoe where the friendly looking otters near our camp wound up stealing all our food and dooming us to starvation. Or that one time when Sauron’s advance against the free peoples was stopped by the timely arrival of the Eagles in War of the Ring. Or that game of Blood Rage where everyone realized too late that the player losing battles the entire game was doing it intentionally, scoring points for death in glorious Viking combat.
That is more than enough memories to make the point. Board games today feature a blend of theme and mechanics that when paired with the right group of people can weave stories and experiences remembered long after the box is put away.
Board Games as Mental Exercise
Tabletop games provide ample opportunities to stretch the brain in different ways. From creative to critical thinking, games provide plenty of ways to test our capacities. Not only is this mental engagement great for teaching kids and teenagers, but it also helps combat cognitive decline in adults. The artful design of today’s game mechanics allows for significantly more critical thought than the roll and move games I grew up on.
Playing games allows for experimentation with different approaches and strategies. Games often reward creative and critical thinking. In my own experience, I have reached a point where I often prefer trying a new approach within a game more than relying on a tried and true strategy.
Why Play Board Games?
I have attempted to address some of the benefits I enjoy from my board game hobby. Everyone will have their own reason for playing, but above all else we play games to have fun. If the idea of playing a board game makes you cringe and remember fighting over Monopoly money then I would encourage you to give the hobby a second look. Looking for suggestions? Hit us up on social media for personalized recommendations.
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