Aug 052013
 

Why Do I Game?

I write an occasional column called “Losing at Board Games”, and have a game collection that is probably north of 80 games by this point (I could count, but I don’t think the Political Mastermind would be happy with the result.)

When we have friends over I’m always trying to pick out a great game or three to introduce into the evening. At this point, it is highly likely that my friends expect this when they come over for dinner. Dinner, and games. This is the implied order of the evening.

 

Wow.  That didn’t answer the question at all.

So, Why do I game?

 

This is a big question. This is the kind of question that hovers in the sky, casting a shadow on everything on the ground.

This is a question people ask me on a regular basis, and I don’t have a good concise answer for them.

I asked the Google+ games community why they game, and the answers all revolved around people together, rallied around an objective. For this reason, co-op games seem to be one of the popular kids at the party right now; everyone is rallied around the same objective and is working together to get it done.

Unfortunately, this is one party where I am hanging out in the corner, staring at my shoes, and pondering the universe.

Co-op games aren’t that popular in my gaming circles. I’m not sure of the exact reasons for this, but group vs. the game isn’t a match-up that garners a lot of attention around our dining room table.

Forbidden Island is a revered game in the games community; it is an easy to learn co-op game and has a fair bit of challenge to it.

These are actual comments heard in my house while playing this game:

“Oh. So we died? Is that it?”

“We should just play this on the easiest setting so that way we win faster. And then we can play a different game.”

“This game is way too tense, considering that I don’t actually care about the outcome.”

“While you play another game, can I run to the grocery store and pick up some things? No, don’t wait for me. It’s fine.”

 

The lonely life of Forbidden Island in my gaming collection.

The lonely life of Forbidden Island in my gaming collection.

 

 

I still would say that I enjoy gaming because everyone is gathered around the table, unified by a theme and set of goals. Most of the answers in the board games community seemed to revolve around getting together with friends, introducing them to a game, and everyone enjoying a great few hours together. Around my table, people would just prefer to stomp on each other, rather than rally around a common cause.

 

Are we competitive?

 

Sure. I’m a bit of an optimist with gaming. No matter how badly I’m doing, I still think I have a shot at winning. I wouldn’t say this makes me much of a competitive threat, but it still makes me feel competitive.

While I’m feeling like I might win,the Political Mastermind will be scheming and orchestrating her complete dominance of the gaming objectives.

I’m interested in feeling like I might win. She is interested in winning.

Put simply: I write a column called “Losing at Board Games”. She could write a column called “why I enjoy winning by a substantial margin while everyone else still thinks they have a chance”.

A gamer grows in Lanham, MD

 As a child, I played games with my family on a regular basis. Chess, Stratego, Clue, Pente, Canasta, Poker, Balderdash, Scattegories… the list continues with games that enjoyed popularity in the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

But then something happened. My parents discovered Settlers of Catan (after I had moved out). They played it. And played it. And played it again.

Then they bought it for the Political Mastermind and I, and taught us how to play.

I won’t say that this is the game that plunged me headlong into the hobby, as that honor likely belongs to Carcassonne or Dominion, but it is the game that made me realize that the gaming world had gotten quite large, and involved detailed games I had never heard of.

Recently, it has become fashionable in gaming circles to bash these early games – particularly Monopoly, which is largely luck-driven and can be quite long.

For this gamer, I can never really bash some of these early games. Sure, they don’t hit the table much, and if someone suggests them I’m likely to suggest a different game instead. But if it wasn’t for the games of my childhood then I likely wouldn’t be the gamer I am today.

So I’ll raise a glass to Monopoly, because it taught me from a young age that gathering around the game table is a great way to pass a few hours with friends.

 

About Jon Beall

I am obsessed with all things related to board games. I suggests playing board games every day, even when my only audience is my three meeple-loving cats. I am married to the Political Mastermind, a gamer who beats me at least 70% of the time. This has led to the creation of "Losing at Board Games", a column which I write bi-weekly on Mondays.

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