Currently we have a massive amount of people spending more time at home in the company of housemates and family members than we possibly ever have in our entire lives.
Due to the self-imposed isolation and in some cases, lockdown measures of the current Covid 19 epidemic, life has changed drastically for a lot of us. For those of you struggling with being in close proximity to your loved ones for this amount of time, if you all haven’t killed each other yet I’d say you’re doing quite well!
Today I want to shed light on one of my most recent hobbies and it may very well be part of you and your family’s salvation in this isolation apocalypse… board games!
Now I know a lot of people may have images flash in theirs heads of tables being flipped due to somebody snapping with rage at the end of a 4-hour game of Monopoly (one of my most hated games BTW). Other games may come to mind also; Scrabble, Boggle, Risk, Life, Scattergories and a host of others.
These games and others like them are akin to pop music on the radio, very well known and played over and over again but do not at all represent the vast array available – in fact they are just the tip of one massively amazing and fun-filled iceberg.
The board game renaissance.
These last few years have been described by many as the board game renaissance, this is due to a plethora of new games that have been created and brought to life, largely through self-funding websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Games are being created and manufactured that if it were up to large board game companies alone would have never seen the light of day.
Thanks to everyday individuals like you and me, thousands of new and amazing games have been created in many different genres and themes involving vastly different game mechanics and aimed at all sorts of ages and interests. If you would like to see just how big this iceberg is, have a look online at the Board Game Geek website and see what is available to you.
Your family could be dungeon crawling and battling monsters while gaining gold from a dragon’s hoard (Dungeon Fighter, Pathfinder), creating magical potions from a bag of goodies to sell at your quack stall (Quacks of Quedlinburg), hunting and building up your own stone age population (Stone Age), Racing Formula 1 Cars (Downforce), Killing hoards of Zombies with your teammates (Zombicide), trying to outwit your friends and dominate the galaxy (Cosmic Encounter), attracting as many birds to your aviary as possible (Wingspan), even trying to stop a worldwide global pandemic (Pandemic) the options are endless.
Did I mention playing an abbot in a medieval monastery competing with other abbots to amass the greatest library of holy books? (Biblios) Yes, there is a theme out there for absolutely everyone!
Bringing people together.
One of the greatest things about board games is that they bring people together, regardless of age, sex, interests or personality types. There are not many things in this world that can bring total strangers of all different ages and backgrounds together and after an hour or so have everybody around the table engaged, talking with each other, interacting, forming alliances, trying to out-wit their opponents, and most often than not, all ending up laughter. It is the best social enhancer I’ve ever found.
Last New Years eve was a prime example of this. At 3am we decided to bring out ‘Camel Up’ (a whacky racing game where you bet on Camels in the Arabian desert). Four adults, and three teenagers who hadn’t spoken more than a word or two the entire party joined us and half an hour later, we were all laughing, cheering and yelling at the crazy hijinks the game created.
It connected all of us and for those few hours and it didn’t matter how old we were, how smart we were or if we were liberal or conservative, catholic or atheist, all that mattered was that your darn camel got over that finish line first!
Board games can and do provide a healthy escape from the tragedies and pains of life and they do so by means of healthy and rewarding interaction with others. Not only is this great for mental health but also a great way of forming friendships between people whom may otherwise have never interacted. It also connects younger and older generations in a fun and meaningful way, opening up the chance for conversations and new knowledge about each other.
Not only do they bring a unique connection but games cause everybody sitting around the table to be completely equal. Age, intelligence or knowledge are not always guaranteed paths to victory as each game has different strengths, angles and pathways to choose from. Even the most well educated bourgeoisie could have their best laid plans in a game come to a crashing halt by a someone half their age and worldly experience.
Most of the time for me games are not about winning (even though sometimes it’s a great driver) as it’s not always winning that matters, it’s the journey and interaction that gets us there. For me the most enjoyable times when playing games are seeing others around the table, engaged, laughing, jeering and forgetting about life – even for a few hours. It has an amazing way of causing you to live in the moment, something we could all benefit from gaining more experience in.
Some of my best childhood memories were sitting around our dinner table and playing those simple games I mentioned previously. Our household was an extremely busy one so the only time we ever played games was whilst on holiday. It’s part of what forms the magic of board games for me, one of the few times we could all relax and just laugh together.
If you have children or bothers or sisters, then I couldn’t encourage you more than to create and share this magic with them. It will enrich your family life no end, true it could cause a few fights (esp. if playing Monopoly) but it will grow your imagination and creativity, it will cause you to use your brain in ways you may never have so improving your cognitive skills. It creates healthy and safe ways for children to learn to lose (and win) with grace. It is also a wonderful pastime for people on the spectrum or who struggle socially as the game itself, the mechanics they create and even the components can create really good social buffering.
There is a local Church near my house who each month have a board game night on a Friday evening with a plethora of new games for people to play. Anyone can rock up and engage with others in a fun and safe environment. In Melbourne a group of awesome individuals have even created the Game Therapy Network, which is a social support service to help those in need to engage and socialise within the gaming community… yes, games for healing! What a great way to get to know people and to offer hospitality and kindness.
Call me biased but what closer thing to the kingdom of Heaven could you have than people feeling equal, safe, loved and engaged in a joyful purpose – playing to win, but feeling just as much joy if the person next to you does? Not much in my opinion.
…But please for goodness sake, get rid of Monopoly!
If you want to know more about which games may suit you or your family, I strongly suggest (firstly avoiding Kmart) and checking out ‘The Dice Tower’ and ‘Shut up and Sit Down’ YouTube channels for reviews and there are always great videos showing how to play if reading instructions puts you off trying new games try the “Watch it Played’ YouTube page for this one. Also ask advice from your local gaming store (goodness knows they need the business right now) and perusing the Board Game Geek website… you’ll find the possibilities are endless – just like my current board game collection, 30 games and counting!
Tim Everton is from South Australia, is a youth worker by trade and runs his own small business making miniature things. In his off-time he enjoys making more miniature things, playing board games hanging out at the beach and seeking out the next best cafe latte.
Tim Everton’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/tim-everton.html