Friday, February 10, 2012

Why We Play

As children, many of us would play boardgames with our families.  It was something we could all do together, and it didn't involve the television.  Personally, I played many games with my grandpa.  It was something we could both enjoy and it kept me out of my parents hair for awhile.  There were also the New Year's Eve games of Monopoly with aunts, uncles, and cousins.  I grew up with 4 older cousins who would all play Risk. I was too young to play with them, though I suspect that they just wanted to keep the game shorter, something I can't blame them for attempting.  We saw various editions of Monopoly come and go, Star Wars (Original Trilogy), .com, Millennium, and others, but we were always together having a good time.  If you went bankrupt in Monopoly, you simply watched TV or ate food, or did something else with the rest of the family; that's the advantage of ~16 people hanging out.  As my cousins got into High School, the games seemed to stop.  People had dates and everyone was just busier in general.  Sure, I still played games with friends every once in awhile, but video games had taken over.  It was the time of the N64 and eventually the Gamecube, and that's what people wanted to play.

Now, I suspect elements of this resonate with every gamer, but we all found a path to games.  Maybe it was a college roommate, maybe it was a significant other having an interest in the hobby, maybe it was a longing for the togetherness we felt as children playing games with our friends and family.

I submit to you my readers that the main reason we play boardgames is to be together.  

I am an introvert by nature, as I suspect many board gamers are, yet in playing boardgames I have become more of an extrovert.  It's an amazing social lubricant, by which I mean that games give people a medium to organize their interactions where they can feel safe and have a good time.  I made friends because of boardgames that I would probably have never even talked to if it wasn't for games in some way.  I look at the college majors/degrees that people I played games with at some point and basically everything is covered.  I have a Math degree, and others have Psychology, Chemistry, Biology, English, Music, Spanish, Philosophy, Physics and Computer Science.  Now, this isn't every major, but it shows the variety of interests and personalities that I spent a good deal of time with.

The two things that brought portions of that group together were dinner and boardgames.  When you're in college, specifically a residential campus, you're around people all the time, but it's hard to find closeness there.  People are around all the time, but until you sit down and do something, it's not the same.

Some other reasons we play boardgames

  • Fun
Games are certainly a lot of fun, but others are strategic.  Still, it can be enjoyable to just do something more than sitting and talking.

  • Cost Effectiveness
A boardgame is a great investment.  Figure your average game costs ~$40, and that you'll play it 10 times at about an hour a play.  That's still only $4 an hour per play.  Good luck finding something else you can do for $4 an hour for a group of 3-6 people.  (Yes, I know things exist, but they're harder to find.)

  • Brain Engaging
Some people like games because the games make them think.  Many games present you with a problem and limited ways to create the best solution.  Some games are economics driven, where it's all about building a good "engine."  Other games are a puzzle with only one right solution, and it's a race to see who gets it first.  Boardgames are more thought driven than watching TV or playing most video/computer games.

  • Stories/Memories
This refers to both stories about the game and the people who play.  Take a moment to come up with a happy memory about playing a game.  I bet it doesn't take more than 15 seconds.  That's the power of games.  We remember playing them because of the people.  It gives us something to talk about with that group, and new people when they join in.  This is why I always try to share something personal about a game when I do a review.

  • Competitiveness
I won't say that this is the best reason to play games for me personally, but it is a reason nevertheless.  Sometimes it's nice to play a game where someone gets to be the winner.  It gives individuals a chance to put their skills to the test and see who's the best.  Now, you have to remember that it is just a game, and when the game is done that's that, but winning is a very satisfying feeling.

To wrap things up, there are many reasons why we play boardgames.  There aren't really any wrong reasons to play, though gambling/financial gain may be one of them.  Whatever your own reasons for gaming are, be sure you know them.  I'd love to hear why you play games, especially if I've missed a big reason.  So please, leave a comment and let me know why you play boardgames.


  1. This could almost be my life story. I grew up on boardgames too but it all stopped when my aunts/uncles moved away. I flirted with RPG at college but it wasn't until recently I got back into gaming as a way to spend time with my friends again instead of playing on the xbox.

    Boardgames are the no.1 social passtime for me as I don't drink so going out in town doesn't have much appeal for me.

    1. Glad to hear the article resonates with you. I'm glad to hear you're back playing boardgames. Hopefully you'll stick around BoBG and continue commenting on things.