It is Saturday July 15, 2017 at 8:36pm and Mancala Monk Board Game Café is a packed house. Every chair in this place has ensconced some keen, budding board game enthusiast of one sort or another. I am sitting in the back room, finally writing the blog post I was supposed to write yesterday. At the moment I can’t see them but I can hear them; the humming and buzzing, the laughter, discussion, the occasional shout or shriek or triumphant cheer.
People have a good time here. A really good time.
It’s humbling and we are so grateful to be a part of a thriving small business, a thriving community.
I love Board Games and I think they do remarkable things. I believe in them. I think they are good for the world. I think they are good for me and that whatever it was that inclined me towards gaming has been an inclination that has served me very well in my life and it is something that I value highly.
One of the things that seems as clear as day to me but obfuscated and obscure for my beloved non-gamer friends and family, is the value or merit of spending hours and hours playing Board Games. Let’s be honest, Board Games often do consume hours and hours, they don’t make you “cool”, they aren’t a form of exercise, they are indoors and weird and expensive. I can picture in my mind an entire generation of young gamers who grow up constantly trying to smuggle their love of games past the surly cynicism of teacher’s, peers or even loving parents who just aren’t sure that their progeny are going to benefit from this obsessive behaviour. For the record, my parents were very supportive, but as a life-long gamer, you bump against the naysaying of unbelievers all the time. But that’s okay, persecution only strengthens our faith.
I think that this kind of unbelief stems from a single error, a misconceived notion about the triviality of games. To an untrained mind, all games are good for is distraction, a way to kill time on a rainy day. Games are, at their worst, evil and degenerate, or at best, useless fun. An aimless diversion for the mindless or anti-social. Games are just games. But ask a dedicated gamer, it’s about more than “having a good time”. It’s a way of life. Games are never just games for me.
In the same way that some people use music or books or films or fantasy to escape from life, others use those same media to engage with it. Games aren’t an escape for me, they help me engage with the world around me more profitably. Even Dungeons & Dragons, a game that most people assume means escaping reality and living in a fantasy world for a few hours, is for many of us – I believe – a fun, engaging exercise that pushes us beyond our social inhibitions and natural timidity or introversion. It is scary to meet up with a group of friends, peers or complete strangers and improvise a fictional characters thoughts, feelings, actions and speech. It is collective story writing, imaginative group improv, and advanced strategy academy all wrapped up in a memorable social gathering with food, drinks and snacks. Beer if you’re lucky. What’s not to love?
But the point is that it is an activity that is good for you, good for your present and future existence within the real world. It gives much more than it takes and that is why we play. Every person who plays D&D believes this is true. The power of a great game is not that it takes you away from your life or responsibilities but that the time you spend with it benefits you on your journey through life and the best games equip you with friendship, personal courage, a sharp intellect, social awareness, strategic thinking, an empowered imagination and a sense of the heroic.
Next week, as a continuation to this discussion, I am going to write about, specifically, the role of Heroism, the power of Imagination, and the utility of Strategic thinking for our every day lives. This is stuff I think about all the time. Much love everybody. Catch ya next week.