How Gaming Works For Me


Wait…. before you think this is another another study or article stating something along the lines of “5 reasons why board games are better for you than you think” or “10 interesting points to make to your friends about board games” and click away, allow me to declare that this is NOT one of those articles. This is a completely subjective exposition of why board games themselves, and our hobby, is important to me and while you may resonate with a few of my personal anecdotes you probably have a bunch of other reasons for doing the things we do. The decision to put these thoughts to paper come after a few people have asked me what I get out of the hobby, some from places of genuine interest and others from behind discerning spectacles that make me feel like a school boy justifying my actions to a headmistress. These queries, among a wealth of great articles being written by people who have had their lives changed by board games  made me analyse my passion and try to share with others why I love playing, buying, reading about, talking about and simply just thinking about board games.

Breaking Through the Resistance

I’m an introvert. For me, I don’t enjoy being around people if I don’t have to and that I shut myself away from the world whenever I get the chance. This means that I find being around larger groups of people tiring and energy draining, especially the more I have to verbally or physically interact with them. Growing up, South Africa didn’t have access to a variety of hobby board games which meant that often my friends and I would sit around playing video games. Mostly this was my best friend and I sitting together and taking turns playing single player games at the computer. We interacted through this medium with us both enjoying the others company but talking more about the game and what happened, rather than the direct interaction between 2 people sitting and chatting about each others lives and providing the stimulus to the other. Fast forward 15 years and video games are rarely played this way, with much of the focus being solo or pseudo solo gaming experiences with many players being alone in front of the device and playing with people through the internet instead of face to face.

Pointing Guns at people is part of Cash and Guns, adding a social dimension I'm often not comfortable with.

Pointing Guns at people is part of Cash and Guns, adding a social dimension I’m often not comfortable with.

Discovering board games around 4 years back with games of Dominion and Battlestar Galactica, I am able to interact with people around a table and be comfortable socially for a few hours and even time periods exceeding my normal socialising limits. Board games offered the perfect combination of playing games, often limited to a group of usually around four to six people (which is manageable for my desired levels of interaction) and when it suited me, a finite time expectation of interaction. I often struggle with small talk, mostly babbling about anything & everything when I’m feeling socially awkward avoiding silences with new people and board gaming takes away a lot of that pressure for me. During play, I’ll happily socialize with discussions about the challenges of the game, even have casual conversations outside of gaming focus with the security of that their turn would soon come along and conversations would never be extended. I can happily have 3-4 hours of social time around a game and feel energised and smiling when leaving rather than exhausted and dreading the next house warming. As a social focus, gaming offers me the perfect space to interact.

Board Games are a great way to interact with people and in my experiences our local community is pretty awesome!

Board Games are a great way to interact with people and in my experiences our local community is pretty awesome!

The Evolving Enigma That Continues to Vex:

I adore puzzles and the analysis and attempts to solve complex challenges in an optimal fashion. Amazingly talented individuals sit for months to create these evolving sandboxes for board gamers to play in, to bend and tweak within a set of instructional frameworks. With clear goals for victory from the start and a myriad of options, you get to define your method for being crowned victor. It’s like putting together a jigsaw tapestry by identifying the best pieces to start with and a method for getting the masterpiece in a pristine state in a limited time….. except there are three other people trying to put together the same copy of the puzzle at the same time.

Game of Thrones has so many variables with expanding decks and unseen combinations with new players and evolving card draws

Game of Thrones has so many variables with expanding decks and unseen combinations with new players and evolving card draws

Every time I play a board game it’s a strategic problem solving exercise that trigger the receptors in my brain. Relying on previous experiences of the same system, you’d expect veterans to triumph each game, but with other (and often new and different) players is it ever truly the same game? Board games can ask you to analyse an instance of deception in players from social cues, try and plan for possible player advances 40 minutes from now or simply urge you to analyse the here and now and make snap judgments throwing caution to the wind! From setting verbal landmines to catch your adversary in a lie, crunching complex mathematical certainties in two rounds through to trying to crack a gaming system hell bent on breaking your spirits (I’m looking at you Eldritch Horror), board games offer me the opportunity to flex my grey cells. I’d like to tell you a story of how an intricate game of Kemet gave me the upper hand in business negotiations but I’d be opening myself up to unfavourable judgment from Anubis and offering my heart to Ammit. The practice of solving dynamic complexities , often involving other people’s intentions however cannot be dismissed as a useless skill.

ARFB – (Always Remove From Box)

With such unique themes and beautiful boards and components, its hard to resist collecting more.

With such unique themes and beautiful boards and components, its hard to resist collecting more.

Board games are beautiful and meaningful parts of my life. They’re a retail therapy source for when I’ve had a rough week and can look forward to a new order arriving. They’re a beautiful splay of colour across my dining room table when opened and a (currently small) yet satisfying collection on my shelves. I tie games to individuals I’ve shared moments with while playing competing in cerebral duels or created a hive mind that we hoped would assure us of victory. I’ve built homes for cards where I decided their original cardboard failed to display their splendour and lovingly brought print and play games to life with hours of searching for quality printers, cutting them to correct proportions and even rounding the edges so that they are as close to retail quality. I’ve spent hours thinking about how to paint my miniatures to show off their best angles, of designing a table to seat friends around in the evenings and even built dice trays and towers to enhance my enjoyment of the hobby. I’ll research what games I’d like to add that are coming out fresh from the printing press on what seems like a daily basis with one eye, while keeping the other open for specials, secondhand sales or back-orders. It’s the hobby for me that allows me to create new items, curate a collection to share with other gamers and dream more than any person should in a 24 hour period.

Its great to unwind with a simple word game at the end of a long working day

Its great to unwind with a simple word game at the end of a long working day

Free Parking

Away from all the stress and strain of modern living, this hobby allows me a space to unwind and relax in an oasis. When time travelling to French Asylums around the turn of century with a mission to save the world you can’t possibly think about reports due on the 11th of who-cares 2000-and-what and while watching an opposing Guild member roll multiple exploding crits in Arcadia Quest, Grom using the Skull-Crusher(tm) to turn your Mage into giblets, you wont be worried about the increases to the fuel levy. In game worlds, I’m not simply distracted by the analytical deconstruction of strategies but also by the magical worlds that are created in my mind through the totems we place on the table when gaming. If video games (“passive”) experience on the imagination are akin to movies, then board games are some of the greatest novels ever written as love letters to gamers around the world. With art and components that immerse your mind in a setting for you to explore and written words that are incorporated in some thematic titles, I often feel a connection to board games that whisk me away from my every day life. When not thematic, gaming offers me a focal point to indulge in that makes me turn off everything else if only for a few hours. And oh, what precious hours those are.

These are some of the few reasons I play board games. On a distinct personal note (ed: This has ALL been a personal note) I’ve met some of the most amazing people through the hobby, a couple of whom have become my closest friends and even spurred me to create Cardboard Quest with them. It’s only through them, and this great hobby, that I’ve been able to share this site, and my stories with you. For that I owe this hobby more than I could possibly ever give back that, but that’s not going to stop me trying.

  • gamesbook

    _”Discovering board games around 4 years back…”_

    Comments like this make me realise how privileged I have been to have had board games in my life for 40 years; and to have seen it grow from an extremely tiny niche hobby to fully-fledged niche hobby!

    • Stuart McGarrick

      Yeah, I’m still a young’n when it comes to the hobby gaming market. I played rummikub, monopoly, cluedo and backgammon with family, but never got to see the full market. The growth of the hobby and community is really something to be cherished 🙂