Why I Play Boardgames

Catan - Close Up

My Dad is a retired policeman.  Just around the time personal computers were first made available, he was injured in the line of duty and received a compensation payout.  Newly married, finances were tight and the payout was significant.  He went straight out and blew it all on his first computer: the TRS-80.  My Mum wasn’t happy!

Once I realised that you could play games on this machine though, I thought my Dad had made an excellent decision!  I can still remember playing Donkey Kong and an unfortunately named side-scrolling shooter on the monochrome, green-and-black screen.  This was before the Spectrum or the IBM PC.  They didn’t even have floppy disks at that point.

Options for games were pretty limited.

You have to realise, up until then, options for games were pretty limited.  People played cards (and boy did we play a lot of cards).  We had staples like Monopoly, which always looked so exciting, but always left a bad taste in the mouth.  Who’d have thought ending most of your games in bankruptcy after spending 3-4 hours fighting to keep your business alive wouldn’t be fun?  We played parlour games (as they used to be called) like charades at Christmas, and they really were fun.

That was the extent of ‘gaming’ though.  So when actual computer games arrived on the scene, I was hooked.  Forget boardgames!  I probably spent the next 10 years playing classics like Elite, Sim City and Civilization all by my lonesome.  And I have to admit, I really enjoyed myself, which sounds rather sad now.

As I became older though, I began to miss… what was it again?  Ah yes: people.  And that’s really when I got into boardgames properly.  Settlers of Catan was pretty significant in that regard.  It didn’t take forever, losing wasn’t so punishing, and interaction between players was (for the most part) mutually beneficial (wood for sheep anyone?).

I got derailed slightly by World of Warcraft when that came along.  It was a computer game, that you could play online with real people!  Hooked again.  But after one too many guilds imploded under the weight of collective egos, and the endless grind began to wear thin, I realised that I wanted more than text-chat conversations.  I wanted actual people.  In the flesh.

I’m sure different people play games for different reasons, and I’m still partial to the odd solo gaming experience (ah, Mage Knight, how I love thee), but ultimately the reason I play games is the people I play with; it’s community.

“People before games.”

My friend Rob (who I can’t mention without also mentioning his excellent podcast, Cult of the New) always says, “People before games.”  He won’t play a game if it excludes people; he’ll find a game that the people he’s with all want to play.  And we have such a great choice of games these days that you can always do that.

It’s the interaction with others that really makes playing boardgames such a rewarding experience.  Being involved with a community of gamers at my local gaming establishment, sharing games with my family, introducing friends from other walks of life to gaming, that’s what gaming is for me now.  And I love it.

Why do you play boardgames?

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Jonathan Hicks

Jonathan is the director of Maven Games. He blogs and records podcast episodes several times a week. Whenever he isn't doing anything else, he designs games.

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