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Taking Turns

Essays
  • Essays
  • Home is Where the Board Games Are

Home is Where the Board Games Are

O Updated
(Photo by edgeeffectmedia.com on Unsplash)
There Will Be Games

I feel that the board game hobby is great and that our community is wonderful. Board games bring like-minded people together. I know, nothing is ever perfect and we can't ignore the bad actors, but on the whole, board game people, if I may address you all this way, are great folk. Playing board games is my happy place and I feel very much at home whenever I see board games.

It's always lovely to see when your hobby becomes more mainstream and is accepted by society as something normal, rather than odd and nerdy. I know, some of us are proud to be seen as nerds, or rather as board game nerds to be more precise, and that's great. At the same time, being seen as an outsider or outcast isn't so nice. I do feel that board games used to be seen as weird, but not in a good way. So it's good to see it's changing for the better.

Come On In

Given that the board game hobby has been, and to some extent still is, more of a nerdy thing means that the people in the community have each other's back. Our nerdiness has created a close-knit community. Again, I know that's not completely true. I'm not blind to the toxic behaviour that's still happening and needs to stop, but in this article, I want to focus on the positives.

So, when my wife, daughter and I walked into the Thirsty Meeples cafe in Oxford and saw so many tables all of which had happy people sitting around them, playing board games together, I immediately felt at home. I felt I could walk up to any of the tables, say hello and ask them about their game or ask for a game recommendation. Of course, I didn't do that, because I didn't want to intrude on the happy time these people were enjoying in each other's company.

Instead, we sat down and waited for one of the wonderful "game gurus" to come over and help us choose a game. We ordered our drinks and some food and got playing. We felt safe, surrounded by like-minded people, all of whom were having fun. There was such positive energy all around. The huge variety of games on all the tables was amazing. It was just glorious.

When I came back from a quick comfort break, wearing my meeple mask, of course, one of the other guests saw me and told me how much they liked the mask. It was really wonderful.

Board Game Events

Thinking about going to Airecon 2022, the first in-person board game convention I attended after the UK had first gone into lockdown, was an anxious time. I didn't know what to expect and how I would feel being so close to so many people in an enclosed space.

Of course, it all turned out fine.

The event organizers did everything they could to make people feel comfortable. You had to show a COVID pass or negative test, wear your mask, unless exempt or sitting down to play and there was plenty of ventilation, hand sanitiser stations and everything else.

I felt really at home at the convention and was able to see so many of the people I previously only knew via social media. I loved talking to them, getting a demo of their game or generally catching up with people. Everyone was friendly and everyone wanted to enjoy seeing people in person again.

Board Games "In the Wild"

I also always love seeing board games when I'm out and about. Of course, board game shops and cafes will have board games, but as the hobby has become more mainstream, you start to see modern board games in other places as well. Long gone are the days when toy shops only stocked Monopoly, Clue and other classic games. Nowadays, there are many modern titles and not only Catan. Ravensburger's latest line of IP-based games has become much more commonplace in toy shops. Not only that, but modern games can now also be found in book shops, which is really amazing to see.

So it's no surprise that more and more people play games together and that our community is growing. Board games are just a lot more visible now and hopefully, there will be a self-propelling cycle of more people buying games, leading to more games being more widely available, leading to more people buying games.

Getting to Know Each Other

Board games are also a great way of connecting with people, of course. Not only do conventions allow you to make new friends through playing a board game together, but playing board games also allows us to get closer to our friends and family.

Board games are a good way to find out more about a person's character. The type of games someone likes and how they act while playing can often reveal some clues as to who they are as a person. I found this with our neighbours. The first time we played board games together, I had brought a selection, just to see what would work and what wouldn't. It didn't take long to find suitable games that everyone was happy with. Now everyone feels more at home when we play something that everyone can get really into and get the most out of.

Spead the Word

It's also nice to spread the hobby further. It didn't take long after giving my wife's brother's family a modern board game as a present that they started to ask me for suggestions on what other games they might like. Soon after that, they found games for themselves and introduced us to games we hadn't played before. Whenever we visit them now, we will play one of their games with them - and not too long ago it was us bringing games to play. So we feel right at home now.

Couples Time

Board games have also given my wife and me another way to connect with each other and spend time together. A quick game over lunch or a longer game in the evening with maybe a glass of wine is wonderful and gives us the chance to talk - either about the game or about us. I feel that our board game nights have brought us closer together. Board games can create a focal point that allows us to relax and open up.

How About You?

So what about you? Do board games also make you feel at home? What is it about the hobby that makes you feel so comfortable? Is it the games, the people or something else? As always, please share your thoughts in the comments below. I would love to hear your story.

There Will Be Games
Oliver Kinne
Oliver Kinne (He/Him)
Associate Writer

Oliver Kinne aims to publish two new articles every week on his blog, Tabletop Games Blog, and also release both in podcast form. He reviews board games and writes about tabletop games related topics.

Oliver is also the co-host of the Tabletop Inquisition podcast, which releases a new episode every three to four weeks and tackles different issues facing board games, the people who play them and maybe their industry.

Articles by Oliver Kinne

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fightcitymayor's Avatar
fightcitymayor replied the topic: #333943 28 Jun 2022 10:50
There's an interesting dichotomy in the 21st-century rise of boardgaming, and it's the idea that so many existing boardgamers reflexively assume that boardgaming is an inherently (and best as a) social exercise. BUT... look at all of the recent converts for whom boardgaming is primarily (and seen as best as) a solitary exercise. We've seen for years the familiar refrain, every time a new game is announced: "Does it have a solo mode?" And the world is now full of folks whose games will never touch another human hand other than the person who purchased the game.

It reminds me of Magic: The Gathering. Magic is as huge as it's ever been, but you have very prominent Youtubers who exist to extol the virtue of "the gathering" portion of Magic: The Gathering. But then there are collectors who barely play at all, investors who exist to wheel & deal on eBay, digital players who may never buy physical cards, much less sit across a table from someone else. Or kitchen-table Magic players who have never visited a Friday Night Magic event & only get a game in with family every so often, and don't actively seek out the social aspects of gaming. Their home is at home, and no energy is gained from the external community aspects.

Different strokes for different folks.
the_jake_1973's Avatar
the_jake_1973 replied the topic: #333944 28 Jun 2022 12:06
My wife and I have just moved to a 55+ community despite neither of us meeting the age requirement. I am looking forward to being this vanguard of 'new gaming' down here. Having so many potential players is a relatively small area who are also willing to be social may be a boon. There are also some closeted grognards in the area who were AH devotees in the past and hadn't found many players in a heavily golf-centric community. It will be good to engage with them as well. Exciting times!
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #333945 28 Jun 2022 12:30

the_jake_1973 wrote: My wife and I have just moved to a 55+ community despite neither of us meeting the age requirement. I am looking forward to being this vanguard of 'new gaming' down here. Having so many potential players is a relatively small area who are also willing to be social may be a boon. There are also some closeted grognards in the area who were AH devotees in the past and hadn't found many players in a heavily golf-centric community. It will be good to engage with them as well. Exciting times!


You may have trouble getting them to modernize from Tactics II to . . . Panzer Blitz. But stay with it!
stormseeker75's Avatar
stormseeker75 replied the topic: #333946 28 Jun 2022 12:48

the_jake_1973 wrote: My wife and I have just moved to a 55+ community despite neither of us meeting the age requirement.


You are living my best life, sir!
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #333948 28 Jun 2022 13:38
My own perception of this hobby has gone through stages.

In the late '70s/early '80s, any board game that wasn't a mainstream family board game like Monopoly or Clue felt like this special secret that my friends and a few other people knew about. There were two local gaming shops, but there were never in-store events back then, and usually few customers at any given moment. The only sense of a larger gaming community came from reading magazines like Dragon and The Space Gamer.

I went to my first GenCon in 1982, and that was an amazing experience. I think there might have been 2,000 people there, but it still felt like a relatively small and special thing. I got an autograph from Gary Gygax. I played in a Gamma World tournament run by Jim Ward. I played a game with Steve Perrin. I shook hands with Steve Jackson and showed him a prototype game that I was working on. I got autographs from Jack Herman and Jeff Dee. I played in an rpg session run by Bill Willingham. I felt like I was part of a community.

I went to my next GenCon in 1993, and that was a different experience. Much larger attendance, with masses of people constantly circulating about the convention grounds. This was the first time that I noticed a hygiene problem with gamers, and that the bathrooms got more disgusting as the four-day convention continued. Still had a great time playing in various events. Noticed a colorful little Magic card game that a lot of people were playing.

After 1993, local gaming shops embraced Magic and encouraged in-store play. The stores were often busy and sometimes even crowded. I went to GenCon several more times in the '90s, and it was getting bigger and busier each year. It became difficult to just buy generic tickets and show up at events in hopes of getting a seat, and it also became more difficult to find an open table to play your own games. The hobby started feeling less like a community and more like a mainstream form of entertainment. However, it was encouraging to see growing numbers of women and minorities at both GenCon and the gaming stores.

My last GenCon was 2003, the first one in Indianapolis, where I grew up. Despite my familiarity, the vast convention site seemed bland and corporate, and the attendance seemed to hit a new high now that GenCon was in a more central location. There was a vast open gaming area where I spent much of the convention, but I ended up spending half my time at a friend's house about 2 miles from the convention center. He got a keg just before GenCon and hosted a four-day house party for all his gaming friends.

Since then, I have done a fair amount of in-store gaming with friends and acquaintances, especially at the large, clean, nice Fantasy Flight Event Center (now known as GameZenter or something like that). I am aware that there are also several local coffee shops that offer a large selection of board games for their patrons to play, and one of those even has a (non-gaming) speakeasy-style bar in the basement.

The pandemic has left me mostly playing solitaire games, with some occasional 2-player gaming with close friends who are vaccinated. My girlfriend left me a year ago, so I have been doing the online dating thing for nearly a year now, and have gone on a dozen dates. It has been a pleasant surprise to see that some women list boardgaming under their interests on their dating profiles, but I have yet to actually connect with any of them. Two of them were really attractive. One looked like a blonde Minka Kelly and the other looked like a black Natalie Wood.

So I see good and bad aspects to the growing popularity of board games. On the balance, it is probably better now because it's easier to find players. But I do miss that feeling of belonging that I felt at GenCon '82.