When you first think of a board game, I would not fault you if your first thought was of Monopoly, or perhaps Sorry. I would, however, question you on your imagination. While it may be true the capitalistically inclined real estate roller coaster that is Monopoly may be the most well known board game, it may very well also be the most boring.
There exists a frighteningly large and even modern sphere of gaming that only months ago I was unaware existed. For anyone that doesn’t spend hours a day keeping up with the Kardashians, you may very well understand the existence of several of sub spheres: Dungeons & Dragons is and has always been the premier role playing game, but it is not a board game. Similarly, Magic: The Gathering is a card game that has become so popular I’ve read that some lesser head of states have played and enjoyed it.
So popular have board, card and roleplaying games become that there are episodic venues on YouTube where celebrities—those people you’re so obsessed with—play these games. I first came to understand the ubiquity of board games in this very way. Though non-religious, if board gaming were a monotheistic religion, Wil Wheaton—currently the host of the Geek and Sundry sponsored Tabletop—would be it’s sole deity. Though he is not the creator of board games at large (though he did design one: Titansgrave) he is the industry’s undeniable champion. It is thanks to Wil that I discovered board gaming, and in it, a very real rekindling of friendship that I had been missing.
One semester shy of finishing my second, third and final college degrees, I’ve experienced the full gamut of the various phases of friendship. I’ve spent the long nights with comrades, tasted the second bottle—or should I say, started the second thirty pack—and enjoyed the sun rise beside them. I’ve entertained similarly existential experiences by living abroad for a summer in France, backpacked to Colorado, and partied on the beaches of Panama City Beach. These are excellent experiences and I wish them upon you, as well. The sustainability of many of these activities, however, is easily called into question when you and your comrades both see the inevitable curve in the road: graduation.
Similarly, perhaps you have already graduated, or found the paved road of your dreams without ever stepping foot inside a college class room. Good on you. You have my envy. Whatever the case may be, the truth is this: finding the time to embark on such extravagant affairs as those I listed above are not so easily accomplished within the scope of day to day life. The alternative however, is damned good. Board games.
Allow me first to defend my statement. Board games will not—cannot, truly—replace such an adventure as skiing in Colorado, or taking in the sights of Europe. They are however, fathoms better than what the predisposed alternative often is: loitering about on social media, lamenting the mere absence of such adventures. Answer this question, and you may very well find yourself better equipped to take on the presupposition of what I am asking. When was the last time your phone was off, your were among friends and comrades and you were having a reasonably wonderful time? I would not be surprised if you could not recall such a time—or, due to the generation that we live in, you can immediately recall a time of great candor because in this generation nobody is ever wrong.
I have personally found the merits of friendship much more lucrative in the addition of gathering around my kitchen table with my dearest friends and playing board games, and it is for this reason: take the standard societal constraints away, the social gravitas you and your friends maintain like a shield of armor and let them know it’s okay—if for a short while—to be themselves. I think few things do this better than board games, as many of my friends and girlfriends have attested. It is the second injunction however—turning off their cellphones—that has been truly gratifying.
Like the Matrix itself, our smartphones have become crucibles of instant connectivity. At the quite literal touch of a button someone else phone buzzes, announcing our presence, our demands, and so ingrained in our cerebellums is is the Pavlovian response to the ding! of our phones that it becomes impulse, rather than habit that drives us to keep our phones close.
Truly, when was the last time your phone was off? You can do it. I believe in you. People have lived, flourished happily even, for thousands of years without that infernal device by your side. You can do it also. I would never have the audacity to suggest you to simply disconnect without an long-term and sustainable alternative. So find it. Mine is gaming: not of the video variety, but rather of cardboard and plastic.
Find yours. Do it. Turn your fucking cellphone off.