Board Games: 5 Reasons They're Good for You
"Board games? Oh yeah, I've played the one that lets you try to buy up all the properties and force everyone else into bankruptcy."
When you ask the average Joe or Judy if they've ever played a board game before, the typical responses include Monopoly, The game of Life, or even Risk. Occasionally someone will throw in some party game they played at a family gathering.
You'll also receive an amalgam of exciting or painful memories of said experiences. It could be their win/loss record, playing with competitive people, cards were thrown because of anger management issues, the list goes on. But the one constant is that almost everyone has had some experience playing a tabletop game.
I personally grew up playing in this cardboard jungle. As a youngster playing Monopoly, I can remember always trying to land on Boardwalk and Park Place because I knew I was going to be rolling in the dough if another player landed there. As time went on (and I grew up and had more responsibilities) I lost interest and moved onto things far more intriguing like dating.
But now in recent years, with the massive influx of newer board games such as the timeless Settlers of Catan or the modern classic Ticket to Ride, I've found myself hearing the call of the wild back to the jungle. For the past five years since jumping back into the hobby, I've discovered so many wonderful benefits just from sitting around with a group of friends and family vying for the win. The purpose of this hub is to show how playing board games can actually better your life in various ways.
What board or card games are you most familiar with or even have played the most?
1. A better social life.
With the wide swath of social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter connecting billions of people around the globe, common thought is that our social lives should be more robust than ever. Sadly, many scientific studies on the epidemic of loneliness and depression in our society say that this couldn't be further from the truth. If we're honest, more people feel more disconnected from each other than ever before.
Face it, when's the last time you've walked through the mall or sat down in a restaurant and didn't notice a group of people spending time together with their faces lit up by phone screens?
Benefit of gaming:
Board games force face-to-face interaction with other human beings. Your social life no longer consists of tweets, pics, and likes. It is now filled with conversation and eye contact. No longer are you some lifeless avatar behind a screen, you're now free to be the real imperfect you in front of a very real group of imperfect people having a great time with one another. This will not only teach you some very much needed social skills, but also you can make some great friends in the process.
I personally have a group of folks that I get together with a few times a month for a game night. I have made a few close friends through this that I may not have met otherwise.
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2. You'll find an enjoyable new hobby.
For many years, board gaming has been what's considered a niche hobby. It was something only "those nerds" played, so it wasn't worth some people's time.
My how the times are changing. A cardboard atomic bomb has dropped on the planet in recent years and now gaming conventions are rivaling some of the biggest movie and comic book conventions.
From big trade shows like GenCon here in America, to the gigantic Essen convention in Germany, gaming has had an absolute explosion in popularity unlike the hobby has ever seen.
Youtube shows such as Tabletop and The Dice Tower serve to highlight just how much of a mainstream phenomenon board gaming has become in our culture today.
Game nights are beginning to be a cultural norm all across the world as family and friends gather around the table to engage in (hopefully) nonviolent cardboard battles.
3. Games teach common sense.
Huh? Common sense?
Yes, you read that correctly. If you look at the myriad of titles available, many of these deal with themes such as economics, business, trade, fairness, etc. With these, there are many mechanics built in that deal with consequences. It reminds me of something I call the unbendable law from the Bible and it's at work in so many games:
Galatians 6:7 “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”
There are consequences for your actions, plain and simple. The reason this law is unbendable is that you can't avoid it no matter how hard you try. A great wisdom principle for all of us to remember.
If you plant good seed, you'll normally get a good crop. If you plant bad seeds, there's a great chance you'll harvest a bad crop. Simply put, if you make good and wise decisions, you'll normally receive great rewards. If you make dumb, foolish decisions, you'll normally receive a fool's reward.
Life and games operate in the same way. You can't turn the consequences spigot off, frankly speaking, there is no switch. If you play wisely, there's a great chance you'll do well in the game, if you do the opposite......well you get the idea.
Games teach you to take responsibility for what you do. Consequences are a necessary thing. You can choose to learn from them and ultimately it will help you make better decisions in life as a whole.
4. You will learn how to plan for the future.
One thing that is prevalent in the more recent crop of titles is the resource management aspect. Titles like Le Havre can teach you what it takes to run a business, while rewarding long term strategy that's focused on investing for the future. It's also very interesting that the game penalizes you with debt if you don't manage well.
I would fall asleep in economics class, but if they showed it to me within this kind of format, I would be very intrigued and might actually pass the course.
While Le Havre is a bit on the heavy side of things, games like Stone Age and Settlers of Catan offer this concept without the excessive brain hurt that could turn off newer gamers to the hobby.
5. They teach you more about yourself.
"Wow, I didn't realize the strength I had until I flipped the table after losing."
Competition has a wonderful way of confronting a person's pride.
The reactions that come out of us as human beings in tense situations can often be humorous and sometimes downright sad. I've personally witnessed a 6'4 guy who is normally very jovial threaten to punch the lights out on a guy who was about 5'8 because he didn't like a move the guy made. While it was partially in jest, you could tell there was a strong competitive spirit in the room.
We men can tend to start barking at each other like a group of drunken pirates who are a little too high on testosterone. Admittedly, it lends itself somewhat to how we are wired, but there is something to be said for having good self-control.
Cooperative board games such as Pandemic are a wonderful alternative to the more competitive options out there. In this case, you are a group of scientists traveling around the globe trying to eradicate 4 diseases before they turn into a worldwide pandemic. You have to work together and pool your strengths to win the game. While it's an intense scenario, you realize that you're not against each other but are there to support the team. Because of this you learn fairly quickly who the leaders and followers are.
There are some of us that are much better at leading and giving direction to the rest of the team, while some are better at taking orders and doing a checklist of tasks. As a person, your strengths and weaknesses are exposed more so to you than anyone else. This opens up opportunities to break out of your shell and learn to overcome these weaknesses and to appreciate the strengths you have.
An honorable mention.
I know I know, it's really the sixth benefit but I was so fixated on all the others that I almost forgot this one.
Games are a great way to wind down from a hard day. You want to get stress off, pop out a fun party game with some friends. You'll be howling with laughter and it gets you away from reality for a short time.
I hope this has encouraged you to give games another look. There are many benefits to be had as well as social skills to be learned. I know I've grown as a person just from fellowship with the people around the table. I hope you will benefit as well. Get out there and start gaming!