Funky Town & Board Game Evangelism

I’ve been struggling a bit with the direction of this blog. I started over 5 years ago (at times it feels like 20) and I had no idea what to write about. I’ve rarely had focus across the 1200+ postings. I’ve written about family, tech widgets, life pros & cons, board gaming, Mini Coopers, and the odd curves life throws at you. I’ve dabbled in photography, tie-dyed shirts (still doing that btw), pictures of other people’s game shipments, woodworking, and online game implementations. But, I’m finding I’m a bit lost on how to proceed. I am a bit blocked. I’m in funky town.

It’s not like I have less to write about. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I’ve got lots of things I could write about but I’m feeling lazy. Pictures and comments I would normally upload to the blog, I’ve just been posting with little context in an album on Facebook where I get more feedback. Do people even read “macro” blogs any more? Do tweets, Facebooks, MySpaces, and other “micro” blogs satisfy the A.D.D. crowd these days. Is my blog a dinosaur that missed the news about the life-killing meteor?

So, to get myself up and out of this blogging funk, I thought I’d talk up some game evangelism. Maybe somebody will find it through a Google search and find some good in it…or maybe not.

As I’ve mentioned numerous times before, I didn’t grow up playing board games. In fact, I didn’t like them. I actively avoided playing games. I didn’t see the fun in them. Playing a game was very stressful. I’m convinced that I subconsciously felt that the cerebral battle of the game was roughly equivalent to a medieval joust…a test of manliness…something where the amount of chest hair mattered. If you lost you were a failure…a wuss. I’d always done well academically. In fact, I found most cerebral activity relatively easy to comprehend. I have a knack (I think I do anyway) for being able to visualize intangible and abstract concepts and hold them steady in my mind’s eye. I’m convinced that’s what drove me towards computer science. I “see” the data structures and how abstracts concepts interact with one another within running software. Design is just documenting what you “see”. However, even with this “ability” I usually found myself on the losing end of games. And that got under my skin.

It wasn’t until long after college and long after being exposed to people from all walks of life, that I realized that people are wired in all kinds of ways that may or may not make them a winning gamer. Being “smart” helps, but how much effort you’re willing to put into a game and how you naturally come by your “smartness”, your wiring so to speak, has more to do with winning than your IQ. And that got me thinking…what’s up with this winning thing anyway. Sure I want to win, but more importantly, I just want to play moderately well in the company of friends. And when you get right down to it, I’d take playing poorly with a good company of friends over playing well in the company of jerks…even “smart” jerks.

Playing games has made me a better gamer. If I had to estimate, I’ve played upwards of 250 different card and board games. After a while, the rules of a new game become relatively easy to absorb. However, rarely am I the “lucky guy” that wins a new game on his first play. I’m not usually one to quickly grok a viable strategy and stick to it. I usually fumble around a bit, play by my gut, change tactics, notice that I’ve been painted into a corner (many times due to my own ineptness), etc. but I always have fun bringing up the rear. I have my moments and sometimes win but usually I’m somewhere in the middle or bringing up the rear…and I’m okay with that.

In contemplating my attitude towards gaming I’ve come to the realization that I enjoy teaching a game as much as playing it. More specifically, I enjoy teaching a new game to new gamers…gamers that are hungry to learn more games. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have a fantastic time with my more “hard core” gaming group. We’re all relatively seasoned gamers and will play most anything (well…a play time of more than, say, 90 minutes is probably pushing the limits of tolerance). We have a healthy and fun degree of competition and enjoy each other’s company. It feels more like a “guy’s night” of poker and not a cerebral jousting match.

But I am, in some ways, more excited about another group I’m trying to keep afloat: my “gathering of friends” group. The group, although “seeded” from some of my regular group, includes spouses and friends that are not gamers but are willing to give it a shot. I’ve made several specific game purchases for this group in hopes of rounding out my collection to suit the entire spectrum of games from the heady, brain-burning strategic games to the more light-weight, more luck-driven, table games. My motivation for the group is selfish in that I really just like to spend time teaching games to a group of friends that don’t necessarily have something in common and I like that games can provide a backdrop, a structure for some lasting relationships.

Okay…after writing all of this I realize I strayed from evangelism and mostly into blathering but I don’t feel as funky as I did at the start so bear with me. I’ll leave you with, what I hope, is a feel good story. During one session of my “gathering of friends” group, the spouse of one of my “serious” gamer friends approached me, pulled me aside, and quietly yet profusely thanked me for getting her husband into gaming. Her husband, mind you, since becoming involved with me has purchased some 40 or 50 board games and quite frankly may have shopping issues 🙂 so I was actually taken aback by her comment. She continued that since he’s been gaming, they’ve spent more time in the evenings playing games as a couple and they’ve spent more time with their extended family having them over for “game nights” and for that they’ve grown closer as a couple and they’ve become stronger as a family.

Well, you’re more than welcome and I hope it continues.

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