"When someone tells you something defies description, you can be pretty sure he's going to have a go at it anyway." --Clyde B. Aster
I figured I'd have a go at describing how I was unhappy with doing what I'd always done and wanted to be somewhere other than where I was at. Clear? Right.
I grew up in northern Indiana with parents that weren't gamers by any means and an older sister (7 years) who'd outgrown playing with her young annoying brother. My parents would play an occasional game of Euchre and when I got older, an occasional game of Uno when we traveled to my aunt and uncle's house.
My father did play chess and taught me how the pieces moved and for that I'm very thankful. He even went through a phase where he bought a stand-alone chess 'appliance' in which you programmed the difficulty level and physically moved your pieces on its attached board. As you unplugged and plugged your pegged pieces into the board it would register your movement, think a bit, and then light up lights to indicate where to physically manipulate the board to reflect its move. He played it pretty religiously until he determined that it was stressing him out. To this day, he shies away from playing boardgames of any complexity because he associates the stress he felt in the past with all boardgames in general. I'm also probably not going out on a limb to say that he feels that gaming is for him, at best, a frivolous activity.
My mother loved game shows and plays Euchre and other card games rather well. She's an avid crossword puzzle fanatic and loves word and number puzzles of all kinds. However, put a game of Carcassonne in front of her and she'll head for the hills.
I didn't play very many games growing up. I had the standard Christmas-fare Monopoly, Clue, and Battleship but I never played them with my parents. When I did play with friends, we rarely played them correctly with most games petering out after a few turns as we got bored and incorporated G.I. Joe or the loop of a Hot Wheels track into the game. By the time I entered high school, I associated games with stressful situations and I honestly had trouble handling being on the losing end for fear of appearing weak. I associated winning with being manly and strong (whatever that means) and it was better to avoid situations in which you might be proved inferior.
My wife is one of 9 kids and gaming held a much larger role in her early life than in mine. Her family played cards and other boardgames and with so many siblings around, it wasn't hard to find opponents. With so many sessions under your belt, the built-in competitive nature of siblings, and living on a farm where there wasn't a lot to do after hours, you quickly learn to either like or dislike games. Luckily, my wife came down on the side of liking games. When we were dating (high school sweethearts), we'd periodically play games and she'd drag me into them. I really disliked them. Hated them is a little strong but I really didn't want to have anything to do with them...especially in front of my girlfriend. How emasculating to lose! I know...pretty silly. I was only 16 and I didn't know much even though I thought I knew everything.
Fast forward 25 years and I've come to realize that it was all a silly misconception; a misalignment of perception. The toughest aspect for me to tackle was that games can be great fun and a rewarding experience...even when you lose. Winning or losing has nothing to do with perceived 'manliness'. I like to win and experience a small rush of adrenaline when I feel the game in my clutches (a rare event mind you) but I'm really in it for the social experience, the novelty of an interesting hobby, and the opportunities it creates for my children. My children are still young (10 and 12) and gaming provides a fantastic opportunity for bonding, enhancing mental skills, learning how to make decisions (and living with the impacts of them). Gaming gets us away from the computer and if we had a television in the house, it would get us away from that as well.
Like I said, these pieces tend to be overly long and boring but I highly recommend board gaming with your family and friends. Don't drag the stubborn mule that was me to the table but help show them that board gaming is a fun and rewarding experience even in the face of losing.
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a good-bye.
Teach your children well,
Their father's hell did slowly go by.
And feed them on your dreams,
The one they pick's, the one you'll know by.
Eurogames, Boardgames, Family, Kids,