Board Games Reifying Social Connection
These past few weeks have been a surreal bad dream, but I have found solace in pulling myself away from my computer, my Nintendo Switch, or the television, whichever I was using to deaden my brain for a brief time (an important part of protecting our health too), and then breaking out a board game to play with my partner or with our friends over Zoom. Honestly the need for an activity that didn't require any screens (or no more than one Zoom screen for seeing our friends' faces) and allowed us to engage in a very immediate way was the original impetus that drove me and my partner, Josh, to start collecting board games in the first place. As much as we love video games, we needed some form of present and immediate interaction that I think the simulated worlds of video games are often unable to provide by the very nature of their medium. They are always immediately removed by several layers from our experience--they are always immediately mediated. They are a wonderful escape in their way and often a medium rife with amazing storytelling and world-building, but they also helps us to negate the outside world and our immediate social connections to an extent in a way that can be alienating in high doses, depending on a wide variety of factors, which I can't entirely cover here.
The physicality of board games is certainly more immediate in a very literal way, but the actual rules and systems involved in a board game require our brains to process and function. In a sense we become the processor for the programs and systems of the game. In this way, board games seem to engage us in a special way that is differentiated from video games by this sense of presentness. When we play board games with other people, we engage in these meaning-making and system running functions with another person. Regardless of a game's competitive or cooperative nature, players still work together to enforce rules and engage in a game's specific systems, giving them weight and doing some world-making for the game.