I wrote this post about a year after and a half after I got into board gaming.
Board gaming is a really cool subculture. It's also a bit odd. If you're new (and even if you're not), here are a few of the lessons I've learned.
1. The gaming community is like every other community.
I studied Intercultural Studies in college. My major professor — an incredible man named Chuck Sturms — warned us early and often about other cultures. There are good people in every culture, and there are bad people in every culture. Yes, this means (take a deep breath now) there are even bad Canadians. I met one. Once.
The same goes for gamers.
In fact, gaming is its own whole crazy subculture, and at first you may want to stay away from it entirely. That’s a great idea, but you might not be able to sustain it forever. Eventually you’ll want to see a game before you buy it, so you’ll go into a store. Or you’ll look up a game and run into a human online in the process.
When this happens, ignore the mean people. Be nice to the awkward ones, but don’t feel obligated to talk to them for hours. (This includes me sometimes. I really like games. I can get a bit evangelistic and thoroughly nerdy about them, especially because I don’t have a regular gaming group or a local game store. So when I get around other people who like games … Sorry.)
And don’t even get me started on game snobs. Okay, do.
2. Pay no attention to the people who can’t see the Monopoly board because their noses are in the air.
There are all kinds of people — me included — who will tell you why a game is superior or inferior.
They dismiss games like Monopoly, Munchkin, Trivial Pursuit or (fill in the blank with the name of a game you love) __________.
They have their reasons.
Some of them, like me, are less blatant. If I were to tell you about RoboRally, for example, I would tell you all the reasons I hate that game. I would use words like frustrating, stupid, agonizing, and on and on. Then I would say something like, “It’s not a bad game if you like preprogramming, but it’s not for me.”
Of course, what I’ve just told you is this is the game for you if you like frustrating, stupid, agonizing games. I have judged you.
What you don’t know (though you may have gathered) is that I’m not very good at RoboRally. That was an exaggeration. If I entered a RoboRally tournament with monkeys, I would come in dead last.
Being snobbish about it makes me feel better. It’s the game, not me.
That’s not always the reason people don’t like games. It’s not my only (or usually main) reason. But if people don’t give you solid reasons why they don’t like a game, or feel compelled to look down on you because you do, don’t play games with them. They sound awful.
3. Do not under any circumstances let rude or impatient people teach you a game.
My first few plays of any game used to be just short of miserable. I didn’t catch on that fast. I've gotten a bit better, but I'm still not the ultimate gamer.
So why do I review games? I love them, and once I do catch on, I’m pretty competitive.
But if you’re like me — and if you’re a new gamer, you very well may be — a bad learning experience can turn you off from what might otherwise be a good game.
I am reminded of trying to learn Pinochle in college. A woman I didn’t know well decided that I could and should learn Pinochle. I didn’t grow up playing cards (don’t let me go off on a weird religious tangent here), and the only game I knew well was Spades. This woman went into a very quick explanation, then tried to “teach” me by insulting my decisions.
I’ve never played Pinochle since.
Could I learn it? Sure. Do I want to? No.
That was almost 20 years ago. My teacher probably doesn’t remember it — or me, for that matter — but I do.
Choose your teachers carefully.
4. Gaming can make you feel poor.
My husband and I started gaming with Settlers of Catan, but we rarely played unless we were with his family, who fondly named the game Dougopia in honor of our brother-in-law, who always wins.
A semi-local bookstore (we live 20 miles from pretty much anywhere) had a few games on their shelves. We decided to try Carcassonne.
Game snobs will tell you this game is too simple and too random to be a truly good game. I feel sorry for them. If you’ve always played Eurogames, you may not realize what a revelation tile-laying is to someone who grew up playing Uno and Aggravation (which is seriously the worst board game name ever). Carcassonne blew me away with how cool it was to build the board as you play.
I know it’s not that groundbreaking now, but it was to me. And that’s the fun of gaming.
But I digress.
We didn’t buy many more games until we started doing foster care. That meant no more going out at night and on weekends by ourselves. (It’s not as easy as hiring the teenager down the street for us.) We started using our entertainment budget on games. We got our tax return and bought a few more games.
A year and half later, we have what everyone in our lives considers a lot of games, but at a collection of about 50, it seems small compared with people on The Board Game Group on Facebook and other users on Board Game Geek.
I regularly see pictures of people who have bought five or more games at a time. People talk about the number of games in their collection that they haven’t played (and many of them have more unplayed games than I have total).
My husband is a public school teacher; I stay home with two little kids. Our budget is nowhere near what some of these people’s is.
Sometimes I don’t feel like a real gamer because I haven’t played every designer, I back very few Kickstarters, and during tight months I don’t buy a game at all.
But that’s silly. I’m a gamer because I love games. Buy games you love when you can and if you want to. Leave the peer pressure to other people.