The board game effect.

I love gaming. I grew up with video games, starting all the way from the young, young age of 2 years old. Now, for some people, this might be seen as poor parenting and the rotting away of a child’s mind. WRONG. My dad bought a Sega Master System for himself, I just happened to be interested in what was going on. I learned to read at a very young age, and I understood what I was reading. You know that spell-out-the-words-so-the-kid-doesn’t-understand-you trick that parents like to do? You couldn’t put that one into use with me. My dad likes to tell stories of when I would read my alphabet book — one letter per page — and my dad would be concerned that I wasn’t following the order of the alphabet as I read out loud. It turned out that I was flipping the pages in groups and was actually reading whatever letter page I flipped to. Or the story where he tried to convince me a store was closed, but I could read the “We’re Open” sign and knew he was wrong.

I slightly digress, but the point is that my early development meant I could appreciate (or at least enjoy) video games. Not only did I fall in love with video games, but it made me want to play all kinds of games, much like any other kid growing up. I’ve always had a few board games wherever home was, and I still do now, at this very moment. I also got into POGS, Pokemon cards, classic board games, and more recently, as I’ve previously mentioned, Dungeons & Dragons. And, of course, I’ve always kept up with the latest video games, even if I never play (or even open) the newer games that I own for very long. (I always mean to get to them, just like the shelves of books and movies I’ve yet to begin.)

But there has always been something about board games that can really bring out a side of you that you may not often explore. That’s not to say that video games can’t bring out the same, especially with the evolution of online multiplayer games, but having a tactile game at a table, sitting around with friends, rolling dice and drawing cards, or drawing stuff and shouting answers has an immediacy and intimacy that you can’t quite achieve with video games. Card games can have a similar effect, but if it’s a game like poker, where there’s stakes outside of winning and losing involved, it can feel a little intimidating to the uninitiated. Board games have the ability to invite anyone to the table because of the fact that, most of the time, the stakes are just winning or losing. The only thing you really lose is time, but really, you haven’t lost any time if you enjoyed it.

I had the pleasure of finally playing a couple of games with a couple of friends at Snakes and Lattes, a board game cafe in Toronto that has recently renovated and re-arranged itself. If you’ve ever played the game “Cards Against Humanity”, chances are this cafe is where your deck came from (in Canada, at least). I love this place. The atmosphere is warm and (obviously) playful, with many cheers, hand claps, and exaggerated groans indicating clear losses or poor choices of tactics. One of my friends suggested playing “Ticket To Ride: Europe”, which I had fun playing. (I even picked up my own copy of it on the way out.) She won, but because of the atmosphere and the fun of learning a new game, we were all content with the result. We played a round of “Disney Trivial Pursuit”, which had its moments, but we found ourselves constantly drawing questions related to the few Disney movies we hadn’t ever watched. I wanted to learn how to play “Settlers of Catan”, but I kept that to myself as it was getting late at the cafe. We’ll be back, though. I’m sure of it.

A couple of years ago, Hasbro introduced (or re-introduced) the idea of family game night every week. Now, of course, this was to help them sell their board games, but it’s not a bad idea. I know I would look forward to that every week, even if it meant spending the time and money at Snakes and Lattes. It’s awesome how a few plastic pieces on printed cardboard and a couple of a dice can make you forget about your stresses of the day and gear you up to strategize and play.

Go play.

– Mickey

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