Five years ago, my experience with board games was mostly limited to childhood memories of fraught Monopoly games and my older brother desperately trying to get me to play Risk.
I was a pretty avid card player, mainly thanks to my fantastic grandmother (who still plays Bridge aged 92). My favourite trick was nonchalantly announcing “I’m going out” in Canasta when no one was prepared for it, much to my family’s annoyance.
But once I got older I rarely played games other than with the family at Christmas. When I met Glenn – that’s one of the guys who run this site (the one who sometimes sounds like Danny Dyer in the Gist videos but, luckily, not in real life) – it was fair to say that I was ‘Not A Gamer’.
I can’t remember the first things we played – it might have been that common gateway drug, Cards Against Humanity – but gradually over time I began to realise that a) I did like games and b) there were so many more in the world that didn’t just involve answering obscure general knowledge questions from the ’90s or trying to guess that my brother’s “drawing” was an elephant (disclaimer: I do still have a secret soft spot for Pictionary).Yet for a long time I still wouldn’t have admitted I was into games – partly because it took a while to twig that it was a thing I actually liked, but also partly because I was afraid that people would judge me.
Until more recently, being into board games was – let’s face it – not very ‘cool’. Others would say it was nerdy or weird or meant you probably didn’t have any “normal” friends.
I never liked the stereotype but it is a weakness of mine that I definitely do care what people think and even more so when I was 23. So I feared admitting I liked games would mean people making a whole lot of assumptions about me. One of my other hobbies is pole dancing, so it’s not like that’s an entirely new experience.
These days, I still wouldn’t describe myself as a hardcore ‘gamer’ but I definitely am, unashamedly, into games. And there are more and more people like me, discovering the joys of games and the many, many that exist.
I think games like Cards Against Humanity are partly the reason. It’s very well known, accessible and avoids some of the stigma because it’s ‘naughty’ and not about goblins or orcs (it does have other issues, but that’s for another day).
But I also think people are increasingly looking for more interesting and memorable things to do: experiences. Just take a look at the rise in escape rooms and activities like Secret Cinema.
Playing board games is just that. It’s incredibly sociable. Games bring you all together around a table, much like a meal, and make you talk to each other rather than endlessly scrolling through Instagram on your phone. They create laughter, rage, in-jokes and memories. They bring people together.
A few months ago I started a new job. On my first day, I joined the weekly tabletop group. Believe me, there is no better way to get to know your colleagues than spending a couple of hours teaming up and accusing each other of being werewolves.
We play games with our families and friends too and I’ve found that once people play them, they get hooked as well. My mum now asks to play “the shark game” (Survive) every time we see each other. We got my cool teenage cousins into King of Tokyo. I have friends who never played games now buying them regularly.
So I guess the moral of the story is this: if you think you might like games, just try ‘em out with some friends. Don’t be scared. It’s not all zombies and elves and spending five hours on a hardcore strategy after an hour of rules-learning (there’s that too if you want it of course!)
There are so many fantastic games out there now, in all different styles and themes – that’s what this site’s all about. So find one you like the look of and try it out – and if you like it, tell other people to try it too. And don’t be shy, it’s cool now 😉