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The Importance of Game Night

07/03/2013

When I was a kid, I was fascinated…obsessed with my mom’s D&D pewter miniatures. Hobbits (well, Halflings, technically), Dwarves, Orcs, Human Warriors…all replicated in stunning detail. As a teenager, I played marathon games of Risk, table-flipping sessions of Monopoly (seriously – the only board game I legitimately loathe), and year-long adventures in pen & paper games where I was an elven archer, a plasma manipulating super-hero, and a disc jockey Toreador vampire. As an adult, I strive to have the longest train route in Ticket To Ride, to keep my sanity in Arkham Horror, to fight a super-powered battle with Heroclix, and to be the most offensive and outrageous in Cards Against Humanity.

I, in short, am and always have been a gamer. I love the idea of people being able to sit together and dismiss the real world for minutes or hours at a time and simply lose themselves in fun. And before you ask, yes, I most assuredly play video games – however, my adventures in video games and the gaming industry will have to wait for another time.

The reason I’m bringing up gaming is because games are the great equalizer – they can be used in any situation. I’ve played Cards Against Humanity with people I’ve known for years, and with people I’ve known for hours. Tsuro can be used to level a playing field between adults and children, bridging generational gaps with the simple eloquence of ‘follow the path.’ Chess can be played in a deep, long drawn out strategy session, or in a rapid fire, how-the-heck-did-she-think-of-that-move game of speed chess. Heck, even something like the Angry Birds board games can be used to take out frustrations from the day in a satisfying catharsis of destroyed piggies.

My point is, games are important. While it’s simple to just look at a game as a distraction to our most base need to compete, I think it’s something much more than that. A game can satisfy nearly every emotion, every craving. Need to dominate a trivia obsessed know-it-all friend? Break out Scene It. Having your girlfriend over to your parents place for the first time, and want to break the ice? Phase 10. Teaching math to a struggling youngster? Sequence. Need to socialize – like, really, truly socialize – and have your friends over once a week? D&D.

I play games because they provide the basest sense of joy and happiness. When my friend Charles left town to move to Chicago, the last thing he did was play a game of Arkham Horror. The first thing we did when he moved back was to do the same…it was a way for us to let him know that, no matter what, he was part of our ‘Ohana, and we’ll always have a spot for him at our table. As the night was winding down, we began planning our next game night, and began deciding what games we would play.

Every Friday night, I judge a game called HeroClix at my local comic book shop in Longwood, Florida. We started out with three people – all of which were my friends. In the four months I’ve been doing it, I’ve seen our group grow to around 15 regulars, ranging from the ultra-competitive, to a fantastic couple that I proudly now consider friends, to a father and his sons who use it as a chance to bond. I get to watch all of these people come together every week for three hours, for no other reason than to socialize and roll some dice. And the beautiful thing about it is that it’s all done in good nature – even the most ultra competitive people in my group will gladly play against a newbie, knowing that they won’t win the overall prize that night, but instead will share the joy of rolling dice and making plastic superheroes battle. I watch these players simply play, and it fills me with happiness.

I can think of no better way to enjoy the game of life than to play games, and to play them with the people you care about and treasure. After all, Neil Gaiman said it very well in his novel American Gods: “I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you’re alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”

Jay Malone

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