Now, when I say gaming, I am referring more specifically to board/card gaming, because as a whole I find most video gaming, at least in regards to playing with other people online, at best a tolerable experience and at worst an utter bang-my-head-into-the-wall cry for help. People are always sleeping with each others' moms, and if I do something amazing it's due to my haxorz and if you do something amazing it's because of your 1337 skillz. Of course that refers to playing with random people, my friends I play online games with are AMAZING! Brown nose brown nose smooch smooch.
While I find the general atmosphere surrounding online multiplayer video games to be slightly less appetizing than gouging out my eyes with a rabid chihuahua, I actually quite enjoy playing board games with random strangers. Take for example the opening of the new Game Shoppe. Everyone there was all about having a good time. There were a ton of tables set up with a steady rotation of board games being played by anybody who wanted, not just people who had won the previous game; not just people who had purchased something that day. Anybody who wanted to try a new game was welcome, by both players and the staff. Never having been to one of these, I was unsure of what the protocol was for getting in on the next game. I had so many tactics I could try: should I stand sheepishly off to the side of the table looking longingly at the board in hopes that someone would pity me and invite me to join them, or should I jump on top of someone once they lost their particular game and tear out their jugular, thereby establishing my dominance and ensuring a future spot at the table? Thankfully, all I had to do was ask a group of three complete strangers if I could sit down and join them for a game of King of Tokyo. Which I played, proceeding to win (sneer sneer) and then purchase. That's how they getcha!
The staff were all exceedingly friendly too, as willing to simply stand and discuss games with you and attempt to get you to buy them. If you had a question; they were helpful, insightful, and knowledgeable. They did not call you a noob when you did not know how every little nuance of a game worked; they did not tell you they had conjugal relations with your mother. All in all, everyone I met that day had a smile on their face and a die/meeple/card board thingummie in their hand.
And that I think is how most board gamers are. Of course we are delving into stereotypes, which is always dangerous, and I will address the exceptions that make the rule, but it seems to me that most people who play board games are easy to get along with. Why is that?
It could be that board gaming offers a playful way to problem solve, which then in turn makes problem solving in real life easier to do. It could be that board gaming encourages one to rely more on their intellect rather than gut reactions and twitch reflexes as so many video games do. My favorite idea currently is that board gaming is inherently a social experience. It requires people to actually like spending time with you. Any social pariah can have a Steam account and troll people online. But to be able to gather friends together, sit around a small table and maneuver cardboard pieces around another larger piece of cardboard for hours on end... That requires you to actually be someone people want to be around.
Now of course there are exceptions. I know of some people who treat board games as if they are their only remaining course to be the alpha. Looks have failed them, sports be damned, so it shall be in board games that they carve their legacy. Rules? They make the rules. If they win? That's as it should be. If they lose? You must have played the game incorrectly, missed some crucial rule or cheated in order to beat them, the head honcho. And you know what? No one plays games with them for long, and they alienate one group and move on to another to begin the agonizing process all over again.
Do I bring this up because I think more people would be happier if they played board games? Possibly. Do I bring this up because I think board gamers will inherit the Earth? Almost definitely. But mostly I bring this up because it was this atmosphere that helped to realize one very important thing.
I knew, when my brother introduced us to his girlfriend, that we would get along and that she would fit in very well with our family. And that was because she played board games with us. She enjoyed board games and played them frequently with my brother in California. Now, I know it seems silly to think "I knew she would marry him someday because we played Yahtzee together blah blah blah." Ok, first of all, it wasn't Yahtzee, it was Betrayal at the House on the Hill. Get your facts straight. And second, it's not as though it was the simple fact that she played board games that made her mesh. Seeing the way my brother and my soon-to-be sister-in-law played games together showed a great amount of compatibility in the way they dealt with problems together, how they communicated, and in the end, how they had fun together. And that was very encouraging.
Can all the world's problems be solved by board games? Not until they make a nutritional cardboard supplement. But I do think board games can make people have fun a little more, enjoy each other's company a little more, and maybe enjoy life as a whole a little more. Wow that got really sappy toward the end. Quick, gotta do something hardcore. What's that? Review Sentinels of the Multiverse?