Your Turn: Why do you play games?

Posted by Jim {Power Gamer} | 18-Nov-13 | 33 comments

Your Turn - A BoardGaming.com Discussion

Hey there, I’m Andrew; game industry professional, reviewer, gamer, fellow Boardgaming.com member and the host of BoardGaming.com’s new discussion series called “Your Turn.”

This is your chance to let us know what YOU think about a variety of topics related to hobby gaming. I’ll start the conversation and then it’s “your turn” to chime in and add to the discussion. Each Your Turn discussion will have a new topic, and we may even have some special guests make a surprise visit down the road. In the meantime…

Why do you play games?

Why do I play games? Specifically, why is it my hobby of choice? I have often asked myself this question and really just haven’t been satisfied with the answer. As far back as Gen Con 1998 (when it was still held in Milwaukee) my brother and I were walking across the street to the convention hall at 8am after a two hour drive, blurry eyed but excited at the prospect of the hundreds of games we were about to see and hopefully play. I stopped in the cross walk and said “Why are we doing this? I mean, why is this what we like to do? Lots of brothers go fishing or sailing, mountain climbing. We are at Gen Con.” My brother, who is very good at simplifying things emotionally, scrunched his face up and said something like: “ It’s what we do. Do you want to go fishing?”

“No.” I said.

I sort of shrugged and shook my head, not satisfied with the answer which really boiled down to: “Because, that’s why.” That explanation wasn’t good enough when I was a kid and I still have trouble with it as an adult.

Tardis travel forward to 2013. I was recently in New York City on business and coincidentally during New York Comic Con. Walking down the streets of Manhattan I pictured Captain America up on a car whacking aliens and the Hulk jumping around onto buildings catching Iron Man before he crashed to earth. It almost seemed like it could have been real. “The Battle of Manhattan!” Heh… cool. Then, I was sitting on the subway when a tweenager with a Captain America hat rushed to get through the subway car doors before they closed. He just made it and I smiled. Then it hit me.

He wants to be like Cap. Wait, I want to be like Cap. I want to do things that I can’t really do like saving NY, or even normal stuff, like flying a plane. It’s not that I want to be a hero, just live an adventure. That’s what gaming is all about for me: wanting to experience everything and sort of… test myself. Can I make it out of the temple alive? Pilot that starship without getting my crew killed? Or even just offer you the best game you ever had so you’ll want to play again? In gaming and in real life, I want to do something just about every day that makes me feel like I accomplished something; whether it’s as a husband, a father, in my job or just doing everyday things like jumping through those subways doors just in time.

“Made it!” Oh ya pal, you did. Nice.

I like immersive thematic games. That’s easy. But in fact I like all kinds of games because each one, thematic, abstract, Euro, Americano, trains, ogres, viruses, mice, wow, you name it offer me that chance at adventure, and make me feel like I’m a little bit better than before I sat down to play – even if I lose. I suspect that many of you might play for different reasons…

Question: Why do you play games? Theme? Competition? Entertainment?

Your turn…

Comments (33)

Gamer Avatar
9
I play purple
Explorer - Level 6
Vanguard
Cryptozoic Entertainment fan

I played Monopoly in high school because it was fun and we were being competitive, wanting to win. Playing games with my young kids was an important bonding experience for them. They learned many social skills while playing that they would use growing up. Then during the CCG explosion I wanted to immerse myself into the game’s universe and pilot a starship or beat a gang of superheroes. Now it is a social event to get me off the couch and interacting with real friends and having a good time with them. This is so much better than going to a bar. So there is my gaming progression from teenager to retirement in a nutshell.

Gamer Avatar
7
Guardian Angel
Baron / Baroness
USA
Miniature Painter

I think I agree with Andrew, for me it’s about being able to do things that I can’t normally do. But beyond that, I also want to feel part of something larger than myself, something epic.

Save the world – be it from alien menace, undead hordes, or Nazi aggression; whether it takes place on my tabletop or on my PlayStation 3 (yeah, I went there, deal with it!) or across the internet; board game, card game, role-playing game; with friends I’ve known for year or that I just met for the first time.

I know I mentioned it in my review of boardgaming.com (NYT #1 Best Seller List…lol), but the book “Reality is Broken” talks about this desire really motivating a lot of people to play games of all sorts.

Games make life more fun and make me happy. And when all is said and done, I guess that’s all that matters.

Gamer Avatar
5
USA
Book Lover
Video Game Fan

@b0bb33z3r

I had no idea it was still going. Last time I was at my parents’ house, they’d come across my old cards while cleaning out some closets so I have those, but I don’t even remember what all I’ve got. Probably not much that was good.

Part of my problem is that I live in a fairly small city, so really he only hings that have much of a following outside of friend playgroups are Magic and Pathfinder, so it’s up to me to try to keep up with anything else I might be interested in on the internet. I guess I missed that one.

Gamer Avatar
8
BoardGaming.com Beta 1.0 Tester
Subscribed to BG News
Platinum Supporter
Advanced Reviewer

@Wade C.

Yeah, it was really amazing. It’s actually still alive and kicking. A group of dedicated players, many of which were volunteers for Decipher when the game was still around, managed to get permission to create “virtual cards” and there is a set release schedule, world championships, etc. It’s all still going and it’s pretty impressive. I really don’t have the time to dedicate to competitive play but I hit a local once in a while. Mostly I just got all my cards out and built a bunch of themed light/dark decks to go against each other and play out movie scenarios so it’s more like a board game.

From an online perspective, it was really amazing to get to meet a lot of the people who were playing the game and I made a lot of great friendships with people who I’m still friends with today, years after ever playing the game. I’d like to hope that the same sense of community can be fostered here at BG. Events like Gen Con, Origins, Dragon Con, etc can really help foster that community. 🙂

Gamer Avatar
5
USA
Cross Hares fan

Why do I play board games? It is because of the community that gathers around board games and the fellowship therein. My wife and I were introduced to the world of board games shortly before we were married by here brother and a copy of Last Night on Earth. From that single games of survivors trying to outwit the stumbling hordes of the undead, our experiences (and collection!) grew exponentially. We have made new friends, rekindled relationships with old comrades, and come away from each with stories to tell. And we have gotten the joy of watching the community around us grow and the relationships and stories that are intertwined within.

Gamer Avatar
7
Treasure Chest
Smash Up Fan
Platinum Supporter

I have always enjoyed the competition that board games bring to the table (pun intended). Not only are the games a distraction from everyday life, but the sense of community in bringing old and new friends together is uplifting.

These days I don’t feel the need to compete against my opponents near as much, finding that games like Pandemic and Sentinels of the Multiverse bring just as much joy and camaraderie as dismantling opponents like in Settlers of Catan or Risk.

But don’t get me wrong, I’ll still giggle as I take you apart.


Bob Ball
Voice actor at BobBallVO.com,
host of quiz show “PopQuizzical” on iTunes,
mental giant on game show “Word Rango” on iTunes

Gamer Avatar
5
USA
Book Lover
Video Game Fan

b0bb33z3r

That Star Wars CCG from Decipher was amazing, wasn’t it? I remember playing a bunch of CCGs back in the mid-90s when the genre exploded due to the popularity of Magic. I remember playing Magic, Battletech CCG, Overpower, and some others that I can’t remember the names of, but the SWCCG was the one I always stuck with, at least until its demise. I didn’t even have the internet then, so I can only imagine what that brought to it.

Gamer Avatar
8
BoardGaming.com Beta 1.0 Tester
Subscribed to BG News
Platinum Supporter
Advanced Reviewer

Why do I play games? Well, when I first started playing games they were for fun and for development. I’m talking Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Jacks, Pick up sticks, etc. As a kid, games are learning tools more than they are entertainment. You just don’t realize it when you’re playing them. 🙂 My youth was filled with board games like Life, Payday, Monopoly, Clue (a personal favorite), Risk, Sorry and Stratego. Your staples in the board game universe. Then around 1994, Magic the Gathering debuted and it was a whole new world of gaming. I never had the budget for Moxes and Black Lotuses but I played and had a blast. Then in 1995, Star Wars: Customizable Card Game by Decipher came out, and I was completely sucked in. Not only to this new form of gaming, but the internet was really coming into it’s own around that time and the online community for the game was booming! Through SWCCG I met some of the best friends a guy could ask for, started going to Origins and Gen Con and through those gaming cons got introduced to the gamut of games available to gamers. I’ve never looked back! Now-a-days I play games for the critical thinking, strategy, competitiveness, community, fellowship and friendship, and most of all and still… fun! If the game isn’t fun, it’s not worth playing.

Gamer Avatar
5
USA
Book Lover
Video Game Fan

Here’s my story. Like Andr0ss below me said, I was a long-time video game player. I still play some, but, again as was pointed out in Andr0ss’s post, I started to feel too disconnected. I come from the old school of video games where “multiplayer” meant get a few friends together and play *gasp* in the same room. Ironically, once online gaming became the focus, giving me literally millions of people I could play with at any time, I started to lose interest. Even though I could play a game with almost everyone, it ended up feeling like I wasn’t actually playing with anyone. Call me old fashioned, but my mind just doesn’t process online interaction as equivalent to face-to-face interaction. Now that my son is old enough to take an interest in video games, he and I will break out the NES and play Super Mario Bros. sometimes, but I’m nowhere as into it as I used to be.

I had played Magic for a number of years, but got out of the competitive scene when my son was born since I had other priorities at that point. It had also started to kind of feel like work keeping up with everything. I tried playing casual formats, like EDH, but once Wizards sanctioned it as Commander, even it started to get a little too competitive. I decided a clean break was needed. I always felt like there was some itch that wasn’t being scratched, though. I missed the fun and challenge of gaming, and I missed having an excuse to interact with other people on a weekly basis (playing in thematic worlds is a distant consideration, but I guess it’s worth mentioning, too). In the last few months, I made the jump back into gaming, but this time I avoided M:tG, even though I still have some friends who play it. And I’m glad I did.

As much as I loved Magic, I’ve discovered games I love even more, I’ve discovered a variety I didn’t know existed before, and I’ve realized that the Magic-scene was actually kind of holding me back in terms of social interaction, despite being a weekly event. Like I said, I had some friends who played it, but those who didn’t were often intimidated by the perceived complexity or by the fact that I was more experienced at it than them, so they felt they’d be at a disadvantage (and they probably would have been, for a little while). With non-Magic games, people are more willing to give it a shot. There’s less commitment needed, less time to devote to it, often simpler (or at least more approachable) rules. I’m frequently seeing friends for bi-weekly game nights that I haven’t regularly seen in years. Even my non-nerd wife has gotten on board with a couple of them.

Ultimately, though, I think it’s the need to feel challenged that drives me to play games. Maybe that says something about my life, though I think that life is more of a challenge than we give it credit for some times. Perhaps it’s the need to be challenged in a low-risk situation. I can test myself and try to solve difficult problems or overcome adversity all while knowing that there aren’t more severe consequences than losing a game and having to try again. It’s that freedom that differentiates challenges and decision making in games and in real-life.

Wow, this really spun out of control on me here. Hopefully someone can parse something of relevance to the question out of this response.

Gamer Avatar
8
Rosetta Stone
Football Fan
Explorer - Level 5
Junior

That’s a good one, Nigel Pyne…a few years ago, I sent a game request to a friend on Facebook by accident. It was right after they changed the format (again) and suddenly everybody was getting all kinds of information on everything I did. Anyway, his response was, “Sorry Dude, I don’t like games.”

I couldn’t even respond to him…because I was dumbstruck at what to say to that. I kept thinking, “Who doesn’t like games?” Well, apparently that list includes my friend Paul. He left FB shortly after that, and we lost touch so I never really got to follow up with him on games.

I play games because of a few main reasons, in this order, although they’re all important.
1. Social reasons
2. Game Mechanics
3. Immersion

Primarily, I play games to interact with my friends. It provides a convenient excuse to get together and socialize. Most of my friends are guys who live with a purpose and “chit chat” or “small talk” doesn’t count as a purpose to get together. So for my friends that don’t like watching football or hockey, gaming gives them the opportunity to get together and socialize without feeling like they wasted a trip.

But perhaps even more important than the simple excuse to get together is the creation of new shared events. Bonding at its best. How many “Do you remember that time when…” stories were created at a gaming table? With our group, it’s a LOT of them.

Aside from the social aspect, the game mechanics are really important to me. Unless I get blindsided, I simply won’t play games I don’t enjoy anymore. I know that’s probably a bit extreme to some people, but if my gaming group decided to play Munchkin every time they got together, I’d show up late or stop coming at all. I see no reason to play a game that I don’t like anymore, especially when there are so many that I love.

Finally, immersion is a great motivator for me and my generation. We love games, movies, books, TV shows, anything that let’s us step sideways for a while and forget stress or boredom of what’s happening in our personal lives. At least one of my friends games to escape what’s happening in the greater world with the economy, government, environment, etc.

But, as I said about game mechanics that I like, I really need to have all three of these now. Oh sure, we’ve had a lot of fun playing something like 7 Wonders where we enjoy the company of our friends, but don’t have any real immersion into the game world. But those games get old quickly.

That’s probably why I’m so interested in Worker Placement games. You need to think (at least partially) like a farmer to play Agricola. Steam puts you into the mind of a shipping mogul. Add some friends and an interesting set of rules, and I’m totally set.

Gamer Avatar
1
maverick:muse fan

Why do I play games?

Short answer. Because they’re great entertainment – they’re fun!

But why are they fun for me?

Long answer –

Gaming became big for me through RPGs. I’ve always loved reading and stories. And with an RPG there is a story that I can contribute to and be a part of. Just like with a book or movie you’re reading/watching for the first time, you don’t know what’s going to happen next in a game so there’s a level of excitement in gaming. Fear the unknown? Heck no – relish it!

Am I ever going to fight a dragon? Or build a galactic empire? Or escape from an ancient temple? Not on this planet at this time, but games can let you imagine this and provide a framework within which you can generate your own story. And I’m not just talking about RPGs now – the card and board games I gravitate towards do this as well.

The fact that this is achievable with a group of friends – or strangers – is a massive plus. It’s a fantastic social, story-crafting experience.

So that’s why.

As an aside, it would be interesting to ask a non-gamer – why don’t you play games?

Gamer Avatar
7
Knight-errant
Cooperative Game Explorer
Amateur Advisor
Gamer - Level 6

Why do I play games?

Well, there’s a lot of reasons. The original reason was that it was a way to get interaction as a kid; growing up, I didn’t live in the safest neighborhood, and while I did socialize with other kids, I was encouraged to stay indoors when I could. As a result, I developed a love of reading and a love of games. But I’ll spare you the entire life story and just focus on the reasons here.

Mostly, I play games because of the interaction involved. It’s a great social media and a great way to meet people. I’ve been to a number of conventions in my day, and so far, relations between individuals seem to be formed most strongly when working towards a common goal (or opposing a goal). I have made some great friends over the gaming table, and had quite a few laughs as well.

I also play games as a way to test myself. Forming strategies and testing their potency against others or the game itself is a good way to sharpen critical thinking and broaden one’s personal horizons. Chess is a good example of this, one of the earliest games there is, and it’s only carried forward from there. Some games are more strategic than others, and some rely solely on luck, but it still stands that you can learn a thing or two from games by playing them out.

There is also merit in roleplaying games to take on a role and step out of yourself for a while, to experience things from another point of view and to try and accomplish things that you wouldn’t normally be able to do. For a lot of people, playing a wizard in a roleplaying game is about as close to magical acumen as they will ever come, and it’s nice to get a taste of the impossible once in a while. It’s akin to reading a book and living the lives of characters from another point of view.

If I had to pick any one reason, though, it would be from the fact that you never know what’s going to happen in a game, and sometimes the results can be hilarious. One of the funniest experiences I can remember came when I was getting ready for a game with a couple of friends, and we just absolutely fell down laughing when reading some of the quotes/instructions in the instruction book. It was one of those nonsensical moments that you can’t reproduce, and it was the best laugh I had had in a good long while. Just like anything else, you do it for the experience. And I always enjoy a good time.

Gamer Avatar
8
Stone of the Sun
Detective
Novice Reviewer
Tinkerer

I play board games now for two main reasons, number 1, its my job; I work at a game store so I need to know what games to recommend and how to play them. Second, and more poignantly, I play to have a good time with others. I spent a large part of my life being alone and much of that alone time was spent playing video games. I now feel that at this point in my life I’m tired of being alone so I want to game with other people. Multiplayer is something I strongly feel that video games are incapable of delivering a satisfying experience in, and its in this regard that board games shine the brightest. I have a group with rotating members of friends, co-workers, and strangers alike and I love the fact that we can all be brought together to play a game with each other in each others company, even for a short time.

Add a Comment

You must be to add a comment.

× Visit Your Profile