Americans Need to Grow up and Play!

(This post appeared a few years ago in my other blog, but is being transferred over for safe keeping. Enjoy!)

Why is it that over in Europe, China, and Japan, adults are getting together to play board games in public places, and having a great time, but here in the US games are very often dismissed as frivolous child’s play? Are they wasting their time and energy engaging in child’s play? Or is there something Americans are missing?
No two ways about it, in my opinion: this is a deep problem with our culture. I won’t even begin to speculate about why this is the case – there are no doubt many reasons that have accumulated over the decades to result in this state of affairs. I will say again, however, that it is a deep problem with our culture. Consider these data on how Americans spend their leisure time:
Leisure time on an average day
If you were going to design a society, would you slice the “leisure-time pie” like that, where 3 of every 5 hours of that time was spent watching tv? Only 20 minutes reading, or 17 minutes physically engaged are bad enough. I value liberty as much as anyone, but I would say that if liberty is a rope, we have enough of it to hang ourselves – and that’s what we’re doing. TV has its place, but too much tv is the hobgoblin of modern American living.
I do not want to change the US into another country, but it would be pure vanity (which unfortunately runs rampant in our country) to think that the US couldn’t learn from any other cultures. There is a healthy energy in places where groups of adults, young and old, get together, eat, drink, and socialize, while playing board games. There is a vibrancy; an atmosphere of friendly competition where there is room for myriad tastes, styles, and personalities.
I could wax poetic about the value of board games, but I’ll save that for a different post. Suffice it to say that board games serve as an entertaining way to sharpen one’s wits. Board games enhance us intellectually, emotionally, and socially. It should be obvious that the positives of board-gaming completely outweigh the negatives. Any society that can afford to embrace a tool like board gaming, but fails to, does so at the cost of blunting the intellectual, social, and emotional potential of its citizens.
The very word “games” conveys, to too many Americans, a sense of frivolity that really undermines the very idea that they can be useful. They are inaccurately seen as children’s playthings. That is unfortunate, but it doesn’t have to be the case. If you are already a fan of board games, you already know what they are worth. Your passion, accumulated across all the game-loving country, could be all that’s required for a much needed sea-change in American culture.
Board gamers need to come out of the closet * and realize that there is a hunger for such a worthwhile hobby. Regardless of what a person says, there is a game (or games, more likely) that would suit them perfectly and have them engaged, challenged, and interested, if they only gave it a try. Some people aren’t going to like party games, some won’t like trivia, some won’t like word games, and some really hate strategy games; still, there is a game out there for everyone.
Then again, those who profess to disliking games aren’t even the most important ones out there. There is a vast number of people who would play if they could. Are there any gaming groups out there? Are they accessible? Is there any good reason why, if you like games, you haven’t invited friends over for a game night at your home or local tavern or library? The board gaming hobby is truly a “if you build it, they will come” situation. There are people in your community just hoping for the chance to get out and play. All they need is a reason, and you might be just the one to provide it.
My next post will go over some ideas about how to host a successful, recurring game night. Stay tuned!
jh
* Thanks to Kevin Schlabach of Seizeyourturn.com
for coming up with that very apt metaphor, and for inspiring me to get moving on this whole idea of catching the board game wave. Check out his blog for more!

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