The world we live in today is a paradox in many ways – we grow more connected by our devices and the internet, and yet these advancements rid us of any requirement for face-to-face interaction, and so we feel more isolated than ever. A hundred years ago (heck, 50 years ago) we interacted every single day with family, friends, neighbors, shopkeepers, and so on. Today, someone like me who works from home, could go weeks without seeing anyone but the grocery delivery person.
Not saying I do, but I could.
Which is maybe a dream come true for an introvert, but is it healthy for society at large? The answer seems to be probably not. Teenagers today (who might spend more time “connecting” through a screen than in real life) report higher than average incidences of depression and anxiety, and, tellingly, according to the General Social Survey, the most common survey response by Americans to the question ‘how many confidants do you have?’ is ‘zero‘.
And while we may not know how to repair society, people who love, make, and play board games think they’re onto something. Considering the fact that sales are booming both in the States and abroad, maybe people are searching for better ways to connect with fellow human beings… in the same room.
Also, board games are good for our social development in other ways, too. For one, it allows players to enter into a controlled state of conflict. How you manage the conflict is ultimately more important than whether you win or lose, and the fact that the best games involve enough chance that the outcome will likely change each time you play helps reinforce the fact that winning is not always the primary goal of competition. That is an important lesson in a world where it sometimes seems that nothing matters but winning, by any means necessary.
In short, being able to comprehend winning and losing (and winners and losers) without attaching a moral logic to the titles can be a welcome respite for board game players.
Board games also encourage polite interaction. Professor Mary Flanagan points out, “Board games prompt us to reflect on turn-taking and rules and fairness.” They encourage the use of analytical strategy and reward consistent play with the satisfaction of performing better. Newer games encourage interaction with a large group on each turn, unlike older games that require you to simply sit and wait your turn.
Board games have always been a staple of good, wholesome family fun. They encourage people to sit down together, learn rules, follow rules, understand the parameters of healthy competition, and connect us in fun ways. I mean, I’m not saying they’re going to save the world, but there’s a strong chance that they could make us like the world a little more.
What an excuse to bring back the weekly Settlers of Catan game with all your friends!
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