The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits


Why game?

There are as many reasons as gamers. Usually gaming provides a release after a hard day. The game starts and ends and is put away; the experience no more remembered than the random sitcom it replaced. A few laughs and time pleasantly murdered.

Why game?

For most people the question itself surprises. Games, to them, means “sport” not board game. Ludus translates several ways, but a Roman would think of gladiators. Nowadays a sports fan means a sports spectator. I understand why Romans preferred watching over participation, but people watch sports and games (including videogames) for just as many reasons as they game.

Why game?

I shouldn’t answer. My steadily growing impulse is to reject the premise and not game at all. But when I do game its to solve a puzzle, one that fights back aided by clever opponents trying to thwart me. They never do, except by wildly improbable maneuvers that I can only laugh at incredulously the few times they succeed.

That’s how I remember it, anyway.

I game to spark creativity, to play with words, to explain drawings, to find connections. I settle Catan, I find one word hints to obscure celebrities, I trade goods across Europe (as long as they can be packaged in small, colorful cubes). I explore new worlds. I examine the subtle nuances of gesture and phrase that led to your tragic lynching. I explore +1/+1.

I explore — I play games — at the Gathering of Friends. But even from my first the languid meals and chats linger in memory, even as I devoured new titles most of my waking hours. My gaming passion has dimmed, but my joy of camaraderie and fellowship has grown.

As has the Gathering itself. Now I grab my badge to a barely opened convention already larger than the first several  attended. It will, over the week, triple in size. But my first Gathering was almost 10x larger than the first. The growth shames me. I don’t know everyone, I may not know half of the attendees because I’m too busy catching up with old friends. I do try to introduce myself, to make new friends. Greedily I want to keep attendance low and this shames me, that I want to deny this experience to all who would attend. I have no illusions; I am no more deserving of this than the next gamer. I am merely lucky.

(Everyone agrees, especially after a game).

Why game?

Gamers such as us are rare; play is universal. Young mammals of all species frolic and play, hide and seek. They engage in mock battles for no stake other than glory. Play is safe, enjoyable learning. Players imagine their glorious futures, players act, discover, laugh and tolerate imaginary losses. Play is surprise, free form or ritualized.  Players set up the pins, knock them down and delight in how they spin and bounce.  Players say “Did you see that?”

Sometimes I play; but I am old. Sometimes I decline. Most days I remember fondly the instinct to play; others I recoil at my folly and chastise myself to grow up. Still others I gasp at that folly, the belief that work is somehow privileged over play.

And these days, these too short glorious days at the Gathering, I greedily clutch my luck and briefly glimpse the hundreds of reasons. Though I do not understand most, they are all made manifest before me and I do not feel guilty anymore. Our reasons are all different, and it is not a problem that I do not understand why I no longer enjoy games I used to and that we do not enjoy any games in common. It is not a problem, merely a fact that we have different tastes. I do not question why.

We game.

(Originally written April16th at the Gathering).


Written by taogaming

April 20, 2015 at 10:16 am

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