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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Friday, September 23, 2005

Sharing Our Hobby

I’ll take a break from publishing talk this week.  I want to talk about sharing our hobby with others.

I must admit that I don’t jump out and tell other people that I’m a “gamer”, that I spend a decent amount of my spare time buying, publishing, playing, reading about, discussing, and, er, blogging about boardgames.  I still have a certain amount of reservation that other people will think I’m more of a geek than they first believed when they met me.  I usually look for some opening, some weakness, some off-chance that the other person might also have a geek streak that I can exploit by explaining my hobby.

Why is it that I’m so reserved on this topic, but I’m willing to freely admit that I teach chess at school, love to golf, am a Cubmaster at our local Cub Scout pack, or coach the Lego robotics team?  What dark secret is in my past that makes me feel a bit, well, embarrassed that this a passion of mine?

And don’t even get me started about telling people that I travel to Indianapolis to spend time with my family and, oh by the way, 4 days at GenCon.  Our that I’m going to Germany soon to spend two weeks, 6 days of which will involve being an exhibitor at the Essen Spiel fair?  It’s not that I hide it, its just that I’m not quick to volunteer it.  This is especially the case when I’m standing around at Matthew’s football practice with a bunch of other football dads living vicariously through our sons and wishing we could still strap on the pads and butt heads like mountain goats.

What sort of treatment do I need in order to free myself of this repressed anxiety about evangelizing my love for games?


  • At 8:19 PM, Anonymous Jeremiah Wittevrongel said…

    You're not alone. In the past, I pondered exactly the same thing. Recently though, I just stopped caring.

    People will ask me what I do for a living, and my answer is always the same: "I write software." But I quickly change the subject, and talk about how I enjoy cooking and board gaming as my primary hobbies. Suddenly, I'm not quite as geeky, believe it or not. Many people find software development boring (understandably), but nearly everyone remembers having fun playing Monopoly or Scrabble with their friends or family.

    And the conversation always gets interesting when they inevitably ask, "So, what's your favourite board game?"

    From that point, I'm free to discuss why I like abstract strategy games and Eurogames, or how I view boardgaming as a social activity (in contrast to playing computer or video games, which I don't view the same way).

    These days, I consider myself to be a board gaming evangelist. There are too few boardgamers out there in North America, so I have to make an effort to teach people games if I want to play them. I've had great success teaching various Eurogames to my coworkers over the years, and I play games over lunch a couple of days per week on average.

    Don't be afraid of your inner boardgamer. Most people can relate to board games on some level, and I guarantee that it's a topic many people will find interesting, especially when they learn that there's a whole world out there beyond Monopoly.

  • At 10:38 PM, Blogger Dug said…

    I'd be a lot more embarrassed about the Cubmaster thing, myself.

    I'm an evangelist, although it's taken me time to figure out that not everyone will be as interested in this hobby as I am. Most people are happy learning one or two games, I apparently need several hundred more than that, and therein lies the biggest difference.

  • At 8:39 AM, Blogger mike said…

    The biggest issue for me is that the typical American perception of boardgames involves Monopoly, Risk, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, Sorry, Life, etc. Either kids games or games of very limited interest. Therefore it's inconcievable to them that anyone would consider that a hobby to pursue. It takes too long to be able to explain or describe the types of games we play or the breadth of games available. That's the real hurdle...the current perception of board games.

    I believe this is changing however....gaming in general (mostly video games and computer games) is becoming much more "acceptable" as a hobby, and all those gamers are growing up. Now it's just a matter of market penetration of board games....an awareness issue.


  • At 11:49 AM, Blogger Jeff Coon said…

    I'm with Mike on this one. The biggest trouble is explaining that "board games" doesn't mean Scrabble, Monopoly and Sorry. To me, being a Pictionary and Balderdash fan is way geekier than Settlers and Puerto Rico. It's a difficult thing to explain to people who have no frame of reference to what a Eurogame is.

  • At 11:58 AM, Blogger dave said…

    I would classify getting together to play party games as "corny", and getting together to play something as dry as Puerto Rico as "nerdy". D&D - that's "geeky".


  • At 6:36 PM, Blogger Chris Brooks said…

    We all have our value systems and perceptions of what's geeky and not, don't we...

    I do find it easier these days to initiate a dialog on gaming, especially with other professionals in my industry (customers, other colleagues, etc.). I think most people are a short hop away from realizing the wealth of interesting games out there.

  • At 11:43 AM, Blogger Eric said…

    A generation or two ago, it used to be rather common for couples to get together over someone's house and play cards. Canasta, pinochle, bridge, whist, what have you.

    What we do is effectively the same thing - we just use different tools. The focus of those card nights was usually on the social aspects rather than the game - the game was merely the catalyst.

    I see a very similar dynamic here - or at least in the groups that meet at people's houses.


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