Games Aren't Just for Gamers

28 June 2022
A cardboard manifesto from Chris Lowry

This feature is a soapbox for us to loudly proclaim missing truths from the field of tabletop gaming. Sadly, too often, we are preaching to the choir. Let’s face it – if you’re reading Tabletop Gaming magazine or website, it’s fair to say you’re already sold on the idea that games are good. 

Which is a shame, because that means there’s a whole world missing out on the joy of this analogue hobby. The missing truth? Gaming is not just for ‘gamers’ – it is for everyone.

It’s not just the diehards and hobbyists who get something great out of gaming. In recent years I’ve found myself living the ‘gaming is for everyone’ mantra. I’ve played (and lost) multiple games of Cheap Ass Games’ Pairs with a non-English-speaking, non-literate Zulu villager in rural South Africa.

I’ve laughed, as a 75 year old grandmother cackled “You naughty boy, I can always tell when you are lying – you’re not the Duke!” in her first ever game of Coup.

I’ve grinned as Persian refugees at our community cafe counted dice and claimed prizes in Sequoia, all whilst good-naturedly ribbing Mohammed for repeatedly rolling snake eyes.

Not one of these people would describe themselves as “gamers”. Yet it is amazing how quickly they move from not being a ‘gamer’ to asking, “So… what are we playing next?”

Of course, there are some challenges to this. I’ve lost count of the times people have said “I don’t think that’s really my sort of thing,” or, seven seconds into a particularly simple rules teach, “Oh, this seems very complicated…”

But those responses reflect the human condition. We don’t like looking foolish, and we don’t like feeling foolish. As soon as someone hears that I own 200 board games, they assume that I’m the most competitive person in the world, and that I’m going to beat them to death with ten kilos of Twilight Imperium (to be fair, on weight alone, Gloomhaven would be a better weapon of choice). 

Their expectation is that the experience will be difficult, excruciatingly drawn out and that it will leave them feeling inferior. But it doesn’t have to be.

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One of my friends, Howard, is 71. He’s almost exactly double my age. He likes sixties rock music, Rugby League and a decent pint. He is never going to join me in a debate about whether the engine-building in Agricola cuts off too early (it totally does, by the way) but he also thinks that playing the All Outta Bubblegum RPG on long car drives is completely hilarious. 

Road trip participation was the first step. It led to him joining in with Coup, with Carcassonne, then with pretty much anything light weight I pull out. He’s a gamer now, he just doesn’t know it.

Games can be fun, fast and confidence building. 

Those of us on the inside of the hobby might need to change our approach a little, but what we’ll gain is an outsider perspective that we’d never have expected. Playing Grant Howitt’s Adventure Skeletons with Paul, my migrant friend from Hong Kong, was both ludicrous and illuminating; he applied crazy tactics in-game to manipulate the army into attacking our village. After the game finished, he revealed he’d literally been using Governmental tactics from the regime he’d fled from. Laughter turned to learning. And somehow Paul, whose English is basic at best, became the empowered, educating authority in our group.

Not only that, but games can overcome social awkwardness like nothing else. I invited an isolated, retired gentleman to our weekly cafe. To my surprise he came. At first I worried “who will talk to him?” And then games filled the gap! Every week now he plays Blitzkrieg! with a 19 year old Ugandan, alone and recently immigrated here. Then they play again.

So, I implore you, pick up something simple, like Skull – a favourite in our youth group – and ask the knitting group of nonagenarians in Costa if they’d like to play. Don’t worry, they are all gamers – they just don’t know it yet. 

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This review came from Tabletop Gaming Magazine, which is home to all of the latest and greatest tabletop goodness. Whether you're a board gamer, card gamer, wargamer, RPG player or all of the above, find your copy here.

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