Board games in digital form and the social aspect

I wanted to write something about playing board games online and where to do so, but a quick Google search found a great article on MakeUseOf.com by Dann Albright that covered what I was going to write about and then some. You can read his really great article here. So instead, I'd like to talk about how digital gaming doesn't always scratch the itch for me, but it can with a little effort and the right people.

One of my favorite parts of playing games, board or otherwise, is the social aspect. Having other people around is important, even when the game we're playing doesn't encourage much table talk. I'm not one for crowds or parties but like anyone else, I crave some degree of socializing. The longer the time between events where I can do that, the crankier I get. The same goes for times between gaming sessions. About little over a year ago, before Christine and I found a great couple that we now game with on a regular basis, I was miserable. I went months without playing a face to face game with anyone for a variety of reasons and it created quite a problem for me. I tried solo-gaming via variants for a few of the games I owned but I didn't care for it. It was about that time that I downloaded a few board games apps: Hey That's My Fish, Carcassonne, Star Realms, and a couple of others. I was also playing quite a few games on Board Game Arena (BGA). All of that was an attempt to scratch the itch and hopefully turn my mood around. It worked to a degree for a while but I wasn't completely satisfied. Playing online or via the apps almost felt like I was just playing against AI and not real people. This could all boil down to a me problem but I'm guessing there are many others out there who game for the social aspect as well as to enjoy the hobby of board gaming.

Thankfully, as I said before, we found real people to play with regularly so this has become a non-issue for the most part but I still find myself playing games digitally on a daily basis. The problem with playing online or via an app with live players is the anonymity of it all. You can't see the people and rarely is there any dialog, even if the ability to communicate in some way is built into the system. Most apps don't have a chat client and the ones that do rarely get used, so I find those games to a lot less engaging. Playing on one of the online sites is slightly better because they do have a chat client but most of the time, at least in my experience, you'll get a "hi" and maybe a "good luck" at the start of the game and maybe a "gg" (good game) at the end. I don't have a huge problem with that but I enjoy more chatter than that while I'm playing, whether it's related to the game or not. I want a feeling of comradery and it's hard to get that with little or no communication.

However, I can't say there is never any comradery because once I started playing Saboteur regularly on BGA, I found that the "socialization need" meter fills up a bit while playing. If you're not familiar with the game, it's a game that plays best with 7 to 8 players and a couple of players are trying to sabotage the rest of them. So what ends up happening is a lot of talk about who those few saboteurs might be, asking for help, and instructing the rest of the team as to what they should do. Now I can't say all games of that are great because sometimes players aren't that chatty, which doesn't make for a fun game because you really need to contribute to the strategy verbally, but there are a few players that I look out for because we have fun together.

A solution to playing online but socializing in a more face to face way is something I've seen some of the people I follow on Twitter do. They will play games online while also using something like Google Hangouts to talk and see each other while playing. I think doing that would drastically help me but with two little ones running around and getting up so early each day, I haven't been able to take advantage of that with anyone yet. With a little bit of effort, you can play with friends or even complete strangers and still feel like you're playing in person but you don't have to wear pants...a win-win in my book.

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