Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Like all of you, I have watched the news channels and been awe-struck and overwhelmed at the devastation that Hurricane Katrina has left on the Gulf Coast. I have watched the scenes roll by, crying, until I couldn't watch any more. I have raved until I was just repeating myself. The scale of the flooding is too hard to grasp, like trying to picture a billion. The film of thousands of buildings along the beach turned to rubble is more than my mind can fully comprehend.

We spent 4 years in Biloxi when Richard was stationed at Keesler AFB so I have a special feeling for that area. I saw pictures of a building on the base that looks like the same one we went to during Hurricane Elena in '85; it had 2 feet of water surrounding it. That helped put it into perspective for me, at least a little, but I will never be able to imagine the grief, anger, fear and frustration those people must feel and will continue to feel for a very long time to come.

Nevertheless, I feel the need to offer some form of entertainment so I hope you'll forgive me if I go ahead with the article I started about 2 weeks ago. I hope that, for a little while, it will take your mind off your troubles, whatever they might be.

Stop Looking at Me Like That!

Tell someone that you like to play board games and many will look at you like you just told them you like to wear fur-lined underwear. That forced smile quivers on their face as they give a little nod and say, "That's nice."

Which makes me wonder what makes US like to play games while others don't. Why do we search out like-minded people? Why do we try to infect others with our love of games? Why do we spend large amounts of money buying games? Why are we so driven that we'll set up a game to play all by ourselves?!

Is it some chemical imbalance in our brains? "You have a surprising surplus of endorphins floating around in your head, Mrs. Weisbeck. I'm going to give you a prescription that should flush them right out and have you wanting to sit around watching TV in no time."

Is it more physiological than that? "Woo-eee. I've never seen so many synapses firing in anyone before. I think we'll try a sedative so you can fit into society better."

Nah, that's just ridiculous. Probably.

But seriously, I do wonder since it seems you've either got it or you don't. Children raised in the same gaming atmosphere do not all become gamers. I wasn't raised with games except Euchre and some Barbie-goes-to-the-Prom board game. I remember that one because you could end up having to go to the prom with the dud whose name was.... Poindexter. Yeah, that'll stick with you. But this leads me to think it's not something you learn.

One explanation is our desire to be explorers when our lives give us little opportunity to be Indiana Jones. You can build pyramids, explore the South American rain forest, sail the oceans, trade with natives, direct wars, schmooze with royalty, be railroad tycoons, race down the Mississippi or around a track. The past, present and future are our playgrounds. We are the pioneers with nowhere to manifest destiny to!

Maybe it's a simple escape from the realities of life, the same as reading a good book only with
someone else. My daughter, Cori, and I had some wonderful times and a few serious laughing fits while reading Shakespeare together but prithee, let us not go thither. While playing games, we are removed from the pressures of our jobs, the horrors on the news, the price of gas, those household chores that we really didn't want to do anyway. Take a vacation into a cardboard landscape.

Or it could be the human need for competition without the possibility of physical injury unless you pull a hamstring while taking that victory lap around the room. From the beginning women have competed for the best men to father our children (we still do that!) and men have competed with nature for survival of their tribe and with each other to see who could get the most women (so we haven't really evolved that much, have we?). So it makes sense that we still have a basic need to compete and prove our prowess in some area.

I have to think that it's a combination of all of the above in the proper mixture otherwise everyone would love to play games. Not all people have a pioneering spirit; many people find an escape in television, books, music, painting, tinkering in the garage, etc.; and for others the competition is in the form of sports, gambling, fly fishing competitions or even in their jobs. Yes, I think the answer is in the proper mix of these ingredients.

Or maybe it's just low blood sugar.
Until next time, may all your farmers lie in large fields.



David Fair said...

I have long wondered what it was that set me on my need to game. As a kid, i played Acquire, Chess, Cribbage, and Facts in Five with my parents and other relatives. I played Risk and Stratego in Middle School years, and Wargames in High School. In College, I went back to Chess, and played a lot of RPG's.

In my 20's, I did very little gaming at all, but did eventually drift back to some RPG's. In my 30's I found German-style boardgames. I have always been needing that outlet for play that some people just seem to lack. (Yes, I consider that they are lacking the need to game, not that I am lacking because of my need to game)

So what is it? What makes me pursue these pastimes so? I think my Grandmother figured it out a few years ago. She pointed out that I have a rewarding and challenging career, but one that was very straightforward, offering little in the way of creative outlets. This lack of creative outlets was true during my stint in College, and in school, but in my 20's (the only period of my life I was not an active gamer), I was in a different career, and had many more creative outlets available to me at work.

I find myself wondering if that hasn't been it all along. If I haven't just been searching for a way to exercise my mind in new and different ways, like an athlete trying out new sports every few years, and as he trains his body to each one, growing tired of it; a victim of his own success.

If this is true, I wonder if I won't change again in a few years. I doubt it. First, I plan to retire from the job I am at now, and not for a long time. Second, one of the great things about the gaming i do now is the wonderful diversity and the shear length and breadth of gaming experiences available. Power Grid is so different from Runebound, and Puerto Rico so unlike Einfach Genial that I need never feel like any game is growing stale.

I expect to always be gaming in some fashion, and I hope to be a boardgamer for a long, long, time.

Coldfoot said...

Sorry, Janice. I went hunting with the faithful Google and found it--Barbie Queen of the Prom. There is a picture of the version I had on the following site. You'll have to type it in since I couldn't get the whole url onto one line. :)