Since my last Tabletop Tales, my world has been totally and permanently turned upside down, inside out and back to front.
My father passed away suddenly on the 5th March and the past few weeks have been an absolutely minefield to navigate as I try and digest this surreal information and begin to adapt to the world I now find myself in. Writing about board games was the least of my worries.
However, life must go on. My father was always immensely proud of me, and encouraged my passions tenfold. Two of said passions are for writing and for board games – so the time is right to press on with my weekly column here at That’s Not Current, with a little personal reflection.
I’m fortunate – and eternally grateful – that the editors on this little corner of the web bestow a freedom on contributors to write in a manner and style they feel fits the piece. Despite having options to post this piece elsewhere, there is only one place it belongs.
In the aftermath of the single most brutal and heart-wrenching days I could possibly ever face in my life, my mind has been overloading with thoughts and memories. One such thought amongst the tsunami of brain overdrive has been how my passion for board games was born and inspired through my family, and in particular, my dad. My very first Tabletop Tales piece on the Redemption of a Board Gamer touched on a few of the genesis points for how my passion got to where it is today.
During this time of sombre reflection, I have thought so much more about it and it formed the foundation of this article.
From as early as I can remember, my old man was very active in my life. He encouraged me to be all I could be, through endless support and countless hours spent with me, pushing me forward. I am who I am today because of his guidance and love. A small part of our time was spent playing games – he taught me how to play Chess at a young age, and would often let me win. Draughts was another introduced early. Card games were also introduced – New Market, Switch, Trumps, Scabby Queen, Cheat and so much more. The traditional childhood board games came into play as well – Guess Who, Connect 4, Frustration, Monopoly and Jenga for example – and he always found time to play with me, usually teaching me the rules. Then there were the party games – Charades, Consequences, I Spy, and various educational games for memory, maths and the like. These DIY games fuelled a creativity in me, and provided yet another strand of cherished memories.
As I got a little older, I would get to stay up later at weekends and join in the nights he would host at our house that usually ended with a game of Trivial Pursuit or Taboo before I was ushered to bed. Without ever discussing it, he recognised a passion in me and supported it.
My dad was a social junkie; he revelled in the coming together and company of friends and family. He lived for these gatherings. Many of these get-togethers would result in games appearing, such as Cranium, Last Word or other quiz-based games, more often than not revolving around his own true passion for music. Naturally given his character, party focused games were always his preference. Following my redemption and return to the board game hobby in my late 20s, I introduced a lot of the new wave games to my family and he basked in them. Cards Against Humanity was one that he would cry with laughter while playing. While they made him happy, it was more about time spent well with his family.
I have plenty more games in my collection that I know he would have adored, but I just never got the chance to sit down and play with him, real life always getting in the way. Now I never will.
And that truth is one of the hardest pills to swallow.
It has put so much into perspective, yet I’m reassured by and can smile at the many memories of a giant of a man – who just so happened to be my father.
Board games are so much more than a geek’s hobby. Likewise, they are more than some silly little waste of time. They encapsulate togetherness, they bring people together and they create such a shared joy and laughter. They are fundamentally something to be shared with friends and family. They are without doubt quintessential tools for bringing people together.
In the modern digital age, a family sitting round a table playing a game is such a rarity that is greatly saddens me. Nowadays we sit in a room of people lost in our mobile phones; we sit for hours in front of the TV watching reel after reel of essentially pointless distraction; we lock ourselves away in rooms and play video-games, communicating with strangers around the world through a headset.
Board games not only encourage social interaction, but allow it to flourish. They create the time for others, away from the digital overkill plaguing our world. They offer shared experiences, creative stimulus, escapism from real issues, and an opportunity to get to know others better; a worthy distraction – a perfect excuse to just enjoy the company and companionship of other physical human beings.
I harp on about it all the time, but this industry is absolutely booming and you really need to try it if you haven’t already. Those who have, I urge you to go forth and multiply, bring more and more people into the fold. Yes, play in your regular game groups – but play with family, play with friends and ensure you experience the wide genres of games whether they are to your taste or not. Remember – ALWAYS – the shared experience of playing a board game far outweighs the individual experience any game can offer.
More, now than ever, I will ensure that if I have my own children one day I will regularly make time for games; a time to sit down and just enjoy each others company with a bit of light entertainment;be it mystery, educational, humorous – they are all of value, especially to children. They are such a uniquely universal platform with such immense variation that means there is literally something out there for everyone to enjoy. I’m so fortunate that I have boundless happy memories of playing a them with my family throughout my life, including my dad.
Despite being incredible grateful for those enriching, defying memories, it utterly breaks my heart into a billion pieces that I won’t have any more.
So, thanks dad. Thanks for it all.