Worried girl asking "Why Do People Play Board Games?"

Why People Play Board Games

I have a confession…

When I was a kid my preschool teacher told my mother “You are going to have to start him early or find a new preschool for him. We can’t handle him another year.”

So I started kindergarten a year early.

Baby Calvin apparently got too bored in preschool. And when he got bored he did mean things (like throw chairs).

This isn’t something I’m proud of but it happened.

Sadly, I wasn’t much better playing board games growing up either. I was too competitive.

If I won, then I made the other players feel bad for losing because I cheered so loud. And if I didn’t win… well I would just turn into a little monster.

As I got older I would look around. “Who wants to play MONOPOLY??!?!”

*crickets chirping*

“Hmmm.. I wonder why no one ever wants to play with me??” I thought.

It took several years for me to realize why people didn’t want to play with me. Because I was being overly competitive and rude to the other players of course.

I have no idea why this took so long and again, I’m not proud of it. But at least my younger self learned from it and became a nice(r) player.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of people that haven’t learned how to “play nice” and their attitude continues to push players out of the community. But I try my best to be welcoming to all and encourage others to do the same.

There is no magical solution to fixing this problem. But I think if people simply had a better understanding of why people play board games, then they would treat each other nicer.

I know that it would have helped me as a kid just knowing that not everyone plays games for competitive reasons. In fact, most play to have fun with family and friends (see below).

This may seem obvious to most people. But to a naturally competitive player like myself, it is hard to grasp.

That is a long way of saying why I thought it would be a good idea for me (and other naturally competitive players) to learn why people play board games.

So I asked several people “Why do you play board games?”

And I also asked several people “What is the nicest thing you’ve seen at a gaming convention?”

I thought the second question would be good to see how welcoming gamers are leading by example.

Now let’s see why people play board games!

(**Note – I don’t think that being competitive is a “bad” thing. But I do believe it is my duty to not allow my competitiveness to ruin games for others. Especially for players that just want to enjoy the game.)

Angie Lugo

Favorite Game: Zombiecide

Angie’s Answer:
I play games to get rid of stress. I love the challenges, the artwork, the creativity, the ample selection,…

What is the Nicest thing you’ve seen at a gaming convention?
Unfortunately, I tend to avoid gaming events.

Where I live, the major gaming events are Magic the Gatering, D&D, and the sort….which are usually overrun by males who make it difficult to join. So, I really haven’t seen anything nice.

Yesterday I went to learn how to play D&D and the group wasn’t welcoming at all.

Instead of trying to incorporate me, even as an observer they just seemed to push me away with comments.

(Related: See the interview with the CEO of the company that made awesome games like Zombicide and Blood Rage)

2 Cousins

Dawson’s Favorite Game: Clue

Dawson’s Answer:
Just for fun.

I play with family, friends and strangers.

Last week end at my band concert rehersal, I just started playing a game with someone from another school just to have fun and past the time. I enjoyed it.

Cash’s Answer:
I like to play with family and our favorite family game is Pitch.

Dawnie Ramone

Favorite Game: Shakespeare

Dawnie’s Answer:
I started playing board games as a little kid just because my father and sister invited me to. I never stopped playing them because they’re fun. I enjoy working out what I see as a kind of puzzle, figuring out my next and/or best move.

I actively sought out people to play with in the last several years as a way of getting me out of the apartment and around people. And as a way to make friends coincidentally while I was having fun playing games.

Also, I haven’t worked in 15 years and I need something to stretch my brain more than the books I read or working out a shopping list ever does!

What is the Nicest thing you’ve seen at a gaming convention?
I’d say the nicest thing I’ve seen and continue to see at gaming events is groups of people laughing and having fun together even though they don’t know each other.

They ended up playing together just because whatever group was already playing welcomed complete strangers to play with them.

Although one of my board game Meetups saw two couples form, become engaged, and marry!

Mareza (“Rez”) I Estevez

Favorite Game: Hansa Teutonica (specifically with the East expansion)

I play games to expand what I can do; improve how I visualize, strategize, and deploy.

I enjoy the challenge, the conflict, the conflict resolution, the strategy, the negotiation, the table dynamics, the creativity, the exploitation of opportunity…all of it.

Game experience matters a lot. That has 2 dimensions.

One is the game itself.

Does it have nice bits and compelling graphics? Is the game’s premise interesting?

Two is the human dynamics that the game produces.

Is it collaborative? Is a traitor-in-the-midst? Is trading involved? How much deceit do the rules permit? What different “table rule” variations are there to fill-in gaps in formal game instructions or make play more dynamic?

Not least: IT’S A LOT OF FUN!!!

Largely, gamers are cool. Sometimes differently brained people. Frequently those who exhibit different types on intelligence, e.g., the photo memory/ numbers memorizing sort, the human interplay sort, the deep strategist, the scrappy opportunist…amazing.

What is the Nicest thing you’ve seen at a gaming convention?
Nicest? So many options.

One that compels me is the inclusion and value of the differently “brained ppl” described in my “IT’S A LOT OF FUN!!!” paragraph above.

I’m a “weirdo.” I’ve been consistently reminded of that throughout my life.

The reasons why I was horribly bullied are now precisely the same reasons that I have become very successful at what I do for a living.

In other words, it’s hard to be a “weirdo,” but it can be very, very rewarding. And that has taught me deep lessons.

One, there’re many types of abilities and intelligences. And all of them are needed to face seemingly insurmountable, complex challenges. It’s potentially the reason that as a species, humans have a chance at continued existence in this indifferent universe.

Here another lesson: just because one is different, that does NOT make one valuable. The creation of value entails effort, more creativity, and collaboration in a shared objectives. That’s the “right stuff” that permits great accomplishments in human endeavor.

I’m very competitive, yet collaborative. Board gaming just fits me!


Father and Son

Marty’s Favorite Game (father): Star Wars the Queen’s Gambit

Marty’s Answer (father):
I play for interaction with people face to face. I don’t like computer games because there is no direct human interaction.

Also, I like to play games with my kids at home and at the Game Closet so they have something to do together and to get them away from the secultion of video/computer games. I want them to be around people as much as they can.

Michael’s Answer (son):
For fun and competition. I play with family friends and strangers.

I go to the Game Closet (a local gaming store) with my dad to play with strangers and learn new games.


Favorite Game: One of my favorite games lately is Ascension. It is one of the only games I have played in a tournament (see below).

Charlotte’s Answer:
I play games to spend time with my kids and family. And I like to play board games because I can see people’s body language, facial expressions, and observe their reactions to other player’s plays. It gets us all off our phones!

I mainly play with family unless I am at GENCON. And then I have the challenge of playing with strangers. Sometimes that is very easy and others it is not.

I had a really bad experience one year playing and learning Arena (Krosmaster Arena).

The 40ish year old guy that I was partnered with was a know it all on a very new game (the game was only in preorder). He was very rude to me and impatient about explaining the rules.

What is the Nicest thing you’ve seen at a gaming convention?
Apart from that bad experience, I have had many good experiences playing at Gencon where the others were very patient.

For example, during an Ascension tournament, I spilled my milk shake right before it was time to start because I was so nervous.

It spilled in a girls purse and all over the floor and my hands and leg.

It caused my group to be late starting (the round was timed I think) but everyone was very patient and understanding.


Having fun with family and friends is the biggest reason why people play board games.

I do a much better job at being welcoming to all and not being competitive when there are other players that want to just have fun.

And honestly, the older I get, the less competitive I become and the more fun I want to have with family and friends too.

So even though I wasn’t the nicest person to play with when I was a kid, I learned. And now most people enjoy playing games with me.

But I can continue to learn how to be more welcoming and encourage others to do the same.

Now I’m curious.

What have you seen other people do that is really nice and welcoming to new players (or strangers)?

Why do you like to play board games?

Let everyone know in the comments below (by clicking here) so we can continue to learn how to have more and more fun. And less wondering “why doesn’t anyone want to play with me?”

Want to Read More?

See how guys can make girls feel more welcomed at gaming conventions.
Read about 20 popular board game types with examples of each

5 Responses

  1. Elly
    | Reply

    I’ve never been super competitive in the sense that I have to win. I’m just as happy losing a game as long as I gave it my best shot and had a good time.

    I think the best skill to develop is one that isn’t even part of the game. Learn to read the ‘mood’ of your table and the other players.

    I believe competitiveness begins to rub people the wrong way when someone likes to gloat if they win or gets pouty if they lose. No one wants to play a game if it’s just going to lead to hurt feelings no matter what happens.

    Some groups or gatherings are just better for casual games. Games without a distinct “winner” or the fun comes from participation. Telestrations, Concept, Code Names…they have points, but generally rely on group participation and communication which generally makes the mood of play lighter and less stressful.

    I think the other problem that drives people away is being unable to put aside the ‘play to win’ mentality when someone is learning the game.

    Smashing a new player who isn’t familiar with the rules, is the quickest way to make me not interested in playing a game again (at least with that person). I’m not a sore loser but I do hate losing because I don’t know the rules and an experienced player takes advantage of that instead of teaching me.

    If I am showing a new person a game, I teach and explain rules and tricks as I go. I will even show them combos or moves they may not realize they can do, or let them take back moves and change them if they realize they made a mistake…it’s not ‘cheating’ or messing the game up…it shows they’re engaged and thinking about how to play.

    After a game or two like that I find most people are less intimidated or ‘turned off’ by competitiveness…and they may even try to get in on the action and win a game too. If you help them learn, new players feel comfortable asking questions instead of feeling they have to ‘hide their hand’. They improve their play faster and have a much better time because you’ve shown that you aren’t just trying to ‘win at all costs’.

    • Calvin Keeney
      | Reply

      I really like the “Learn to read the ‘mood’ of your table” game.

      That is a good skill to learn and is a good way to build a strong gaming group.

      Good call Elly!

  2. David Helber
    | Reply

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b20cc72e239faffd2529322e9d9a49a9dcb7e3f3417c488151faaef9057180e0.jpg I’ve generally played tabletop miniatures, not boardgames, but I’ve always thought much of the beauty of games is emotional catharsis. A good game is designed to generate extended periods of tension and moments of emotional release. If you are playing with the right people, the world of the game is a safe space in which you are able to feel and express extreme highs and lows over something that (any rational person understands) is just toys and cardboard and has no real-world significance. In my old group, it was acceptable to gloat and rib your opponents when you had success or good luck, or to give a loud exasperated AAAAARGH! with hair-tearing motions when your opponent did. Pouting, accusations of cheating or game rigging, actual anger at winners or humiliation of losers after the game – these were frowned upon. But even post-game jubilation, hostility, etc. could be tolerated if expressed in game terms (“Hah-hah! That will teach you imperialist pig-dogs not to defile the sacred city of the Rajah again”), but NOT in player terms (“Jeez, Fred, what a complete mishandling of artillery! Go back to Monopoly, why doncha?”) But, if you can’t childishly celebrate your good luck and success, and loudly bewail unexpected misfortune, much of the appeal, I think, would be lost.

    • Calvin Keeney
      | Reply

      Your gaming group sounds like a lot of fun!

      It really is nice when people find groups that they feel free enough to open up and be themselves.

      For me that “gaming group” tends to be my family. Though I have been lucky enough to find 1 or 2 other groups throughout my life that share the same childlike joy that I have for gaming.

      Thanks for sharing David!

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