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This I Believe: I Believe In Board Games

Essayist Lewis Murray and his board game collection


I believe in board games.

As a kid, I started with the basics like chess, Othello and Monopoly. As I got a little older, games like Stratego, Risk and Mastermind were added to my collection.

I remember going to a hobby shop with some friends when I was around 14 years old. On a dusty shelf, I discovered what would become a turning point in my life. We found Diplomacy, a bookshelf game published in 1976 by Avalon Hill. I read the description on the back cover: “Diplomacy is a game of skill and cunning negotiations. Chance plays no part!” The Kennedys, Dr. Henry Kissinger and other famous world leaders were also said to have enjoyed the game. Scraping together our meager funds, this treasure came home with us. This collection of rules, cardboard and plastic changed my life. My eyes were opened to a world of gaming where chance is limited in some aspect or eliminated altogether. I was drawn to the competition and allure of knowing that in many games, if you can think ahead and outsmart your opponents, you can win.

This realization led to scouring hobby shops, flea markets and the Internet for any game we hadn’t played or that had a set of rules we hadn’t tried.

I also played my fair share of video games growing up, but I believe gaming unplugged offers so much more: in-person social interaction, mental gymnastics and inexpensive entertainment. Board games are not only fun, they also teach players valuable lessons, like how to deal with success and failure. With board games, you can’t log off, power down or leave the virtual lobby. Coping with both victory and loss are constant takeaways as newbies and experienced gamers alike have to learn to be humble and gracious.

Hours spent enjoying board games can also simply make you happy, and board games can easily be added to most social events. They can be used as an icebreaker, a teaching tool in the classroom or even a way to bring families together. Some of my friends even surprised me by starting a game at my wedding. By that point, my wife had grown to share my love of games and wasn’t surprised that games found their way into our reception. We played a few rounds of a social deduction game, Secret Hitler. It’s an atrocious name, but it really is just a good humored party game. The goal is to find out who the bad guys are and vote them out of power. Most of our friends and relatives either joined in or were entertained by the contest. Our kids are no strangers to board games, either, and even their friends are starting to get the “board game bug.”

Having over 400 titles in my board game collection, many call me addicted, but I consider myself an ambassador of the hobby. Playing board games means reading, understanding and testing that understanding through meaningful interactions with others. Board games bring and keep people together. Nowadays, all my friends expect that when I’m around, we’re probably going to play a board game—and we’ll all enjoy it.

I believe in board games.

Lewis Murray is a respiratory therapist at St Marys Pharmacy.

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