Board games have the ability to transport us and transform us, whether that's to the fantasy Candy Land or to the Spice Islands of Century: Eastern Wonders. From Ms. Spector's point of view, the dark equalizing transportation circle of a board game provides a chance to smash down those who deserve it away from the table now that the playing field is equal. This is what I call, non-consensual table therapy.
When you look for these opportunities to address old grudges for yourself at a board game event, you are creating an experience internally that has nothing to do with the awareness or consent of the other players and it's completely inappropriate. For my part, this equalizing transformation is one of the things I look forward to most of all - not because I want to smash the patriarchy, but because I want to bring people together for a shared experience. Board games provide a socially acceptable opportunity for us to step away from politics, prejudice, age, and every other factor that has been weaponized to separate people. Gaming is an opportunity to communicate with your friends. Don't be afraid to stop the game for a minute and deal with a problem. Take a deep breath. If someone is getting aggressive stop and talk about it. The more you avoid it, the worse it gets. If you can't communicate with your fellow players in a healthy way, odds are you probably shouldn't be playing with them. There are deeper issues at work that need to be addressed.
Nicole Spector ends her article by recommending several balms for competitive board game spirit including:
- Playing games with less strategy so as not to have to tax "brain power."
- Drink Responsibly
- Resolve not to react to others' aggression.
NBC News BETTER touts that their articles are "obsessed with finding easier, healthier and smarter ways to live." While Nicole Spector ended her article with these "tips," I would say that there's one glaring health-mindful omission here. Avoiding complicated/strategic competitive games is not the problem. The problem is inside you! It's just a game, but your internal life lives beyond the table and you need to give it attention and care.
If you find yourself exorcizing your personal demons during board games, seek help. I don't mean that in a dismissive way. I mean it with all the love and support in the world. Table therapy is unacceptable and it ruins the game for everyone else.
This, above all, is a social event. When your own internal emotional life regularly causes disruption at social functions, honor that and seek the appropriate means to address it. There is a stigma around mental health and therapy is such a powerful tool if you're brave enough to embrace it. It's your responsibility to your fellow players to play safely and be a good sport. Depression, anxiety, and personal hangups can absolutely make that more challenging. The big rule of thumb is, if you're not in a healthy place to play, then don't subject the table to your issues. Be kind to yourself and to your fellow players and you'll find that this hobby has so much more to offer than the thrill of victory.