Like many hobbies in the Twenty-First Century, board gaming actually consists of two hobbies. There’s the actual playing of games, the part where you hang out with friends and enjoy each other’s company while you share an experience that all of you like. But there is also the hobby that takes place online, where you write forum posts, argue back and forth about various topics, and engage in more “advanced” activities, like tracking plays and rating games on BGG.
When I started my studies in January, I made the decision to pull away from that second part of the hobby. This wasn’t due to any particular desire to step back, but purely a time management issue. I was actually a little worried that I’d have to put board gaming behind me entirely. But it turns out that was not the case. My studies have been tough, but they haven’t been so all consuming that I’ve become a social hermit. I’ve also been able to continue writing through my work on Miniature Market, which has been enough that I still feel a little connected to the hobby, but at a pace that is far more reasonable for my current lifestyle.
But I haven’t been able to get back into the online portion of the hobby, and it’s not because of time. It’s also not for lack of trying. I’ve looked at plenty of threads on BGG, F:AT, and /r/boardgames, and prepared a response that I would then delete. I just don’t care to engage in forums about board gaming anymore.
To be clear, not all of this self-imposed exile is because of exhaustion. I’ve made a lot of good connections on F:AT in particular, and I had every intention of stepping back into that community when time permitted. But I find myself desiring that connection less and less. So here are some reasons why I’ve grown to appreciate being a real-life only board gamer.
I worry less about keeping up with purchases. – A lot of people are able to read thread upon thread and not feel like they are somehow falling behind. I’m not one of those people. This rarely translates to actual purchases, but it does produce a weird kind of anxiety, like an awareness that I’m not as current as I could be. I still haven’t purchased the expansions to Clash of Cultures or Merchants & Marauders, and those are two of my favorite games. Stepping away puts that in perspective for me, since I haven’t played either game since I moved to Texas, and I probably won’t play either enough to really justify a big purchase to supplement them. Probably someday, but stepping away has allowed me to understand there’s no hurry.
I am less likely to divide people up. – Online discourse automatically leads to factions. Whenever I posted a particular opinion, I took note of those who agreed and disagreed with me. In my petty way, I especially remembered the people who disagreed vehemently, and that awareness eroded my trust just a little over something as silly as a preference for a certain kind of game. Most of my online discussions on the hobby now take place on Facebook, through a couple of local groups in which I participate. This makes me much more tolerant of differing opinions, since I actually know those people.
I am more secure in my own gaming personality. – One thing I love about writing for Miniature Market is that I don’t have to deal with comments on my articles. To be clear, 95% of comments are great discussion. It’s that last five percent that sticks in the writer’s mind and makes them second-guess every opinion they have. Through my time away, I’ve been able to better understand what I like in a game, and not worry about “inconsistencies” or whether I’m going with the cult of the new. I recently wrote a very positive review of Five Tribes, and I’m not sure I would have been able to articulate what I like about it a year ago. This seems like something every online writer should know how to deal with, and that’s true. But I still found it to be a source of stress.
It’s refocused me on what matters in the hobby. – I have always been lucky to have a great group of gaming friends, and stepping away from the static of online discussions with strangers has freed me up to stop worrying about how strangers feel about meaningless stuff, and has helped me appreciate gaming for what it is: a great way to forge relationships.
All of these are in addition to the normal advantages of not participating in forums, like avoiding the toxic crap that comes with any online community. A lot of people never experience these various stresses from forums and threads, and that’s great. And of course I might find my way back to some online community eventually. For the time being however, I am enjoying board gaming as much as I ever have, and the biggest reason is because I have transitioned to basically only engaging with it in real life.