Geeks who play lots of games are the richest, sexiest people on the planet. The internet doesn’t lie, after all…
But maybe you didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, and you don’t believe me.
As it turns out, you don’t need to be a geek to play games. For the past 6 years, the board game industry has grown between 15-40%. That’s huge growth, and it’s not just basement-dwelling teenagers.
Still, why should you play board games? In fact, why should you play anything at all?
In this article, I’ll show you exactly why you should jump on the board game bandwagon. I’ll also show you how play makes you smarter, more successful, and more sexually appealing.
One Day on a Mountain in Thailand
A few weeks ago, I spent a day on a mountain in Thailand.
It was National Children’s Day (the best holiday ever). The purpose is for children to have fun and to emphasize their importance for the country. Amazing, right?
Some friends and I visited a celebration that a local hill tribe was holding. We donated a bunch of toys, food, clothes, and school supplies, and we had a blast.
But the most interesting part of the experience was the games that the locals played. In particular, many locals would stand across from each other and throw a small ball back and forth.
That’s it. That’s all there was to that particular game.
And this game wasn’t something they played just on Children’s Day. This is one of many games that they play all the time.
It sounds silly and simple, but that’s the point. Play is a simple but integral part of the day-to-day life of this village. And I assure you that they were having at least as much fun as I was.
(To answer the obvious question: yes, I jumped in and played as well.)
That day was yet another reminder that play still isn’t as big a part of my life as I would like. And whether you believe it or not, that’s a big problem…
Not Playing is a Terrible, Tragic, Horrific Fate…
You know that you miss playing.
I talk to a lot of people about this. And when I bring up the topic of play, almost everybody starts remembering times they used to play as a kid. Maybe it was a sport, a game, or just make-believe.
But this is about more than just longing for some part of your childhood.
Over the past 50 years in the US, “play time” has decreased by huge amounts. Some studies estimate that play time for both kids and adults has decreased by up to 71%.
And here’s the thing…
Not playing enough (even as an adult) can be enormously detrimental for every aspect of your life.
The problem is that you view play as yet another thing you should be doing. You already meditate, workout, and drink your greens every day. So who am I to tell you to do more?
Fine…don’t listen to me. Keep working more and playing less. Lots of people don’t play.
In fact, 90% of homicidal prison inmates that Stuart Brown studied had too little play in their lives. I’m not suggesting that you’ll become a murderer if you don’t play enough. But you’re not keeping the best company.
Play deprivation – particularly among children – has been linked to severe emotional dysregulation. That includes depression, diminished self-regulation, increased addiction, agressiveness, shallow relationships, and more.
In other words, play is far more important than you likely imagine. It’s a necessary form of stress relief. And perhaps most importantly, play teaches you how to interact with an uncertain world.
Not getting enough play hurts your career/business, your relationships, and your emotional well-being. If you do get lots of play, though, it’s a different story…
Play is Amazing for Almost Every Area of Your Life
Here are just a few of the benefits that you get from playing:
- Play helps you train for unexpected situations. This is a huge benefit. Dealing well with uncertainty is critical for being a better entrepreneur, father, or person. You’ll get less frazzled, less stressed, and will make better decisions.One study found that when rats play-fight, they often stand on top of one another. In a real fight, that would be incredibly dumb, because it’s easier to get thrown off balance. But in a play fight, it teaches them to deal better with unexpected situations.Dealing better with the unexpected also helps you develop presence and mindfulness. And from my perspective, there’s almost nothing more important.
- When you play as an adult, it helps calm social discord and reduce stress. In other words, you relieve your own stress while also improving relationships. This applies to your family, your work environment, and anywhere else in your life.In fact, it also applies to strangers. If you play with strangers, it’s a quick way to test out and establish social relationships. In other words, you get to know and bond with them more quickly. Try it on your next date or business meeting.
- On a related note, play builds unity, friendship and related skills. This has been the case for humans for millions of years. Dominance and combat are one way for humans to interact. The alternative is not peace, but rather play.
- Play will make you more successful. Several studies have found that play is crucial for sharpening the physical, cognitive, and emotional skills required for success in society.
- Play makes you more sexually attractive. This is particularly true for men. Many of the traits that women find most attractive are developed and displayed through play. This includes having a good sense of humor, being fun-loving, and being non-threatening.
- Play helps you at work. If you run a company or hire or manage employees, this is particulalry relevant. Play has been shown to consistently lead to better attitudes and more persistance at work. Also, play almost always improves creativity.
That’s the short list. If you need more convincing, check out Stuart Brown or watch this TED Talk he gave back in 2008:
So What is Play? You Kind of Like Your Job, After All…
If you think that play could mean almost anything, then you’re right. Partially.
There are no bright lines about which activies are or are not play. But for something to be play, it does need to have certain characteristics:
- Play Must Be Self-Chosen and Self-Directed. This means that you don’t feel obligated to do it, and you can quit at any time. So even if you enjoy your job, it probably doesn’t fit this definition.Even if you just feel like you should do something, it can stop being play. Maybe you used to love playing golf. But once you start feeling like you should play so you can network better, then it’s no longer play. Everything changes when you feel that obligation.
- Play Must Be Intrinsically Motivated. You’ve gotta value the means more than the ends. Remember when you played pickup baseball as a kid? It’s like that. You wanted to win for sure, but not if it meant your friends would never play with you again.As an aside, this quality of play is what will help you develop more presence. It’s all about being in the moment rather than seeking out the reward.If you’ve ever had a hobby that you started getting paid for, then you know how rewards can ruin play. Once you start focusing on what you get out of an activity, it ceases to be play.For instance, I used to love playing poker. But at some point, it became more about winning moeny for me than playing the game. I still enjoy playing once in a while, but it’s just not the same anymore.
- Play Must Be Guided by Rules, but Must Leave Room for Creativity. In other words, sitting on your sofa watching TV is not play. There are no rules to it.
- Play Must Be Imaginative & Creative. The activity must be creative in some way or another. To be fair, this couldapply to almost any activity, including filing your taxes.
- You Must Be Be Alert and Active During Play, But Also Non-Stressed. This is another way that play helps to develop presence and mindfulness. Because you aren’t focused on a result or future goal, you are in the present moment.
Those are the five primary aspects of play, but it’s not something you need to remember at all. You know whether you’re playing or not.
If you’re doing something because you need to do it or because you should do it, then it’s not play. Likewise, if you feel like you can’t stop or like it’s not creative and fun, then it’s not play.
And all of that brings us to this…
Why Play Board Games?
Any type of play is great. So if board games are not be your thing, then find something else.
But give board games a chance. They offer unique advantages even over many other types of play.
And as I’ll explain below, the board games I’m talking about are not the games you played when you were a kid. These games are more strategic, more complex, and more fun.
Here are 6 big reasons board games are a great form of play:
- Board Games are Live and In-Person. I can’t stress enough how important this is. Video games are great, and a lot more research is showing many benefits of video games.But you also need to be with other people. Being in the presence of other people does two big things. First, it teaches you to live more present in the moment. Live humans force you to react to physical cues, conversations, and more. When you combine that with a competitive board game, it’s hard to be distant or aloof.Second, playing live board games sharpens your awareness and social skills. When you play games with other live people, you’ve got to assimilate and process a lot of data. That teaches you to be adaptable, resilient, and observant.
- Board Games are Inexpensive and Easy to Learn. Some games are getting more expensive, but in general, they won’t break the bank.In addition, you can start playing at any age. This is different than many sports, which are often hard to compete in if you haven’t played from an early age.
- Board Games are Strategic and Tactical. This is true of most games but not of all play. Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, is a huge board game fan. He loves board games because he knows that they’ve helped him become a better strategist and tactician. That, he argues, is a large part of his entrepreneurial success.
- Board Games are Diverse and Varied. We live in a golden age of board games. What that means for you is that you can find dozens or hundreds of games that you will love.I’ll show you below how to get started, but rest assured that you won’t run out of options in the next 50 years.
- Board Games are Generally Not Addictive. Even for someone who lovesboard games, it’s hard to get addicted. First, you always need other live players. That’s just not possible all the time. Also, there’s no video or graphic interface that deludes you with information. I’m not bashing video games – I’m a big fan. But it’s nice to not feel compelled to play.
- Board Games are Much More Fun Than You Think. Most people think of Candyland, Risk, and Monopoly when they think of board games. There’s nothing wrong with those games, but they’re not what I’m talking about.
Board games are over 5,000 years old, when humans first invented dice. And yet, in the past 50 years, more and better board games have been created than in the previous million years.
Here’s how to get started…
How to Get Started Playing More Board Games
How you get started will depend on your situation. For instance, it’s going to be super-easy as a student. If you work 90 hours a week, it will be a little tougher.
Regardless, here are my suggestions:
- Find a local gaming group. In every major and semi-major town, you’ll find a gaming group. Often, it’s easiest to find them on Meetup.com.Finding a gaming group is great because you know for sure that there are people who already want to play. More than that, they likely have games already and can teach you how to play.This is definitely the way to get started, and you’ll likely make new friends. If you don’t like the people, though, don’t give up on the games…
- Start with these games. If you browse BoardGameGeek.com, you’ll see reviews for thousands of games. I’ll list my favorites below, but they aren’t the ones you should start with.Especially if you don’t have someone teaching you, you should start with easy games. My suggestion is to start with one of the following games. They’re easy to learn and don’t take too much time.
- Let Go. If you’ve made it this far, then you just read over 2,000 words on why play and board games are great.It’s all true, but I also encourage you to forget it when you start playing. Whether you’re playing board games or anything else, the point is still to play. Not to try to get something out of it. So, as cliche as it might sound, just have fun.One other point… You likely won’t fully understand most of these games on your first play. If you’re playing with experienced players, you almost certainly won’t win. It doesn’t matter. I’m as competitive as anyone I know, so I understand the compulsion. But this is a golden opportunity to acknowledge and then release that compulsion.
Whatever You Do, Don’t Stop Playing
Please, find ways to play almost every day. It will change your life. (If you have kids or pets, this should be extra-easy.) It takes a bit of commitment to letting go more often, but the rewards are immense.
If you do this, you’ll find that you have more enthusiasm and energy for everything else in your life. You’ll have more fun, but you’ll also be more productive and more successful.
There are plenty of times in my life when I don’t take my own advice. And I always find that I get tired and burnt out much more quickly. It’s a lesson that’s easy to forget and hard to explain.
If you’re ready to get started, play the games I suggested above. If, though, you’re ready to take it a bit further, here’s a list of my current favorite games:
How About You?
Do you play enough? Let me know in the comments below what your favorite types of play are. And if you’re a board game geek like me, what are your favorite games?
Jeremy Hendon has founded a few businesses, sold one of them, and calls himself an author and speaker. Mostly, he tries to help folks live a life they love. You can check him out at JeremyHendon.com, on Snapchat (@JMHendon), or on Twitter/Periscope (@JMHendon).
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