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23 Jun 2020

GUEST ARTICLE: "Reconnected"

As the lockdown drags on, digital gaming has helped me bring back my favorite hobby... and my joy.

Written by Beneeta Kaur

Republished with permission from The Manifold.


 

On my kitchen counter rests a mini easel that keeps track of the number of days I’ve been in lockdown at home. As of today, I’m on day 67.

 

As an extrovert, the lockdown was difficult at first. I missed being around people and I especially missed playing board games with them. I love board games for the chance they give me to hang out with my friends and make new ones, and for the opportunity to get off my phone for a little while. My iPhone sends me weekly reminders of my screen time and it’s pretty shameful—I blame you Tik-Tok and Pokémon Go—so any hobby that stops me from staring at a screen and gets me to actually talk to people face-to-face is important to me.

But now COVID-19 is limiting our ability to be physically close to others and, while I want to do my part in flattening the curve (please stay home people), the isolation was getting to me. Prior to the current stay-at-home era, I’d heard you could play board games online in various ways but it had never been something that interested me and I never sought them out. I'd tried them, but they just weren't for me. But maybe now it was time to give board game apps and websites a another chance.

I was surprised at what I found: while playing games via apps and sites is definitely not my first pick, with one small addition they became an important way for me to keep in touch with my loved ones while also playing some of our favorite games.  So what was the difference between now and when I’d tried them before?

 

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It seems obvious in retrospect, but the secret to an extrovert like me finally enjoying playing board games online with friends was simply adding a second platform so we could actually talk or even see each other. That was what I was missing before. This new ability to truly be with my friends while we played has done wonders to help us feel like we're  all together even though we're miles and even continents apart.

(Also, I really love to trash talk and typing out “hahaha you lose” doesn’t have the same effect!)

In the last few weeks, I’ve had successes—Just One, Wavelength, Star Realms, Dominion—and I’ve had failures. But even the failures have been fun: trying to play Obscurio on Tabletop Simulator was a mistake I’m never partaking in again, but the laughs we shared while I incessantly hit the Alt key because I couldn't see the stupid clue was totally worth the frustration.

Playing games online this way has even brought me closer to the non-gamers in my life. Using Zoom, I was able to share the fun of Jackbox with my family in India! Quiplash was a favorite and they’ve already asked to play again, something I never would have imagined happening before. Being able to share my love of gaming with the people in my life who haven’t gotten to experience it yet has been a bright silver lining to this crisis. But it makes me wonder: why did it take a global pandemic for me to do this!?

I can’t wait for things to get back to normal, but I'll never forget how board game websites and apps helped this extrovert deal with being stuck at home. I began my online gaming experiment thinking that it would just be a way to keep playing board games. But along the way, I discovered that—just like games in general—they're actually much more important than that: they're powerful tools to help us reconnect with the people we care about and create incredible new memories of our time together.

Stay safe friends.


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Beneeta Kaur is a Maryland native. She discovered modern board games in 2017 and hasn’t looked back since. Aside from gaming with friends and family, Beneeta is a huge foodie (especially spicy food that makes her cry), a lover of all things superhero-related, and an attorney in her free time. Beneeta is a contributor for Girls' Game Shelf. Follow her on Twitter at @beneeta_k and on Instagram at beneeta_k.

 

The Manifold is the brainchild of David Somerville—creator of Vast: The Crystal Caverns and former creative director at The Atlantic—and it's being brought to life by a team of writers and editors who are all established members of the tabletop community. Every week, The Manifold features thinkpieces and personal essays about the world of tabletop gaming. Sign up for The Manifold's pre-launch newsletter here.

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