Hi, Juneau! It’s Doctor* Guy here with another question from Our Readers (*Not a real doctor. Batteries not included. Standard rates and services may apply).
What’s the best way to stay connected and happy during the winter? My Sportsball season just ended, and I don’t know how to ice fish. Am I going to have to scroll through Facebook until April?
Well, Our Readers. I think I have just the prescription for you. Play two games and call me in the morning.
Games? Yes, games! Just about everybody plays games in one way or another. For some people, it’s a whole lifestyle. For others, maybe they just like card games, or games on their phone. Maybe they like figuring out puzzles, or playing games with my emotions (I’m looking at you, Stranger Things!). OK, but no, seriously. Playing games (or as aficionados call it, “gaming,”) is a large part of our culture that only seems to be growing.
Maybe you remember playing make-believe as a kid, or having that ubiquitous closet of board games, and that ziploc bag of game pieces. Maybe you played Sims in high school, or your grandpa taught you Texas hold ‘em. Believe it or not, all of those may have greatly contributed to who you are now.
Think about it. Even brown bears, the efficient omnivorous eating machines of the forest, play games with each other as cubs. There’s something about games that are essential to the growing brain. But I would argue that games aren’t just important for young human brains. They also give us a reason, at any age, to get around a table and talk, eat and laugh. They give us a reason to be a team, even though outdoor sports are left long behind in the warmer months. They help us meet people, and keep in touch.
What kind of games are we talking about here? Well, although they are fun, I’m going to exclude “solitaire” games, or games you play by yourself. Sudoku and Tripeaks don’t count. And the game has to be pointless. In other words, no money is at stake, and there are no extrinsic rewards. For example, you can play a game of chance, like Chutes and Ladders, or a game of strategy, like chess. You can play a computer game like League of Legends, or a physical game like Settlers of Catan. You can even play a game of pure wordplay. Some games sound geeky and difficult, whereas others might feel more accessible. But they all serve the same basic functions: bringing us together in community, engaging our sense of play, and rewarding us for improving at something.
If you’ve ever wanted to play more, but just aren’t sure when and where to start, there are many options around town. Some places, like the Northern Tea House, just keep board games on a shelf so you can pick them up anytime over a cup of tea. There are also scheduled events and clubs, like the Hearthside Books Gaming Club, or the UAS Gaming Club. There’s even a yearly event, Platypus-Con, that takes place in January, totally devoted to playing games.
If you like more advanced games, there are local social networks surrounding games like Dungeons and Dragons, Warhammer 40K, or Go (the ancient Chinese strategy game). Or, if you prefer to walk around while you play, you can try Geocaching (where you use a GPS and riddles to locate hidden items around town) or the more franchise-nostalgic Pokémon Go. Or have you heard about the Escape Game Alaska, where you get “locked” into a room with your friends and have to solve puzzles to get out?
There are really no limits when it comes to games around here. And if you want to make your own game night, there’s really only a couple ingredients you need.
1. As with everything in life, it’s better with snacks.
2. A bunch of people. Friends or strangers, doesn’t matter!
3. A variety of games. Not every game is for everybody. It’s good to have at least one prepared, but some options in case people want to try something else.
And that’s about it! Have fun, and play away!
• “Guy About Town” appears the first and third Sunday of every month and includes seasonal musings on what changes and what doesn’t in a small town. Guy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.