Board gamers are a diverse bunch. Some are techies who work in the worlds of science and computers. Others are doctors, artists, executives, lawyers, or activists. But what’s always struck me about board gamers is just how many writers, readers, and other literary folk play games. Clearly there is some common link that attracts word nerds to board games. But what is it? What’s the commonality between books and board games?
I’ve given it some thought. As a writer, reader, and board gamer, here are the things I see as the primary links between the two hobbies.
Books and Board Games: The Commonalities
Each tells a story.
Most games have a theme. That might be building railroads, exploring alien planets, or going on a fantasy quest. The theme gives you an overarching goal for the game. Build the biggest railroad, slay the most dragons, find the most gold, etc. For those of us who enjoy stories, this isn’t that different from reading a book. The difference is that instead of reading quietly, we get to play our way through the story created by the game. Yes, some games are more abstract than others, but you can find some sort of story in almost all games.
They can both be educational.
Some games are true simulations of world events, war, or industry. Others have some true historical or scientific elements woven into an otherwise fictional theme. Regardless, a game can teach you something, or at least inspire you to learn even more about a topic. Books work the same way. Even fiction can teach you something, or send you on a quest to learn more.
Books and games stimulate the mind.
Both games and books are excellent at exercising the brain. Research shows that playing games and reading are both excellent ways to stave off Alzheimer’s disease and age related memory decline. They can also be used to help recover from traumatic brain injuries and strokes. Both activities place demands on the brain that stimulate growth.
Both are portals to other worlds.
A book can take you places, both real and imagined, that you’ll never visit in real life. They’re also great at helping you escape the real world for a while. So are games. As you get lost in the play and the story that the game is creating, you get away from your mundane life and go somewhere else. You get to go build that railroad, or live in the wild west for a couple of hours.
Game and books both (in some cases) have incredible artwork.
Board games are becoming an art form. Many games now sport amazing covers. The boards and cards are covered in beautiful images. Everything draws your eye and screams, “Play with me!” Books are the same way. Cover design is an art form. Picture books, graphic novels, and comics are nothing but artwork that makes you stare. Books and board games can both be appreciated simply for their art. The stories or play inside are sometimes a wonderful extra, secondary to the amazing art.
Both activities lend themselves to solo or group enjoyment.
Books are often thought of as an individual activity. But book clubs and reading groups can turn reading into a group activity. On the other side, games are typically thought of as a group activity. However, many games offer rulesets for solo play. Whether you’re in the mood for company or just want to be left alone, games and books can suit your needs.
They’re both relatively quiet pursuits; ideal for introverts.
Even though games are often played in small groups, they’re still great for introverts. Usually you play with people you know, in small numbers. It’s not like going to a big party where you know no one. And most games are quiet (except party games). Players may chat while others take their turns, but it’s still a pretty quiet, low-key activity. If you play solo, it’s even quieter. And, of course, reading is the flagship activity for introverts! If you prefer quieter times with friends or hanging out alone, either activity will work for you.
Bookstores and libraries are perfect places to play games.
Many libraries host board game nights. Bookstores, too. Even if they don’t officially host the game night, most libraries and bookstores don’t object if you gather a group and play there. Since games are quiet, they’re ideal for the quiet bookstore/library environment. Books and board games in one place. You can’t ask for more than that.
There’s lots of reading involved!
Readers probably enjoy games because they get to read. A lot. You have to read the rules. Many games have text on the cards. Some games are storytelling games and come with a book that guides you through the encounters and events of the game. I don’t think you can really play too many board games if you outright hate reading.
There are word games and games based on books.
Scrabble and Boggle are two of the best known, but there are tons of board games that require you to make, find, or define words. There are also plenty of games based on literary properties like Lord of the Rings, Sherlock Holmes, Marvel Comics, and others. You could play games just based on words and books without ever touching any other sort of games.
There are lots of things that attract word nerds to board games and vice versa. Looking at this list, it’s no surprise that many gamers are also interested in literary pursuits. The two blend together well.