As the husband of a “game hater” I hear 2 responses when someone complains that their wife/husband/SO/friends hate board games. Is there a 3rd option.
“How can I get my spouse to like board games?!?!?!”
This discussion pops up on “Board Game Twitter” every now and then. It usually starts with someone bemoaning that their wife doesn’t like playing board games. Amid the responses of generic gender hate, over simplifications, defensiveness and people just generally trying to find things to be upset about; 2 general thought processes about the topic emerge from the social quagmire in an effort to “help” the lonely gamer.
Since I have 10 years of personal experience in this category, I’d like to propose a third, often overlooked, option.
1. You’re the problem
Those who claim this generally believe that the person trying to foist games upon their spouse or friends is the problem. This, of course, is sometimes the case.
It’s quite possible that you are just not all that fun to play with.
Interestingly enough, I’ve seen some players change the way they behave when they are playing games with friends vs. when they are with their spouse.
- Where they give their friends the benefit of the doubt, they lose patience with their S.O.
- Where they would let their game night pals make their own decisions, they Alpha game their Spouse into oblivion.
So, yes, check yourself, it’s possible that you are the problem.
If it’s not that, then maybe…
2. You just haven’t chosen the right game yet
This is by far the most common argument I see whenever this topic resurfaces. I’ve even made it a time or two…or twelve. Someone will say “Well have you tried ‘x’ yet?!” or “My husband hated games until I tricked him into playing ‘x!’ Now we play games every night!”
It’s true. It is possible that you haven’t found the right game yet.
And, depending on your taste in games, it may even be possible that you are combining both of these first two problems!
For instance, if you’re a deep strategy gamer who loves Through the Ages, gets excited for an all day adventure with Twilight Imperium, and froths at the mouth when a game like Anachrony hits retail, you probably shouldn’t start your non-gaming friend, spouse, or S.O. with the classic gateway game of Terra Mysica.
Hashtag: Bad Idea.
But, all of that is really just an elaborate introduction, because I think there is a third option that gets far too little credence.
I don’t think you are. But here we go anyway.
It’s possible that….
3. They Just Don’t Like Board Games
I know… I can hear your collective gasp from where I sit. How dare I say something so sacrilegious! EVERYONE MUST LIKE BOARD GAMES!!!
Well…I want you to take a moment to stop and think about the nearly impossible all encompassing nature of that statement. While you do, let me tell you a story.
I don’t like fish.
I don’t like their smell. I don’t like their texture. And most of all, I do not like their taste. I won’t like fish on a train. I won’t like fish on a plane.
I. Do. Not. Like. Fish.
But do you know what happens with stunning regularity when I tell people that I don’t like fish? They start down this almost scripted list!
- “Well, have you tried Haddock?” or
- “You have to try Tilapia, it tastes just like chicken!” or
- “You don’t know what you’re missing out on! Sword fish is a delicacy!”
First off, Mr. Sam I Am, I’ve tasted all of those kinds fish (and more). I don’t like them, to my core!
And for the record, sword fish is just awful.
Secondly, the more people try to push fish on me…the more I’ve started pushing back. The first few times this happened, I listened, and tried their “new” fish. I even passed up a free Filet Mignon once to try that stupid Sword Fish.
Worst. Meal. Ever.
But after years of this predictable mantra, I’ve gotten to the place where I am frustrated by the many fish lovers who just can not accept the FACT that…
I. Do. Not. Like. Fish.
Cool story bro.
This brought me to epiphany.
Maybe…Just maybe…It’s possible for people to not like board games.
I’d like to be real with you for a moment
There are two very important people in my life who don’t like board games. My wife, and my dad.
And it’s taken me about 10 years, but I’ve discovered that the more I try to push board games on them, the less fun they have.
In preparation for this post I actually asked my wife what she doesn’t like about board games and I was struck by the honesty of her response:
“I think for work all day. I stress about decisions, I struggle to be the best. When I’m not working, the last thing I want to be doing is working my brain. The last thing I want to do is strive to be the best at a particular strategy. I just want to relax. I want to get lost in a book. I want to enjoy Heartland on Netflix.”
I have also come across others who
- Struggle to maintain an emotional balance within a game that would keep the experience fun for all players, so it’s not fun for them
- Hate rejection, or struggle with perfectionism and don’t want to willingly put themselves in situations where they are going to have to deal with those feelings in a time that is “supposed” to be fun, or who
- Don’t like the emotional toll of a game when there is one person at the table who isn’t having a good time and they feel like it might be their fault.
The biggest bombshell of all? There are people who have played games, but just don’t enjoy them…for no particular reason at all. It’s just not their jam.
It’s because of all of this that I no longer subscribe to the belief that “Everyone loves board games, they just haven’t found the right one yet.” Life experience, and basic logic, just tells me that it is impossible for that to be true, about anything, even board games.
So… What’s the Point?
I call myself a bit of a board game evangelist. By that I mean I’m always looking for opportunities to introduce people to the hobby that I think is one of the best hobbies on the face of the planet. However, I think that sometimes, myself included, we can get so intent on drawing someone in, especially those close to us, that we lose sight of the person as we focus on our goal.
For those of you who have gaming spouses: Enjoy it! Love it! But be careful when you interact with those who don’t have the same situation as you.
Now I want to emphasize something very important- you should not hide your joy. Absolutely not. And when someone asks how you “got your spouse into gaming” by all means give all the great ideas you have. But also be careful. Saying “you just haven’t chosen the right game yet” or “you must be the problem” to someone who’s been trying for years, can seem more like an indictment than encouragement.
For those like me who have a spouse, significant other, or just close friends who haven’t embraced your hobby no matter how hard you’ve tried, let me challenge you, maybe it’s time to step back. Maybe it’s time to tell them “You know, I see that you don’t like board games. And I want you to know, that’s totally ok, because I don’t like fish.”
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