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This weekend's edition of WSJ had this article that I simply had to share--you can read it online here.
One of the more interesting segments of the piece--which is really aimed at videogamers--was something I thought applied to board wargames as well. The article argues that gaming provides four major experiences that, according to author Jane McGonigal, "make for a happy and meaningful life." She lists these as: (1) satisfying work, (2) real hope for success, (3) strong social connections, and (4) the chance to become a part of something bigger than ourselves. Her examples are drawn from the world of videogames but I thought I'd relate them to boardwargaming as well:
#1 Satisfying work. After slaving hours on learning ASL rules or crafting a reasonable Soviet defense in FURY IN THE EAST, there's a sense of accomplishment. Now, don't get me wrong--I still lose in both ASL and the MMP IGS game (the latter quite badly, still). But I see improvement in my play and so I keep at it. Particularly gratifying is when I finally can master some arcane rule/subroutine in ASL or solve a thorny game problem when sitting down to play.
It's interesting that McGonigal talks about "Guitar Hero" videogame players who actually pick up guitars--as I've mentioned elsewhere, playing wargames--particularly small unit tactical wargames--is a big reason why I joined and then made a career out of the Marine Corps. My hobby contributed to my work and my work contributed to my hobby.
#2 Real hope for success. Note that she's careful to say "hope" here. Because, as do her videogame player subjects, I lose at least as often as I win, and in many games, I lose far more often than I win. But it doesn't matter. I'll still keep playing. I can't seem to win one game of FURY IN THE EAST as the Soviet but doggone it, I keep playing as that side and will until I figure out how to win with them against a really good German player.
#3 Strong social connections. I felt this when doing FTF play as a teenager, but now with the internet, I feel connected to people through websites such as this one, Board Game Geek, and other venues. Yes, there are other people like me. Lots of them. It's a marvelous thing. When I was in the military, I found like-minded fellow servicemembers both in and outside my unit. It was terrific to learn from them and to develop teamwork to a higher level in solving cardboard military judgment challenges. Indeed, I even created a briefing on the subject: "Wargaming and Military Culture: Education and Cohesion Building."
#4 Chance to become something bigger than ourselves. Again, she uses a caveat--"chance." But who doesn't get inspired by taking on national leadership responsibilities in a game of WORLD IN FLAMES or TOTALER KRIEG? When playing a team game in some monstergame or taking on a flight of aircraft in WHISTLING DEATH or a couple sailing ships in CLOSE ACTION, we subsume our own desires to that of the larger goal of the team.
McGonigal sings the praises that gaming brings to real-world problem solving and her arguments are compelling. Now, if I can only figure a way to get approval to run long games over breaks and lunch hours in my next job!