The conversation begins out of small-talk. Someone in the workplace asks what I did the night before or over a weekend. That kind of thing. Ordinary chat.
It’s a version of “what do you like to do for fun?” You know the question. And, I can’t help but feel like, after a few years of knowing the answer, that I should have perfected the response.
But, no. Instead, I find myself fielding the same awkwardness every time. And my attempts to change the trajectory of the misunderstanding have been ineffective. I inject more enthusiasm in my reply (as if sheer energy can catapult me across the misconception). I pad the answer with details (details which mean absolutely nothing to the listener because were it otherwise I wouldn’t be feeling awkward to start with).
Because when I say ‘boardgames’ to someone, chances are that the words ‘Scrabble’ and ‘Monopoly’ are going to be a part of their response to me.
And somehow I have to explain that I haven’t willingly played either since I was about twelve years old without sounding disparaging. Because usually they have begun their reply by attempting to connect something they enjoy with this activity I have named.
Telling me that you love Scrabble has as much to do with the boardgame world I know and love as telling a videogamer that you love Space Invaders. Yes, two boardgames and two videogames: two different generations. If you were to offer a ten-year-old kid today a game of Pong (which I loved, like every other kid in the ‘70s) they would not see any relationship to the latest release of Fallout or Grand Theft Auto.
Opting for the word ‘tabletop’ over ‘boardgames’ seems like a place to start, but, no. If someone knows what that means, they are not likely to use the word ‘Scrabble’ in their reply anyway. That just leads to an ever greater sense of unfamiliarity and swerves toward some vague idea of wargames or RPGs. No place to connect there either.
And even though some of the games I enjoy, like Clank! and Mystic Vale, are technically card games, saying ‘card games’ can lead to talk of Euchre and Go Fish, which feels almost as far away as Scrabble and Monopoly from what I was trying to describe to begin with.
I do remember what it was like to discover how much the world of board games had changed, since my Scrabble-and-Monopoly-playing days. But trying to find a way to sum up that changing landscape when you’re having an around-the-water-cooler conversation is harder than it seems.