We all have cherished memories around games. Maybe it was beating the pants off your sibling as kids. Maybe it’s Friday night poker with your buddies. Or maybe it’s learning chess from your Grandpa. Or maybe it’s completely different. But I guarantee there’s something. And that’s what What Board Games Mean to Me: Tales from the Tabletop is all about. This fun collection of essays, edited by Donna Gregory, all talk about just why games are so important to us. One thing is very clear by the end of the book, while we all play for different reasons, the important thing is just that we play.
[Note: While I am reviewing this novel independently and honestly, it should be noted that it has been provided to me by Aconyte for the purpose of this review. Warning: My review of What Board Games Mean to Me: Tales from the Tabletop contains some spoilers!]
A variety of views about some of our favorite games
There are over two dozen essays in What Board Games Mean to Me: Tales from the Tabletop, each from a different author. While some of them are game designers, testers, professional players, or are involved in the game world in some other way, many are not. There are stories from authors, librarians, stay-at-home parents, parents of special needs children, actors, and more.
I really liked that some of the stories came from average, everyday people. It made them even more relatable. I also loved that the contributors come from all over the world. It’s a great reminder that regardless of where you go, people like to have fun. Games are a great way to connect everywhere. Some people found that games even helped them to cross language barriers.
The great part of having lots of contributing authors is that we get to hear many great stories. We also go to see how very similar we are, no matter where we go. The bad part of having so many contributors is that the writing quality was all over the place.
Some essays were fantastic. “Mind Blown” by John Kovalic was a particularly good one. It had me laughing all the way through, and his asides are just hilarious. Some others, while telling interesting stories, were just a bit dry or boring. Overall, the quality averages out to a “B” or “B+” level, but there are definitely highs and lows.
Two really good points in What Board Games Mean to Me
The over-arching takeaway from What Board Games Mean to Me is that games create connections between people. But I noticed as I read that there were two basic themes being repeated over and over. First, games help us connect because they’re fun. When we’re having fun, it’s easier to bond. You may not remember an individual game or who won the most, but you’ll remember the good feelings you had playing and feel closer to those that you played with because of it.
The second theme that came up over and over was how the basic formula of games smooths social interactions. The rules set out by the game tell you exactly how to behave, and the game itself gives you something to talk about. This removes a lot of the stress that social interactions can cause, especially for introverts, like me.
By knowing what we need to do and having a fall-back conversation topic, games make group events easier. And they’re fun! Games are a win all the way around, and reading What Board Games Mean to Me reminded me of that.
What Board Games Mean to Me is a great gift for the game lover in your life
This was a nice diversionary book. And the individual essays make it a great bathroom book. But I think the best use of this book is as a companion to a gifted game. Giving someone a game is great, a perfect gift. Including this book with all the reasons that games are so important adds a nice emotional factor to it.
You’re letting them know just how important games are, and just how special they are that you’re choosing to share a game with them. Then they can read it in the bathroom! (Seriously, collections of small essays are the best for bathroom time.)
But if you don’t want to give this book away, it’s also a great read for yourself. It was a nice reminder of just why games are so important, and that just because we get older, doesn’t mean we should stop playing games.
I think my favorite part of reading What Board Games Mean to Me was that it got me thinking about all the games I’ve played in my life and how much I’ve enjoyed them. But more importantly, how much I’ve enjoyed spending time with the people I’ve played them with.
We always had board games growing up, and then video games provided me and my teenage friends with something to do. But in my family, cards are king, and we still get together and play for hours. And while it’s nice to win, it’s somehow never really that important who’s winning or losing. We all love to dissect each hand after it’s been played. And when someone manages a really spectacular round, everyone is excited for them, even if they’re not on your team.
Games are important to society, but sometimes we need to be reminded just how essential they are and why. What Board Games Mean to Me does an outstanding job of that. So grab a copy and be reminded, then go play a game!
My Rating: 8/10
What Board Games Mean to Me: Tales From the Tabletop edited by Donna Gregory is available now from Aconyte Books! Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord if you intend to check this book out!