BY: DAVID VOGEL
If you’ve been part of a youth group, small group, or really any sort of Christian gathering for students you’ve probably heard of board games like The Settlers of Catan. Over the past few years, there has been a dramatic increase in the interest of strategic board games, and there seems to be a good portion of that interest coming from Christians, specifically Christian students. My question is, “why?” I, too, am a lover of board games, and I am probably responsible for introducing several friends to games like Settlers, Pandemic, Carcassonne, and Dominion. (If you haven’t heard of any of those, I would encourage you to look them up.) So, I definitely understand the appeal, and I would like to suggest an idea or two as to why games like these have gained so much traction in Christian circles.
I think the most obvious answer is that board games bring people together in a way that no other medium of entertainment does. Being a lover of the games myself, I have no problem with inviting friends over to my house over Christmas break or to my residence hall’s lounge during finals week to kill an hour or two enjoying each other’s’ company and stopping diseases from ravaging the planet. (Check out Pandemic) When we game, we make memories and inside jokes. Sometimes tension is created, but we keep it within the game, and I think that only bolsters our friendships. I feel safe saying that from a two year long losing streak in The Settlers of Catan, and I’m still friends with the guy who routinely beats me, so have no fear. It can be done! The friends I game with are probably the closest ones I have, and these games have provided greater opportunities to just talk and hang out together.
The recent increase in interest in board games has also produced games to appeal to almost any person. No longer are youth groups subjected to endlessly painful games of Monopoly, Sorry!, or The Game of Life” While these games can be fun, American and European game developers have learned a lot from each other, and now games come in almost every theme, style, and strategic type. Whether you and your friends want to be firefighters working together to extinguish a burning building and save the residents, (Check out Flash Point: Fire Rescue.) or you just want to build roads, cities, farms, and monasteries by placing tiles, ( Carcassonne in a nut shell) board games have you covered. Most games have abandoned the roll-and-move style and opted for more strategic and thought provoking styles. Board games have become more dynamic and interesting over the past 10 years, and this has piqued the interests of many people, including Christian students.
As a lover of games, myself, I hardly ever hesitate to invite others to play. It’s possible that others seem games as an opportunity for ministry or fellowship, and these are all viable uses for something of this nature, but that’s never been the main focus of the games for me. For me, I see board games as an opportunity to have fun with friends or strangers and bond over something everyone can enjoy.