Board Games – An American Pastime

Despite the tumultuous nature of the news these days, July 4th provides an opportunity to appreciate the things that remind us of good ol’ Americana: baseball, apple pie, fireworks and delightfully overeating. But there’s an argument to be made for including board games into the list of great American pastimes. And that argument is as follows:

Games span generations

The America our parents and grandparents grew up in (if your family has been in the country that long) might not closely resemble the one we live in today, but the games of Monopoly, Life, Backgammon, Scrabble and so many more play exactly the same. The ultimate strategy for these board games has been locked in for decades and the pieces, such as the Monopoly thimble or little peg people in Life, remain relevant to this day. And barring notable exceptions, games play mostly at all ages, meaning you can sit down with elderly relatives and play a favorite while being regaled with stories of past victories. Bonus points for using sets that are so old that the cardboard is beginning to curl with age.

Games reward inertia

We drive cars, stand on moving sidewalks, settle into bleachers for hours and prop ourselves in front of the television every day: Clearly, exercise is not in the cards for many of us. Chalk it up to a society unshackled from the constraints of movement, and as the home of Hollywood and Atlanta, one of America’s chief exports is pop culture. We keep you entertained even if we don’t keep you on your feet. Board games are a natural extension of this phenomenon given many of them have gone digital these days and increased in length to boot. Get comfortable—it’s the American way. 

Game pieces come in all shades

It’s unlikely most of us can trace our ancestry back to the Founding Fathers or, even more rare, anyone who lived in the colonies prior to emancipation. We are a country of immigrants and board games reflect that diversity on their surface. Yes, it might be a bit of a stretch, but the idea that players are divided into different colors only serves as a metaphor for how the game cannot be played unless everyone does their part. And the orange piece, for example, enjoys the same rights and follows the same rules as the green pieces. Dig deeper and you’ll find a slew of games that have arrived from other countries. These contribute different levels of strategy and expose people to a non-native language, where appropriate.

Games require the most American of tools

Where would our country be without our sweat-soaked, dirt-encrusted hands? (Potentially more free of COVID.) This nation was built with our hands, whether they were grasping hammers, pointing westward to the new frontier or affixed to levers that control a wrecking ball. Metaphorically we lift each other or ourselves up by bootstraps. And much like those early days, much of success in games comes from an ability to leverage your paws into creating something greater than yourself: the perfect victory. Let freedom from failure ring!

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