board game

The humble board game

I was having a good little ponder this morning about my blog and how it has become far too serious for my liking. Naturally I’m not a particularly serious person; I have my moments, of course, but in essence I live my life in search for a good chuckle. So why, then, does my blog not reflect this? To give credit where it is due, my blog is charming in its own little way, I won’t deny it this compliment. It’s an eclectic mix of musings, reflections and appreciations that I have grown rather fond of. But humour is missing and now that I have noticed this, its absence is getting to me. So if you will allow (and even if you will not, for by the time you are given the chance to form an opinion, the deed will already be done), I am now going to rectify this situation.

I was talking to my boyfriend about what I should write in my next blog and (bless him for the crazy mind he has) he suggested “a blog about the culture of games and how it has evolved over time”. It is an intriguing and original idea, however I must admit that on the regular this would be one of the last topics I would choose to write about… which is exactly why I am going to write about it. Allow me to take you on an adventure through my ponderings on a topic I know nothing about.

With my absence of knowledge or opinion on this topic, as any perfectionist and/or curator of useless information would do, I googled it. Due to the wonders of the internet and people with opinions on topics that are wildly under-acknowledged, your girl now has a basis for reflection.

From what we know, the first board game was invented in Predynastic Egypt, around 3000BC.  It was the early form of Backgammon, called Senet. However, this is also something we don’t know for sure because some people argue that the first board game was in fact a form of dice, originating in Turkey around 5000BC. Whether or not we know the exact date is beside the point. What I am here to point out is that no matter how much our lifestyle has transformed over the last few millennia, we still share with our ancestors an appreciation for the ever-humble board game. What is interesting, however, is that in these ancient times, board games were tied into politics and religion because even then the human race had a tendency to spoil even the most simple of things with these very topics.

Senet was used by Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs who believed strongly in the concept of fate. The people related a win in a game of Senet back to the strength of the Pharaoh’s protection under the great Egyptian gods. If you lost… well they probably didn’t make that publicly known; preventing widespread fears of godly smitings is always a good idea. In 3000BC, when the working class began to join the board game bandwagon, they started being tied into religion with a key example being Mehen. This game represented the deity Mehen who was known to the Sun Cult as a huge serpent who liked to wrap himself around the sun god (Ra) to protect him. But then somewhere in there, the god and the game became so tied up with one another, no one really quite knew which one came about first. Was the game inspired by the god or was the god inspired by the game? If the latter, I hope one day that there will be a seat for me in the great church of Catan.

In modern times, although some of us may find an interest in playing a round of Monopoly with Trump (or dabbling in the online game brought to you by the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster), essentially we have simplified the board game (and for modern time’s sake, the online/video game) back down to its true essence: away from politics and religion and back to a mode of socialising. Even video games, which were once known as the tool of the antisocial to avoid society, have now become more open to interaction with an increase in multiplayer and interactive gaming (my heartfelt condolences to the antisocial).

It’s funny how simpler times brought about a complication of the simple things and in more complicated times, the simple things are appreciated for their simplicity. I am personally very grateful to the humble board game. Thank you for taking away the awkward silence in a dull party. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to appreciate the wit and brilliance of the people we surround ourselves with. And thank you for flipping tables since 1902 (the invention of Monopoly). I am glad that there has been a resurgence in board games and social video gaming. It brings about a moment of happiness for everyone and draws out the side of a person’s personality that is so often crushed or hidden under the weight of every day. So thank you, games, for making humanity great again.

So there you go, friends. That has been my pondering on a topic I now know a little too much about.

Stay fun,
Stay brilliant,
Play a board game.

-Alice

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