I’ve had to explain to people, for years, what tabletop gaming is.
I normally say the same thing; “It’s just gaming, that you do in person. Like board games, and those trading card games you sometimes see. Do you know Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons… Warhammer?”
Often people do.
But this isn’t the full explanation, and I’ve been thinking more recently about what ‘tabletop gaming’ means. Rather than simply what it is.
A while ago I wrote something about fear, and Stranger Things and Role-Playing. It touched on the idea that the ability to play gives us a psychological experience that is profoundly useful and even necessary. Play, according to Brian Boyd, the brilliant author of ‘On the Origin of Stories’ is one of the most fundamental, primordial and important adaptations that humans have.
It is in the action of play that lots of our cognition gets honed for engagement with the ‘real world’; a distinction that is not always completely clear. As in play, we experiment with ways of thinking and being that might endanger or embarrass us in the wider social world.
I believe that this is an extraordinary aspect of our evolutionary history; the step to producing a meta-reality - the human imagination - within which we could experiment with being, not simply be.
So me, this is increasingly the meaning of ‘tabletop gaming’; a space within which people expand and develop their minds. It seems a grand statement about Friday Night Magic, or a Pandemic throw-down in your local; but next time you think about what ‘tabletop gaming means’, ask yourself what living inside your mind would be like without it.
Luke @ Muster