Life Hacks through Game Mechanics: Catan in the Kitchen

Ah, November. A time to recover from crazy Halloween parties and hide the kids’ trick-or-treating haul so they don’t eat it all in one go. Depending on where you live, leaves are changing colors, days are getting shorter, and temperatures are dropping like electronic fish. It’s also the opportune time to bust out some favorite tabletop games. Catan, Ticket to Ride, Munchkin, even Risk or Monopoly for those families and friends that enjoy a bit of healthy competition. Gaming in its various forms has always served as a sort of glue to bring people together. It’s a way to spend time together, share experiences, and create stories worth repeating over several years. And hey, every now and again it ends in a victory, so that’s pretty great itself.

But even with the impact gaming has had on modern culture, most regard it as little more than a child’s pastime. It’s something to keep young people engaged and nothing more. But like a new Beyonce track or Walking Dead episode, games keep dragging people into their addictive embrace. With this in mind, let’s examine a few of the benefits of humanity’s greatest pastime: gaming.

We Play to Win the Game

Be it a single player experience or kitchen table titan, games are meant to be played and enjoyed. Beyond that, games are meant to be won. Even if playing just to play, the air of competition is thick for many a gamer. Which makes it all the more enticing when playing against friends and family: victory can be immortalized, defeats enjoyably memorable. Or at the very least memorable, depending on the salt levels.

Competition can quickly draw people into a game once dice are thrown and rules explained. It can also serve as a motivation to improve and adapt to different play patterns. Provided the bar isn’t set too high, the struggle for victory can keep players going long into the night. Once players get the hang of things, their sweetest feeling is overcoming the person who taught them how to play. Swinging for lethal in Magic, putting your opponent in checkmate, grabbing the last black card is a heady feeling. And at the same time, the players learn critical thinking and on-the-fly variable play to achieve victory. Table politics and social interaction can shape not only the gamescape, but how people interact with others for a lifetime.

Keep that in mind next time you make a trade agreement in Catan.

All Work and No Play…

To be honest, sometimes life gets complicated. Work, school, deadlines, that roommate who steals your lunch because they’re too lazy to make their own: it gets draining. Games offer a release, an escape for a couple hours, and a time to relax with friends and family. No time to worry about rent when there’s a zombie horde at your borders. Never mind bills, where do I put these experience points? Don’t think about the thesis deadline coming up, cousin Tracy just grabbed a Blue Shell and you’re in first!

Taking the chance to shake off the outside world for a few hours isn’t bad. It lets people unwind, and have some fun with others outside of watercooler commiserating. It’s laughing and bickering and bringing back classic memories while making new ones. It’s a living story that invites you to be a part of it. And isn’t that a good thing every now and then?

A Beautiful Game

I can honestly say that some of my fondest memories revolve around gaming. Highschool get-togethers with lifelong friends, late night Magic in college dorms, afternoons with my brothers. These experiences, these moments, were not only an escape, but places I could relax, talk, share myself. Gaming can be cathartic, catalytic, and cornerstone points of a person’s life, building them a little at a time. Lessons learned through gaming can echo through years and leave lasting impressions. Or, at the very least, it’s a fun way to spend an afternoon, and that can be just fine too.

To Discuss

What are some of your favorite games: tabletop, electronic, social, etc? How do you think they’ve impacted you, if at all? Do you think gaming is important? Anything else we didn’t touch on here? Leave all of your thoughts in the comments.

Until next time, cheers!

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