Sunday 27 February 2011

boardgames being mirrors

Han is my boardgame kaki (fellow fan) whom I've known the longest. I realize that there are a lot of things that I don't know about him, even though I see him more than any other friend. When we meet, we play. E.g. I don't know his favourite movie (but I wouldn't be surprised if it has zombies, or elves, or space marines). We do talk about non-gaming stuff, but not much. We don't sit and chat. We always play.

However I do know one aspect of him very well, the part that comes through when we game. I think when you are very immersed in a game, your true character really comes out. You find yourself being honest, being unafraid to be yourself, and being unafraid to become someone else, when you are playing. It's OK to be impolite, brutal, sneaky, treacherous, vengeful, or any sort of character inside the scope of the game. You can allow your alternative personality to surface. You role-play. At another layer, how you conduct yourself as a player (as opposed to the character you play inside the game) also shows what kind of a person you are. Win gracefully? Lose graciously? Flexible about taking back moves? How are rule disputes resolved?

Recently at a (non-gaming) gathering with Chee Seng, he brought along a Japanese friend Hajime who spoke limited English. Chee Seng himself spoke limited Japanese. So conversation was challenging and involved much usage of a translation program and a dictionary program (both on iPhone). When Chee Seng mentioned to Hajime that I was a big boardgame fan, I suddenly thought of getting everyone to sit down to play a game. It didn't happen eventually, because it was late, and the next day was a working day, and I didn't bring any game with me. But I thought the idea was interesting. Chee Seng wondered whether it would be difficult to teach the game, because even basic conversation was tough. I think we would have been able to manage it. I'd just pick a game with simpler rules. With the game components on the table to be used for examples, I think teaching a game would be fine. What I think would have been interesting is how we would get to know Hajime through the game-playing. I think we would have engaged him on an intellectual level (albeit limited by the scope and nature of the game) that we would not have been able to do with our halting conversation in a mix of English and Japanese.

Other than getting to know someone else through boardgames, you can also get to know yourself better. You may discover some aspect of yourself that you never knew existed, or never realised is as strong as it is. I was once surprised by myself when I got rather angry in one game. It was a game with a fair bit of conflict, and I was already doing rather poorly, and yet I was (or at least I felt I was) targeted by another fellow player. I should not have allowed myself to get that upset over a game.

When you get to know someone well through boardgames, or in fact through anything, sometimes you can't articulate what you know about that person. You don't know how to describe it. But given a certain situation, you know how your friend will react. And that's worth more than words.


Ashley Cotter-Cairns said...


I'm the publisher and owner of and I found your blog through a link from another that I admire: Thoughts from the GameRoom

Can we explore ways to exchange links?

Kind regards,

Ashley Cotter-Cairns
1 450 202 0710

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Hi Ashley,
Not too sure what you mean. If you prefer you can email me directly. I have a Gmail account and my username is my full name Hiew Chok Sien in one word without spaces.