I really loved this episode!
I think one interesting takeaway from both Woody’s and Josue’s experience in gaming and social connection is that it’s also important to understand what baggage players bring into the game and what they hope to take out of it. Woody states close to the end about how a lot of this is dependent on the attitude that players bring to the table. I have a lot of experiences with gaming and examples for moments in my life when they have helped bridge conversations and when they haven’t. I think a lot of these experience complicates the conversation in many ways.
Like Josué as a Puerto Rican I have a lot of experiences playing Dominoes and Briscas with family and friends.
I have a grandfather with whom I have played chess and dominoes through the years and the experience somewhat mirrors that of Josué’s grandfather. He often kept the game at the forefront of the conversation. In a way, I do think it was a form of barrier to justify socializing without actually socializing. At times, however, when he scolded me for making a bad move or told me I should be aware of my surroundings, I felt a lot of it comes from his own cultural baggage. Much in the same way the men are taught that they have to be stoic and guide children with a strong hand. I believe my grandfather was teaching me (at least attempting to) to be a “smarter man”. He is not emotionally open at all, and as it happens with a lot of this type of parents, their only way of enacting fatherhood is by stomping out imperfections in order to raise strong boys (as opposed to weak ones). So I guess there’s a lot in gender that really went into what that relationship was like.
However, I had Uncle with whom I had NOTHING in common and after they saw me playing dominoes once he took it upon himself to teach me the ropes and his personal techniques and how to count dominoes and make guesses. Our relationship was better, even if it was just dominoes, it was something we had in common from then on.
In high school, I played Briscas with friends often and this was definitely something that happened in the background and helped us bond.
Rather recently I met up with a friend I hadn’t talked with for years when he came to my apartment he said he wanted to play Netrunner with me. It was a disaster, we didn’t get to catch up a lot because we both got caught up in understanding the whole ruleset. But i see why he wanted to show me that game, because he loves technology hacking and cyberpunk culture and that game definitely feeds into that. We didnt catch up on a lot but we laughed a lot about how horribly we understood the rules.
On the other hand, my fiancee and me bonded a lot after Hurricane Maria, when I popped out my copy of Elder Sign, which is a game with a complicated set of rules, but sharing the process of understanding the game as a sort of puzzle that we bonded with and to this day we can play it using it as background for conversation. During the podcast, you guys talked about how in order to have that background interaction you need a game with a simpler ruleset, but I remember years of playing with a specific friend in high school, where we would play chess for hours and talk about life, and part of what made that conversation possible was the fact that I knew that my friend was a chess master (sometimes we would try to beat him at chess 3 against 1 and he would still win) so I never really focused on winning. Chess was just the thing we did to keep our hands busy while we talked.
One thing that video games don’t have is the concept of tabletop rpgs, and I guess this is just too unique to this type of game. The ability to create a story or a character of your own and bring it to a group of people really has the potential of being a strong relationship building exercise. Similarly, I have a lot of memories starting up friendships with Icebreaker games like Cards Against Humanity, Super Fight, Apples to Apples and Taboo. Many of these party games are great because they help you start a conversation in otherwise awkward social interactions, and I have seen games like these literally bring strangers together.
Im excited for the next episode!