During a recent conversation with gaming friends, the topic of “what games most influenced us over the years?” came up. It was so interesting to hear how games we played as kids, in school, and later in life influenced our gaming interests today and led to some of us working in the game industry. This Monday series will take a personal look into my history as a gamer with my #Top10InfluentialGames. This week, we look at the classic game the awkward, junior high school me played, which found him a mentor through a difficult time.
By junior high, I was playing lots of card and board games with my family and friends. We had a shelf of games at home, and always had a deck of cards with us when we traveled. Life was pretty good for this nerdy kid, that is until my parents separated and divorced right before school started. I won’t discuss that time in my life in length, but, understandably, it was a very emotional and traumatic time for me, as it is for many kids who experience divorce. My seventh grade year of school was rough emotionally for me. My junior high shop teacher, Geoff Schwartz, I think understood that. During Wood Shop, he found out I enjoyed games and offered to play backgammon with me after school when I had time. I spent many fun after-school hours playing backgammon with him, talking as we played. No one else around, just him and me playing a game. Sharing his love of the game and spending time mentoring me had a huge impact on me. In fact, I am getting a bit teary-eyed just remembering. I fell in love with backgammon so much at that time, I crafted my own backgammon board and pieces as my final project for Wood Shop (it is the board pictured above). Years later when I returned to a town near where I grew up, I met Geoff Schwartz again, as we now attend the same church. He continues with his servant heart, serving the community and our church wonderfully. I still look up to him as a mentor and friend, more than he probably realizes. This experience playing backgammon with Geoff and the lifelong love he developed in me for this game really impacted my view of games over the years.
* Classic abstract games are as fun as flashy modern thematic games. I played Chess and Checkers, but was never passionate about them. Backgammon finally grabbed my attention and showed me how elegant and challenging the classic abstract games can be. Since then, I have fallen in love with games like Othello, Mancala, and others. I also enjoy modern abstract games like Pente, Quarto, Batik, and Qwirkle.
* Games can be used to reach out to others. Games are entertaining, they can be competitive, and they can teach you skills. I knew those things already by junior high, but I had not realized how much a game can open doors to others until then. Honestly, I didn’t think about it then, but did years later when I looked back at that time in my life. Geoff used backgammon to reach out to a kid who did not want to be helped. Backgammon was a non-threatening conduit for him to reach out to me. We enjoyed our games, and over time, I was willing to talk to him about things. Since that day, and as I have matured, I have also found games a great conduit. Gaming is not just a hobby for me, it is a way for building relationships and reaching out to others.
What about you? What game have you played the most over the years that had a huge impact on you? I would be very interested in others writing about their #Top10InfluentialGames. Next week, I will discuss the game of pencils and paper I was introduced to while riding the bus to high school.