An observation about why some people don’t like board games (and how to cure them of that terrible affliction)


As a hopeless board games nutcase, I have a hard time understanding how anyone, ANYONE, can avoid being compelled, as if by some behemoth unseen force, to spend every waking minute of their lives thinking about, playing, and designing table games.

Being an inquisitive nutcase, about two years ago I began looking for people who claim not to like board games (as if that were possible hahaha no seriously that’s not possible) and asking them about why. I’ve learned some things which may be of interest to anyone keen to cultivate new game partners or expand the game market. Notably, there appears to be one dominant factor in turning people off board games. Ready for it?

Folks who dislike board games care more about board games than than the rest of us

What I mean is, those who dislike board games invest themselves more heavily in their outcomes, to such an extent that their identities are affected. When they lose, they feel they’ve endured a public demonstration of their ineptitude. When they win, they feel they’ve subjected their opponents to the same.

Game outcomes influence such folks’ sense of themselves, their social status, and the social status of others. That’s stressful.

I call this Over-investment Syndrome and a strong majority of the haters I’ve spoken to have it, which has surprised me.

But now that I’ve thought about it, it makes a tiny bit of sense. Board games may be the most intimate kind of games. The players are in the same room, at the same table, looking right at each other, as one eviscerates the others. It’s like that scene from Saving Private Ryan where the American and the German are wrestling on the ground and the German manages to get on top and slowly sinks a knife into the American’s chest over his whimpering pleas to stop. By the way don’t click that link unless you’re the opposite of squeamish.

There appears to be two distinct types of sufferers:

Type 1: these sufferers dislike competition generally, in games and life, because it feels like a needless kind of one-upmanship, which inevitably and pointlessly makes someone feel bad. A lot of women seem to fall into this category.

Type 2: these sufferers (mostly men) are the opposite: they’re not opposed to competition, and even relish it, but they don’t want to unleash the competitive beast in an endeavor which seems to them unreal or unimportant. My dad is the canonical example: he’s one of the most competitive people on Earth, and secretly believes everyone is out to screw him and that his only recourse is vigorous preemptive screwing (which sounds bad but he’s actually awesome). He’s like “Why agonize over a mere game when I can go out and fight someone to the death in real life?”

How to cure Over-investment Syndrome?

Now, you may argue: “Why should you want to cure it? Let people do what they will. No one likes a missionary, especially one on a dumb mission” Or at least that’s what the hemisphere of my brain that’s always trying to save me from myself whispers just before I shut it down like I’m a dolphin. I’ve no idea why I should care but I do. Let’s roll with it.

First, it’s important to make sure your subject does in fact suffer from this malady. Although it’s a common problem, there are other reasons people fail to play board games, notably:

1. The subject has never played board games before and so doesn’t have any opinion about them at all, or maybe thinks they’re just for kids.

2. The subject thinks there’s something unseemly about them. She suspects they’re a disreputable indulgence. I’m guessing this is a byproduct of the Protestant Ethic which has so greatly shaped our culture, and I’m not sure it’s wrong (I shudder to contemplate how much more I could do for the world if I spent as much time designing say, better solar panels, as I do designing games; alas I don’t know how to pick my obsessions).

So ask your subject questions about how playing games makes her feel. Maybe even present the three factors I’ve described. and ask which description fits her best (one thing I’ve learned, however, is you won’t always get an honest answer, because some people don’t want to cop to the embarrassing idea that game outcomes affect their sense of themselves. You’ll have to be subtle. The best option, if possible, is to try playing a game with your subject. If losing makes her agitated/sullen, you have your diagnosis).

Assuming your subject does suffer from Over-investment Syndrome, then what?


1. If strategy isn’t important to you, play party games.

2. If strategy is important to you, play co-operative games, like Pandemic, where everyone wins or loses together.

3. If strategy is important to you but you don’t like cooperative games, suggest a game which feels like “multiplayer solitaire”, like Fits.

All three genres avoid triggering Over-investment Syndrome to one extent or another (and I’ll wager that they all owe at least some of their popularity to that fact).

Note, you won’t be playing these kinds of games with your subject forever, and that shouldn’t be your goal. The best cure for Over-investment syndrome, in my experience, is simply to get someone to play games a lot. The more someone plays, the less invested she’ll feel in the outcome of any one play. She’ll realize that the outcome is insignificant and forgotten as soon as the next game starts.

For hard cases, you might consider a progression: start with party games, move to cooperative games, then multiplayer solitaire, then whatever you want.

4. If you can get into a conversation about the nature of games and the appeal they hold for you, try telling your subject this: when you take your turn, don’t think of the purpose as to beat your opponent. The purpose is to present to your opponent an interesting, challenging puzzle for her to mull. You’re really taking turns gifting puzzles to each other.

5. Buy a game you think you will be terrible at, introduce it to your subject, and resolve to play it only with her and never anyone else. Handicap if necessary or otherwise set things up so that your opponent will win more than you. Losing is harder than winning and you, as a game-lover, don’t mind losing nearly as much as your game-resistant subject. So find a game where you will be forced to struggle and your opponent will thrive. Then be sure not to ever, ever get upset about losing. If you ever seem less than perfectly sanguine about losing, it’ll reinforce in your subject that idea that there’s something real at stake.

I have a brilliant friend with whom I played games early in my obsession, and for years, without telling me, he made it his goal not to win, but to lose as narrowly as possible without my discovering his intent. Nearly every play was a barn burner and I came out on top more often than not and I think I owe much of my obsession to that experience.

Of course I was a bit embarrassed when he later told me what he was up to, but he needn’t have told me, especially because as I improved it got to the point where he no longer needed to try to make it narrow. It just happened because we were evenly matched. He could have just seamlessly transitioned to playing with normal intent. That’s an ideal script for turning someone onto games and I urge you to give it a try.

6. Finally, whatever else you do, proceed slowly and never press your case. Again, no one likes a missionary.

Nick Bentley

73 thoughts on “An observation about why some people don’t like board games (and how to cure them of that terrible affliction)

  1. Great article! I have come to similar conclusions over the years. Driving the knife home is exactly what I enjoy most about a good board game. It allows me to indulge in the sort of behaviors: lying, manipulation, and utterly cutthroat aggression, that I keep under wraps in real life. Games represent a positive outlet for such negative actions and at the end of the whether I won or lost matters less to me than if I got to play “hard” against quality opposition.

  2. I have encountered several other “types” —
    The persons who consider table-top games (other than “gambling” or traditional card games) to be strictly a “nerd” activity and do not want to be associated with same. A game that requires sitting (except for racing) and is not associated with teams, tracks, and stadiums is somehow reserved for the “brainiacs.”
    And speaking of brains, there are folks intimidated by the idea that they would be required to think, or claim not to be able to think, several moves ahead. My wife is one of these. She’s very intelligent, but seems to suffer deeply from Analysis Paralysis (sp?) even with the simplest roll-and-move. Purely tactical. And even in cooperative games, she prefers to do what she’s told and not actively influence the flow of the game.
    And there are also those who are so ADHD that their attention drifts easily from any game that requires more than four or five turns to get to the end. A single round of blackjack is about all they can handle. They just want to share. Cards with words? Forget it.
    And finally, I have invited some friends to play what gamers consider the “light gateway games” who get overwhelmed easily at the thought of “actions” and “turn order” and “special abilities.” These folks are satisfied with LCR and SlapJack (barely on the edge of the game spectrum, IMHO).

    1. I’ve seen all of these as well. Two things about them:

      1. they seem not as common as the Over-investors, especially when we consider that…

      2. Often people are Over-investors but *pretend* to have other objections, because they know implicitly that being an over-investor makes them look lame.

    2. Don’t forget the other types, the people who have played with those who get too invested and no longer want to play. There’s nothing worse than playing at a table with people who get a horrible attitude when they aren’t winning.

    3. I also have a friend that she doesn’t want to think cause she does so much of that at work so just dice rolling games such as Fill or Bust (which is fun) and Cribbage (all time favorite) but she loves to play Scrabble cause that is what she grew up playing with her mom.

      So guess the point is, some people’s jobs seem to leave them burnt out on the thinking spectrum and it’s just not relaxing for them to think to play a game. (This is my own theory based on said friend)

      1. This is a huge, huge part of why I don’t like playing games — and this is coming from someone who grew up playing board games and spent a large part of college playing D&D. It’s just massively stressful for me during the game play to have to think through things. I’m also an introvert, so interacting with people is already sucking a lot of those thinking resources. It’s bad if it’s a new game or a new group of people and absolutely awful if it’s both. It’s not worth the stress for me, so the author would probably have to work pretty hard to get me to try something. Although games like apples to apples (or Cards Against Humanity) are not terrible because they maintain the player’s anonymity, so if I decide I just want to hang out and not invest too much in the game I can just pick a card and toss it in.

      2. Interesting. I also consider myself an introvert. But games provide me with a structured mechansim in which my interaction with other people takes place in a “safe environment” where I don’t have to desparately dream up social ‘small talk’. Of course, if you don’t enjoy thinking at all, then you also probably don’t enjoy reading (because that requires thought) or other activities requiring use of your imagination. Maybe gambling-style board games would appeal more? Just bet randomly and don’t be “invested” (strange term to use in the context of boardgaming which, by definition, has no connection with the ‘real’ world) in the outcome?

  3. I appreciate the observation you are giving, but it immediately came across as biased. It presents the subject material with the view that everyone should enjoy board gaming and if they don’t, it explains how you can get them to enjoy board games. This premise is inherently flawed.

    I do not enjoy music. At all. I’m imagining someone trying to introduce me to something they think I will enjoy, then slowly expanding out from that until they’ve somehow made me like music. The problem? I just detest the very nature of music. But there’s a board game for everyone? You could say the same thing about music but you would be wrong.

    My point is that, while it’s fun to share hobbies with others, the very idea that the people who dislike board games do so because they simply care more than everyone else is silly to me. Think about something you dislike: do you dislike it because you care about it more than everyone else? Or do you dislike it for other fundamental reasons? This, to me, is my main objection to the observation. It comes from a biased perspective since you obviously love board games.

    Not everyone enjoys everything. Sports are also competitive and many people don’t enjoy playing sports, either.

    Having said all of this, I do appreciate what you are trying to say. Your observation and suggestions will work some of the time, and if they bring more people into my chosen hobby, then great!

    1. I totally agree that lots of people dislike lots of things for lots of different reasons. It’s just that, when I interview game-dislikers, a lot of them have this common reason for not liking them. I’m not making it up out of thin air. I’ve asked lots and lots of people.

      1. I don’t think it’s a malady 😅 but when I think about gaming the adjective that comes to my mind is ‘stressful ‘, having to keep up with what happens, being focused, and yes looking like an imbecile when indeed you can’t keep up and lose 😞

  4. I’ve found this to be true as well, but i boil it down to the “don’t want to look stupid” affliction. It seems to be more common among Americans, and maybe the nature of competition in America affirms this attitude. People are curious about the idea of these games, until the explaining of the rules begins, and what it takes to play the game is explained, then the eyes open wide in a fight or flight response. To which i say, lighten up Francis.

    1. Yeah, it would be cool to question game-dislikers from other cultures to see if they give different reasons. All my respondents were American.

  5. As a female hardcore strategy gamer, I greatly disapprove of your choice of “she” as a default pronoun for someone who has this over investment syndrome. You could have avoided offending anyone by just using the gender-neutral singular “they” for this.

    As for the actual topic of this article – I don’t understand why you would even want to force board games on someone that doesn’t seem to enjoy them. Playing with such people sucks; what would you yourself get from this? I have my group of fellow hardcore gamers for playing, and lots of other friends for just socializing, and I have absolutely no need to mix these two. If my non-gamer friends insist that we play something, like they sometimes do, I’ll just pick some non-gamey party thing for us. After all, they just wanted some social thing, not a three-hour Agricola marathon. I reserve the “real” games for times when I’m with people that are suited for playing such games. I also don’t feel any need to “educate” people to become board gamers; if they are unable to not overly invest in the outcome of a mere game, that’s their problem, not mine, and it’s up to them to want to fix this. Who am I to force them to change? I believe change and enlightenment are something that can only work if they come from within you, not from an outside source.

    1. My apologies w/r/t the pronouns. They/them are ungrammatical when used to refer the singular (plus they sound ugly to me when used in that way), and I decided as a policy some time ago to use she/her, not just in this post, but in most of my essays, as you’ll find if you look through some of my other pieces. My choice had nothing to do with the specific content of this essay.

      As for your second question: some people find they *do* enjoy board games if they’re introduced to them well. And then it’s more fun for everybody.

    2. Nick’s choice here is pretty common, Sigh, for all the very sound reasons he gives–unfortunately, the gender neutral singular “they” simply does not exist at present; “they” is traditionally a plural pronoun and is still very confusing when used otherwise. I too, however, share in the frustration that there isn’t a gender neutral singular pronoun. Ze, however, seems to be finally taking off in some contexts.

      As for the game playing: I usually loathe board games because of social condition in which they are played: with strangers, or people I don’t like or feel close with, or around games I don’t particularly find compelling, challenging, or interesting. Some folks may feel a resistance to a game because of its relation to one’s daily habits, as others here have intimated. If you draw all day long, then drawing stick figures around a table may not be appealing. If you write jokes for a living–and occasional ad lib them–then watching un-funny people concoct them with the aid of pre-printed cards may not be stimulating. If you make up worlds–even games–then playing a game may be a predictable, limited experience. Party games that involve “creativity,” or idea-making, are thus often the most dull because they pose the arbitrary combination of signs as invention and celebrate a lack of attention to the game’s mathematical formula (or routine) as comedy or intrigue. With just the right people–people who share your humor, your ideologies, your resistances to whatever you view as conformity, and thus share your inevitable meta-consciousness of the anthropological function of board games–these games can be “fun.” But “fun” is already a troubling word–and many may see it as a sacred cow in American society (and perhaps world wide), one linked to serious–non-facetious, non-stodgy–issues of psychological identity. While taking this view seriously, I still think everyone has fun–that is, his/her/their (zir?) version of fun. Piggy-backing slightly off of Tim R.’s point–but broadening the classification to “hearing things”–I could put it this way: everyone (who has the capacity to hear) probably likes to hear something. Many people like music, but most don’t like all types of music. And, as Tim has pointed out, some don’t like any.

      What I think is most sad about the situation is that it’s a competition between mutually exclusive desires. There exists a group of people whose pleasure is tied to other adults engaging in a leisure activity that does not bring those other adults pleasure. What’s worse is that these are often activities associated with social anxiety. It’s a minor form of unintentional sadism, which is neither consensual nor malicious, and may even be the product of a deep affection for the resistant social member. And the non-game playing person may even wish things were otherwise: Nick–for instance–seems like a wonderfully bright and engaging person, the kind of person with whom I wish I wanted to play a board game. Nevertheless, because of my bias, I have a hard time understanding why others are invested in coercing Person A play that game, or dance that dance, or perform that act in public. When one is seven years old, then okay, maybe one needs to be encouraged to test a thing out, see if–with a little help–a specific task or event won’t seem horrible and may even prove enjoyable. But once someone is 28, 37, 46, etc., the person at least has the right to claim to know what ze prefer, even if ze are lying, delusional, non-self-aware, or–in the clarifying end that isn’t coming–wrong.

      Thanks, Nick, for the thoughtful post.

      1. It sounds from your post (probably unintentional) that boardgames exist as a form of social torture; right up there with square dancing or charades?! But the range of boardgames that now exist: from solo, to co-op to competitive, across all genres and every possible combination of mechanic and scale of mental/dexterity requirement supports Nick’s thesis that it is more likely you have not met the boardgame you like, rather than that you “hate all boardgames” (which is somewhat akin to someone saying that they hate all forms of reading material…).

  6. From the way Nick is talking in this article, I want to assume the use of “she” more than likely relates directly to an individual in his life. More than likely his wife, as he mentions this of her in the article. I don’t think there was any intent of sexism.

    Which brings me to another point; “I don’t understand why you would even want to force board games on someone that doesn’t seem to enjoy them. Playing with such people sucks; what would you yourself get from this?”

    If it is your significant other, your investment in bringing them over to board games means having one more thing that the 2 of you can share together. Also that you always have someone to game with when your regular gaming group is not around. I will say that it is good to have things that you do separately from your significant other, with friends and what not. However, if there only problem with tabletop gaming are those mentioned in this article, then why not try to convert them over?

    1. I don’t want to speak for Nick, but for myself, it’s just interesting to learn about people. It’s always about the people, and not the games ultimately. But there is a tendency that some share about games that is interesting, and Nick is on the right track.

  7. Well, boardgaming is a hobby like many others. I like it, but I don’t like role playing, playing golf or cooking. Many of my friends (who are all perfectly normal and not lacking anything in their lives) enjoy those other activities. No need to trick or manipulate them into playing games with me. I don’t want to be taken to the driving range either to slowly start playing golf… Play games with your gaming buddies and do other fun activities with the rest of your crew. I tell you one thing: not everyone can be coerced into playing games, some people are bored with them, no matter what you play. I am fine with that.

  8. It’s significant that far more ordinary people are prepared to play card games rather than board games. That way they can easily blame their losses on luck rather than poor play – both to themselves and others. This gels perfectly with your main points. — kiwibill

    1. I agree. Richard Garfield is given to saying that when a player wins, he should feel his decisions were responsible, and when he loses, it wasn’t his fault. A similar sentiment. That’s probably right when you’re trying to create games to be sold, although personally I prefer to know that I’m at fault no matter what the outcome, because then there’s something for me to learn.

  9. Good post – Some interesting strategies for trying to recruit non gamers. I’ve had good success with games involving a degree of luck when introducing non gamers. I’ve found that those who take the outcome personally are less likely to do so when they have obviously had an unlucky run.

    This especially works with shorter games, as there is an opportunity for multiple plays and a greater chance of having some good experiences in the first session. Suitable games would include battle line, love letter, king of Tokyo, Incan gold, guillotine.

  10. I am profoundly impressed by your friend’s strategy, Nick, to deliberately lose by a narrow margin without getting caught. I would never have the patience for that. I couldn’t keep a morose expression off my face after losing in such manner. But there are others worse off than I am. Let me regale you with a story.

    I was playing Hex on Ludoteka. My opponent and I did not chat during the game. Most of the players there speak Spanish, which I do not. I believe my opponent took offense at a move I made, which may have seemed superfluous, like I was telling him “I can play this move and still beat you.” It was actually a strong move, securing my connection to both sides of the board at the same time. But later, when I visited a game he was playing, he immediately threw me out. When you are so concerned about how losing affects your self image, insults may be perceived where none are intended.

    I would like to be able to cultivate and nurture an interest in games among people I know, but it might be more practical for me to find a group that already shares my interests. Maybe I should move to Europe, heh.

    1. Yeah, my friend is a profoundly impressive person. Just the kind of friends I like.

      As for your story, I don’t even know why such people even play games. What’s the point if it’s such a tooth-grinding experience?

  11. Great post. I have one more suggesting for you that I’ve found conspicuously absent is board gaming though my family and ‘clan’ used it extensively, handicapping. It’s an long standing tradition in my family that the more experienced players play with a handicap to level the field. In chess either moves or pieces are provided; my grandfather played at 2100+ level so he would give up a knight and bishop and sometimes the queen; he would still win 60% of the time. The focus here is not on win/loose but on play. The longer the play/struggle the better. Of course this may be a cultural perspective (Mexican-Basque) but I’ve seen the practice in golf. It seems that there is a misplaced arrogance is some circles with the focus being the satisfaction of ego and not in the enjoyment of the play/struggle/challenge. These days, with my kids (10 and 12), I’m trying to instill an appreciation for play/struggle/challenge attitude towards game play. The more experienced player has a responsibility to provide a long and level play to the less experienced player. We consider quick wins just this side of cheating for not establishing an appropriate handicap; something akin to having an ace up your sleeve.

    1. I love handicapping, though I’ve noticed it doesn’t fix the problem for some people, for whom it feels like an admission of inferiority or something. I think. I haven’t quite figured them out 🙂

  12. I’m one of those people who doesn’t enjoy playing games of any kind. I like participating in everyday life and accomplishing things, but I dislike competition and contests. I find participating in a game makes me feel stress, not enjoyment, only relief when the game has ended. This probably goes back to team sports of gym class, when other team mates would give me a hard time for not being good at the game and weakening their team. I liked physical activity, the point of gym class, but I disliked that it had to be structured as a competition.

    A game of catch, played with a frisbee, is challenging enough over a few dozen yards. You get exercise and even develop a little skill and dexterity. There’s no score to keep. I objected when someone suggested to make it a game of frisbee football, a win/lose situation. The notion of making it a competition immediately removed the joy from what I was doing.

    Have you ever played poker? I haven’t. I don’t think I’ve even ever seen a real game of poker being played. But I have seen many fictional poker gamers played in movies and TV shows. Allegedly, the characters playing the game are friends, but the game play is seldom friendly, it’s usually intimidating, and does not look like anything I would enjoy.

    What you’ve identified is a differing personality type, not an affliction to be cured, and I have to say that I find the suggestion that my personality type is a disorder to be insulting.

    1. I definitely have some sympathy for the “unalterable personality type” argument, but I’ve seen enough people transform from one “type” to the other that I think there’s a lot of malleability there. And if it’s possible to think differently about games, it might be worth it for some to try?

      1. ” I like participating in everyday life and accomplishing things”

        Sounds like role playing is more what they would enjoy. Its not a “contest” and the fun is in the participation.

  13. I don’t like board games. Not because I feel like if I lose I will seem inept. I don’t find them interesting, and I don’t have the attention span. Not that I have a problem with people who do like board games.

    1. The missionary in me would say – the BGG website lists over 50,000 games; I really struggle to believe that not *one* would interest you. Its like sport – I find many sports very boring but there are some I quite enjoy. I am certainly not a “sports geek” but can understand the appeal – *especially* when I know more about the nuances of the sport in question.

  14. The main reason why I try to convert non-gamers is because I was once one who ignored the group of people playing games at a party. My brother is such a hardcore gamer AND he’s very good at getting people into it and teaching the game. No one is as good as a host as he is. He helps people of all ages and of two native language come together and play a game. He’s also good at narrowing your interest and ability to find the perfect game to play at a gathering.

    I think I largely ignored these gatherings because I’m introverted. Normally, I’m the life of the party when nothing is happening, but then the energy is sucked out of me and I’d rather read a book or sit and have a one-on-one conversation somewhere quiet. Also, I suspect that I dislike attention being focused on something other than what was happening in the moment, i.e. catching up with people I haven’t seen in months.

    What changed for me was playing Dixit. My brother thought I would like it since I’m more of an abstract thinker and a creative person. I loved it so much, I played all the games he brought over. I think it really made a difference to play with family and friends too. Since I learned to unplug and enjoy myself during games, I thought others could too. Since then, I’ve been spreading my wings a bit and going outside my comfort zone. I try to be as patient and enthusiastic as my brother when introducing the game and rallying people. I’m happy to say that more often than not, people leave happier and more curious about games.

    I’ve also invested in really good solitaire games and puzzles for myself for those times I want to be alone.

  15. Dear God, I can’t abode games. So many reasons! As many ties as I’e tried, I just don’t find them interesting. I would rather be making something, writing etc. I don’t bore easily. I can usually find something to daydream about, etc. But games (board, video, team sports, card games) demand attention, and it’s an attention that I have a huge amount of trouble offering up.

    I realize I am missing out on an entire social sphere, but even thinking about sitting down for a game makes me feel like fleeing in a panic!

  16. This article described me. I’m a female over investor. Yes, I think it’s lame and I’m embarrassed to admit it. But I don’t know what to do about it; knowing “it’s just as game” has never helped me. I’m a Meyers-Briggs ESFJ, if anyone wonders if personality types play a role in it

    1. Oh and I’m married to someone who likes to “slash with the knife”… how it frustrates me… I keep begging, play so I just lose by a little instead of crushing me so I can have a good time too, but he says then he cant really play the game and cant bring himself to conscientiously not give his best :p

      1. When I run up against someone who is much, much better than I, I try to take them out of the equation. I try to imagine I’m playing against a very good A.I., and my job is to eventually figure out how to beat it. It takes the shame out of it for me and I start having fun. Your mileage may vary, but I thought I’d mention it. This is fresh on my mind because I just came from the World Boardgaming Championships where I get crushed over and over again.

      2. You could also point out to him that aiming to lose by just a “tiny”margin is actually *much* harder than just sweeping everyone off the board! That should challenge his gaming “ego”….

  17. I fall into type 2. But there is also another aspect that makes me hate games. All my friends that play them are super good and super nit-picky about the super complicated rules. So when I do try, I just give up. I’d rather play with a newbie and learn as they do, rather than have to put up with ” no, you forgot ” or “no, you can’t because ” and they get frustrated.. I’m just not as invested in it, so it’s just not fun for me or them, it’s work. I play solitaire sometimes. Lol.

  18. Oh to hell with this. Losing IS a direct sign of poor intellect, especially after so many attempts are made to learn a game over months or years or what-have-you. Some of us are tired of being reminded that we’re absolute failures. Don’t force people into a game of Catan just because you can’t understand why people hate being reminded of their own stupidity, some of us are just trying to get home without being bothered after giving a modest but unimpressive effort in their daily job, and a rousing game of Monopoly or Risk is exactly the last thing on our minds right then.

    1. Its funny but I have exactly the opposite reaction; “I may be struggling in my job but., hey, at least I can be the Lord of an Interstellar Empire… for tonight, anyway!”

      And as a non-answer; I would *never* look forward to coming home to a game of Risk or Monopoly – the range and quality of games on offer today are so far beyond these, that comparisons just seem silly.

  19. English is not my main language, so sorry about any possible mistakes.

    You say that:
    “I shudder to contemplate how much more I could do for the world if I spent as much time designing say, better solar panels, as I do designing games; alas I don’t know how to pick my obsessions”.

    Sorry but that is not true. In fact, the ability to influence what you “obsess” about is one of the most important ones that any human being can develop. That ability is in fact the true definition about what having a real education really means.

    I do not mind play a board game here and there, but the main reason to avoid them (and this is of course something I could extend to other activities like most videogames or even too much sports) is precisely because how easily they can fill your mind and time with things that are simply not important, in a plant in which most human beings lives with less than a dollar a day. Of course that it is easier to spend a lot of time thinking, even obsessing about board games (or MtG, or videogames, or some other activitie designed to get your atention) that to really strive to became a better human being, to work on things that really matters, to get closer to truth and wisdom. I avoid board games because i have seen how they turn very inteligent people in shadows of what they could really be if they won’t spend half of he walking time thinking about meaningless and arbitrary set of rules (instead using that brain power in things which can really make a difference in the world).

    1. I can’t disagree with you, in the abstract. I spent a few years as an activist for a cause I care deeply about, and it left me unhappy, feeling wrecked. So while what you say is true, I haven’t figured out how to live a bearable life and do anything else.

      1. That’s an honest reply that i deeply respect. I also do not to want patronize anyone, just to give my honest opinion about this.

        The battle between the things that we know are worthwhile but maybe don’t enjoy much, and the things that we merely enjoy but we in know in our hearths that are not the best use of out time and talents its indeed a incredibly hard one. I certainly have to fight daily. I respect your answer because, as you have probably also seen tons of times, most people just rationalize what they end up doing without any degree of guilt or shame. “If you like it is not wasted time” and other inane platitudes.

        When I need help in this battle, I always find solace in Bertrand Russel words, when he was talking about a live that is worth to be lived:

        “Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

        I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy—ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness—that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what—at last—I have found.

        With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

        Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

        This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.”

        Most of us don’t have this kind passions automatically. We have to work hard to forge our characters, our very souls, in the direction to this worthwhile passions and objectives. It’s a hard fight, but also a noble, almost holy (and I mean Holiness in a completely secular way, closer to Spinoza or Einstein than to any religion though).
        I think that frecuently, to the kind of people like us who’s possible “addictions” are closer to games and certain kind of abstract thinking than to money/status or food/sex, the search of knowledge tends to work better than trying to “directly” give love or lower the suffering of other people when we are looking for a more elevated way of living, but that’s certainly a much more personal issue. And with this I mean that surely we almost always can look for better things to do, even if we have to sacrifice certain other things that we enjoy more, but if we actively hate what we think we should do, live is going to be unbearable.

        Another author who I find very helpful for this kind of struggles is David Brooks, whom said in his wonderful “Road to Character” (and again, from a completely secular perspective, its important to me to remark that):

        “We don’t live for happiness, we live for holiness. Day to day we seek out pleasure, but deep down, human beings are endowed with moral imagination. All human beings seek to lead lives not just of pleasure, but of purpose, righteousness, and virtue. As John Stuart Mill put it, people have a responsibility to become more moral over time. The best life is oriented around the increasing excellence of the soul and is nourished by moral joy, the quiet sense of gratitude and tranquility that comes as a byproduct of successful moral struggle. The meaningful life is the same eternal thing, the combination of some set of ideals and some man or woman’s struggle for those ideals. Life is essentially a moral drama, not a hedonistic one. Although we are flawed creatures, we are also splendidly endowed. We are divided within ourselves, both fearfully and wonderfully made. We do sin, but we also have the capacity to recognize sin, to feel ashamed of sin, and to overcome sin. We are both weak and strong, bound and free, blind and far-seeing. We thus have the capacity to struggle with ourselves. There is something heroic about a person in struggle with herself, strained on the rack of conscience, suffering torments, yet staying alive and growing stronger, sacrificing a worldly success for the sake of an inner victory”

        So maybe it’s too late for you (i honestly doubt it, but I completely understand you because it feels that it is too late even for myself some days) to remove the “meaningless abstract rules obsession” for your mind and substitute for something objectively better (as we perfectly know that there are such things), but be at least careful about “curing the disease” of not wanting to spend time on this kind of activities. Instead, let’s all try to spend our time and also inspiring others to spend their time in a way that resemble at least a bit the life that Russel was talking about. At least, that’s how I see it.

        Again, sorry for my English.

    2. In the abstract, this may be true. In reality very few us can actually live this “noble life” you espouse. While, I hope, in some small way, to make a contribution through the things I work on, its clear (to me, anyway) that I cannot “do stuff” 24/7. In addition, I think there are deeper (spiritual) issues that not directly related to “fixing the world”. And “getting closer to truth and wisdom” is really orthogonal to whether one plays boardgames or not.

  20. “A lot of women seem to fall into this category.”
    You lost me buddy. I am a woman coming from a large female family of fierce players. My mom and two of my sisters compete. I came upon your page because I was trying to google games that my sons will play. My younger son hates losing so we don’t play much and I miss it.

    1. Note I didn’t say “all” or even “most”! There is huge diversity in the way all people relate to games. I thought that went without saying.

  21. I felt you never answered to question about why this over-investment-syndrome should be cured: “Now, you may argue: “Why should you want to cure it? Let people do what they will.”

    You just gave ideas how to cure it but never told why should it be cured? Why people can’t be just like they are if they are happy without board games? I understand they might be happy playing board games (if the syndrome is cured) but if they can find their happiness somewhere else, what is wrong with that? Why would playing board games be a better or more acceptable way to achieve happiness than anything else?

  22. My reason for starting to dislike board games is because I am sick and tired of competitive people ruining it for everyone, have this social even i go to and this one person is so competitive, he punched the wall because he was losing, and he actively, and this is what he said to our whole group, he screws people over in games just because it amuses him.

  23. I too, will regale y’all with a story – about Go.

    I play at the local town club, and for many years my son Mark did too. He eventually got to be a bit better than me, (which I thought was great), and one day he decided (unknown to us all) to play a little trick on another, weaker, player, a good pal, who was laboriously getting better; (he is now close to my level).

    On this particular night, Mark was playing the said subject, and quickly got ahead (even with the given handicap), and then deliberately played an ordinary, milder game. The subject got
    more and more excited as he kept getting closer and closer, then falling behind a little, then almost catching up again, till finally the game was finished. They counted up, and it was found that Mark had won by ONE point!

    Nonetheless the subject was pleased. He glowed with satisfaction, saying that he didn’t really mind losing that one, because he he felt he had played a really good game, and made several good comeback moves, etc etc. Finally, as he was subsiding, Mark executed his trap. He opened his hand, and revealed that it had written on it, “I will win by one point”.

    What a blow! The subject was totally deflated, Mark was quietly sardonic, and everyone else, bit by bit, as the news filtered round the room, was hilariously amused. Eventually, the subject came to see the funny side of it, and merely added it to his list of motivations to improve, (which he has done, a lot). The whole story is still (occasionally) retold to new members of the club as they join from time to time – the subject also joining in with this fun. As I said, we are all pals there, and there is no meanness to any of it, fortunately.

    Note, I do NOT recommend this treatment to be done on anyone else, even if you could manage to do it precisely; it would most certainly not induce anyone to like board games more, unless they were already committed to the game and keen to improve.

    — kiwibill

  24. Thank you very much for this. I have a close friend who I have been playing Settlers of Catan with for a short time, and the robber aspect of the game seems to send him into a spiteful childish rage when played on him more then once by the same player in a game. Twice now he has intentionally thrown a game in the favor of a third player while glotting about his vengeance being satisfied. It appears to be a temper tantrum and this makes me very unhappy. My thought was to avoid this sort of strategy game with him, which you confirmed. He definitely over invests.

    1. It sounds like someone enjoys spiking your friend; maybe they’re the one overinvesting.
      Who likes to keep beating down on the same person, again and again? Does that sound like someone who’s just having fun?

      1. I actually like to get beat a lot. it activates my learning gene much better than winning does.

  25. Interesting, but you forgot the category I fall into, i just do not see the point in playing board games, I just do not care one way or another about winning and it seems like a total waste of time. I have tried to play many different games with my family, but quite honestly find my mind wandering and then purposefully loosing to get the game over with

    1. As discussed elsewhere … “winning” is simply a goal to make the game function. And the function of the game is to engage the players around a shared experience (laugh, compete, have fun, exercise your brain, or show off some social skills etc. etc.). Eating can also be seen as a total waste of time if your only aim is get calories – why decorate / present food or make it “taste nice”? The end result of getting calories is the “goal” of eating – but it is the *experience* that is the whole point.

  26. Quoting Nick Bentley Games :

    >> Hallie commented on: An observation about why some people don’t like
    >> board games (and how to cure them of that terrible affliction).

    > Interesting, but you forgot the category I fall into, i just do not
    > see the point in playing board games, I just do not care one way or
    > another about winning and it seems like a total waste of time. I
    > have tried to play many different games with my family, but quite
    > honestly find my mind wandering and then purposefully loosing to get
    > the game over with

    De gustibus non est disputandum.

    Those who love something naturally cannot understand indifference.
    Those who are indifferent cannot understand the passion.

    The former might think about something they are indifferent to, that raises
    passions in others. (Perhaps watching football?)

    The latter might think about something they are passionate about, that
    most others see as pointless. (Stamp collecting?)

    Then maybe the two types will gain some understanding of the others’ feelings.
    Though it doesn’t really need me to point out this truism.

    (I love board games and watching football, but cannot see any joy or
    fulfillment in stamp collecting. I also love olives, which many folk hate!)

    Bertrand Russell: The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

    Bill Taylor

  27. 1. No one to play with. I’m a 40-year old single woman with no desire to be the only female in a room of guys half my age.
    2. No matter the game, I always lose (yes, always). I’ve never won a game of chess ever, if that gives you a hint. I used to play a lot of boardgames very well as a small kid; this aptitude disappeared sometime around high school and never recovered.
    3. Modern boardgames are too damn complicated. If I have to keep a paperback’s worth of instructions in my head during gameplay, that’s too damn complicated.
    4. Too much financial investment before knowing whether you like the game.
    5. I am SICK AND TIRED of somebody ordering me to ‘chill out already’ when I’m trying to focus on what’s happening in a game. If it’s my first time playing a game, and their 300,000,000th—they need to shut their piehole about how ‘nervous’ I seem to them and instead tell me that feeling nervous is normal and expected. A little empathy goes a long way.
    6. The cultural bullshit currently attached to boardgames. Being a good tabletopper does not give you rock-hard abs or the ability to bounce a quarter off the matress. It’s something gamers enjoy doing and some take way, way too seriously; thia creates cultural bullshit many regular folks have better things to do than deal with.

  28. I also dislike games. I prefer to spend my time playing or writing music, alone or with other musicians, or salsa dancing. I find the entire idea of gaming uninteresting. The idea that this is something that needs to be ‘fixed’ as others have pointed out is rather insulting.

    There are many different types of people and personalities out there, and not all of them are going to be in concordance. In fact that’s one of the things that I dislike most about gaming, is that those who do like them think that there’s “something wrong” with me for not liking the same things they do! That’s a completely ridiculous notion.

    It’s also nothing to do with ‘not finding the right game’ either – there is no such thing as ‘the right game’ for me, because, and let’s be absolutely clear here – I Am Not Interested In Playing Games!! At All!! Ever!! Don’t try and change me, because I Do Not Care….

    I hope that’s easy enough to understand!

  29. I loved writing Nick, I have compiled some material about loss aversion. Which I believe influence many in their choice of games (and their dislike in games…).
    Loss aversion refers to people’s tendency to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains: it’s better to not lose $5 than to find $5. This is also the implication of risk aversion. What distinguishes loss aversion is that the utility of a monetary payoff depends on what was previously experienced or was expected to happen. Some studies have suggested that losses are twice as powerful, psychologically, as gains. For people with extreme loss aversion the difference is even higher, at least 3:1.
    As much as 80% of the humans are mildly loss averse, and about 20% got extreme loss aversion. Loss aversion is a human characteristic that describes how people are intrinsically afraid of losses. When compared against each other people dislike losing more than they like winning. Thus, losses loom larger than gains even though the value in monetary terms may be identical. Quantic Foundry released some of their data concerning the primary motivations for men and women. Competition (14%) was ranked highest amongst men, but only at 8th place among women.
    More “facts” (my facts. hehe) about loss aversion:
    Loss aversion increases if there is a risk of feeling inferior or humiliated. Thus, the aversion decreases if a player is able hide his/her identity. Which is often the case in online gaming
    In general, a man feels stronger loss aversion vs another man than a woman
    Loss aversion decreases if random elements in a game gives “anybody” a chance of winning/getting a reward
    Loss aversion usually decreases if the person plays together with people he/she knows well
    Loss aversion decreases for members in a team (a loss is “shared” and thereby the feeling of loss is “reduced”)
    Loss aversion decreases if a player has “come to terms” with his/her skill level in a game (through ELO rating or similar)
    Loss aversion decreases for people who possess the confidence to learn from losses. These people looks upon losing as the best/only way for potential victories/rewards in the future
    Loss aversion is reduced if there is a general acceptance that a new player will lose more often
    Games that feature player elimination are more likely to cause discomfort for people with loss aversion

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