I often get a funny look when the topic of my board game and board game design hobby comes up. I usually have to explain how board games have come a long way since the days of trudging through a 5-hour game of Risk as a bored 10 year old on a rainy day, or the collective beating of heads experience of playing a full game of Monopoly with the family as kids. Some are surprised that a 34-year old man with a family and full time employment would spend his free time with a hobby that seems so childish, as if I were playing with action figures or catching fireflies. I assure them that it’s very grown up, and that the kind of games I play are challenging, interesting and exciting. I’ve even had some success in winning over skeptics to the beauty of board games as a hobby. Often, they just weren’t playing the right games.

The truth, though, is that designing board games has a greater appeal than that of other pastimes that I’ve pursued. For me, board game design has become something deep and expansive; the purest and most life-giving art form that I’ve participated in. I used to make music with some regularity. Five years ago I wrote and recorded a 6-track album with some friends of mine. I played a few small shows around Atlanta and sold two or three dozen CDs. I enjoyed the process of writing music, and was particularly drawn to that process as a means of creative expression. I’ve also written poetry and have tried my hand at writing a novel once or twice. But, all of those artistic mediums have been wildly less satisfying than designing games.

Game design is a creative process through which you not only want to create a product that is beautiful and satisfying, but you want to create an experience that people can share. With my music, people might hear a song online, or see one of my shows, or buy a CD. They would at most talk about it with a friend or relate to the lyrics or enjoy the melody. But, that was always the extent of it. It was consumable and limited, and maybe at times beautiful and inspiring. But it could only enrich the consumer so much.

Board games, however, offer a much deeper and communal experience. When a group of friends or family members sit down in front of a board game, they create a shared experience that has the potential of bringing them closer to one another. Board games are a medium, a tactile and tangible opportunity for face-to-face community and relationship development through genuine human interaction and shared experience. We are closer when we look each other in the eye, sit around a table, and focus on the same thing. While other forms of art also carry this potentiality, board games offer this process in its most pronounced form. To create a board game is to create a tool by which we as people can walk towards one another. We can laugh and plan and play together and grow closer together.

Making games brings me joy, for the complexities and problem solving opportunities that it provides. But the promise, the hope that someone will sit down with people they love or with people that they’re just getting to know and play a game I’ve made, full of ups and downs and twists and turns, constructing narratives and experiences together, that excites me. It excites me beyond the limits of other creative mediums. Hopefully, I can get games out there that do that and do it well.