A Gnome's Ponderings

I'm a gamer. I love me some games and I like to ramble about games and gaming. So, more than anything else, this blog is a place for me to keep track of my ramblings. If anyone finds this helpful or even (good heavens) insightful, so much the better.
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Degrees of Separation

Lowell Kempf
United States
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With the advent of an ipad in our lives, I have found myself thinking about the degrees of separation that form between us, the games we play and the people we play them with.

For instance, the platonic ideal that I dream of is to play the actual physical, hardcopy, analog version of a game, face-to-face. You know, playing a copy of the game at a table with other people. Kind of the baseline definition of playing a board game. When you are playing a game like that, there really is no separation between the players.

However, we live in an age where that’s not required. My fiancée and I can now skip having an actual copy of the game out and play on the ipad instead. We’re still playing face-to-face, albeit usually on the couch rather than on the table. We’re still in the same room but we’ve taken the physical game out of the equation.

Then, there’s the next step after that, playing a game online with someone else in real time. The other person isn’t in the same room as you and the physical game doesn’t even exist. However, you are still playing with other people with the same kind of time restrictions that you have in the earlier two degrees.

After that, we have playing by mail or by e-mail. In cases like those, even the element of time has been removed. The other person could have a completely different schedule but all that matters is that eventually we know a move will be made.

I’m not going to worry about playing solitaire games or playing against A.I.s. A game that is designed to be played solitaire is its own kind of beast and an A.I. is a substitute other person. I admit I don’t care very much for playing against A.I.s but I don’t think my prejudices really matter when it comes to looking at the current subject.

The obvious observation is that every other way of playing a game that doesn’t involve sitting at a table with other people is a substitute for that. That playing that way is pretty much the text book definition of playing a board game. And I suspect most people reading this would view that as the best way to play a board game, although the prevalence of online gaming experiences like World of Warcraft might indicate that I’m just old fashioned for thinking that.

However, the other degrees wouldn’t exist if we didn’t get something out of them.

What we get out of them is also pretty obvious. Convenience. The various electronic methods of playing games save us the trouble of setting up a game and doing the housekeeping of making sure the cards and pieces are in the right place. They help us deal with issues involving space and time management. Not only can I play a game with someone on the other side of the world, I don’t even need to own a hard copy of the game and have it take up space on my shelves.

Indeed, the greatest degree of separation from the other player(s) is the one that has existed the longest. People have been playing chess by mail probably since the first postal routes were developed. What that says to me is that there is an incredible drive to play games. If you are willing to take thirty to sixty days to make a move, there is something going on here that is greater than casual amusement!

I also know that the ipad and online gaming has let me get a lot more gaming in than I would otherwise. I still try to schedule a game night every week but the electronic powers that be allow me to get some gaming in almost any day I feel like. They have actually made games a more integrated part of my life.

Electronic game may have separated me from the physical experience of gaming but they have not replaced the time I spend gaming in person. They have allowed me to play more games with more people.

So, in the end, what I have been calling degrees of separation might actually be degrees of integration.
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