So, as I attempt to bring tabletop gaming back to my group of friends, I had kind of an epiphany:
We, as Americans, need to get back to the table.
There’s something communal, nostalgic and right about gathering around a table as humans. The task could be as simple as eating a meal or as complicated as setting a budget for a fortune-100 company. We’ve been doing it since tables have been around and we Americans have recently been migrating away from it. The Digital Age commands us to accomplish a zillion tasks at once, to work until our eyes bleed and to physically isolate ourselves while we remain connected via technology.
Well, I don’t think the technological link is enough. Nothing replaces the table!
The dinner table: We cannot multitask. No, really – our brains cannot “parallel process” like we think they can:
[from the linked article] “The human brain, with its hundred billion neurons and hundreds of trillions of synaptic connections, is a cognitive powerhouse in many ways. But a core limitation is an inability to concentrate on two things at once.”
Who deserves your attention? The TV? Your family? Your significant other? Well, they all get about half your attention and that’s just shitty. Do the people you live with deserve your attention? Ahem, that may be another argument altogether.
I just believe you make a better connection with your family if you take some time to actually be with each other on a consistent basis. Crazy, I know! The act of sharing a meal goes way back – farther than recorded history. Though I’d never propose we follow anything based upon ingrained tradition alone, I think this one is a keeper. That time without any external influences (I suggest even ignoring the damn phone) can strengthen those important family bonds.
No time to make the dinner table? Yeah, I know that one recently as I have begun to travel for work. In this case, it may be unavoidable. However, make the best use of the time you do have at home and insist upon that table being full.
Live alone? Give yourself a few moments of silence. Step away from the computer or TV. Embrace some silence. You may or may not like it, but you won’t know until you give it a fair shake. Silence may just sneak up and surprise you. I know it does me, every time.
The gaming table. This next bit may or may not apply to you. Here’s an easy test:
What does THAC0 stand for?
If you cannot answer that, congratulations! You were likely more popular than I was in school. If you are a dude, you probably touched a woman’s breast years before some of us did (and some of us may still be waiting). If you are a chick, maybe you actually got asked to the prom.
If you *can* answer that question, I’m so sorry… you are like me. You have played tabletop roleplaying games at some point in your life. Chances are, you may have abandoned gaming. Perhaps your interests have shifted. Maybe you moved away from your buds. Whatever the reason, many people in my age category (mid-30’s) have lost their way – tragically separated from the table. They may still play computer/console games, but the table is a distant memory.
I have played roleplaying, board and card games throughout my life. However, until recently, I was strictly playing computer games. Then, slowly, we began to emerge from the darkness.
We discovered some fantastic board games like Settlers of Catan, Battlestar Galactica and Last Night on Earth (I cannot personally take credit for any of these discoveries). And very recently we started playing the Serenity Tabletop RPG.
Though computer games fill an important niche (on-demand-gaming), nothing can replace the experience of the tabletop. To look your opponent (or ally) in the eyes as you destroy (or help) them is exhilarating. The act of moving pieces or playing cards provides a tactile component that’s missing from the computer screen (and skype conference). The whole experience is richer and more alive when you have everyone at the table.
The simple act of gathering around a table to eat or play a game may prove complicated in your life. But, if you are able, I urge you to try to make the effort. The rewards outweight the inconvenience in our fast-paced, American lives.