Off the Grid: The new roommates

Every other week Scott Jon Siegel contributes Off the Grid, a column about card games, board games, and everything else non-digital.

One of the most exciting parts about moving to a new place is having new people to play with. One week ago I arrived in California, and moved in with my new roommate and his girlfriend. Jet-lagged, and achy from spending nearly twelve combined hours in airplanes and airports, I still excitedly busted out the board games from my luggage once I arrived at the apartment.

I unboxed Risk: Black Ops under the pretense of showing them how pretty it was. Realistically, I was prodding, waiting for one of the new roomies to say "cool, let's play!" They sure did think it was a nice-looking game, but neither said boo on the subject of playing. I packed it up and passed out.

Of course, over the past week I've learned that this was not merely a single case of cold feet. Compared to the relative ease of playing video games, or watching television or YouTube videos, or renting a film, playing a round of Carcassonne or Kill Doctor Lucky apparently just isn't worth the effort.

And thus, even with a small contingent of possible opponents living in the same space, it's still surprisingly difficult to get my game on.

I certainly don't blame my new roommates; their hearts are in the right places. One even suggested the other day that we play a board game. Of course, the moment I returned with a small stack of non-digital titles her interest faded once more, and our time was instead spent watching episodes of Top Gear (a mercilessly engaging program even for apathetic non-car-lovers like myself, but I digress).

No, rather than blaming the roomies, I blame the lingering attention span of our "entertainment on-demand" culture. Any new board game requires an introductory period: the set-up time, reading the instructions, that first preliminary play-through that "doesn't count." Unless the game follows familiar tropes (or is a well-established title like Scrabble), we don't want to be bothered to learn. Especially when time is short and there's always something to watch.

The exceptions here are obviously the real gamers; those who consider learning the rules to be part of the excitement of playing. I guess the hardest part of moving to a new place is finding where those true believers lurk. I think I'll start hunting sooner rather than later. I'd hate to have wasted all that luggage space on games I'll never play.

Scott Jon Siegel is a fledgling game designer, a professional blogger, and a mediocre cook. His words and games can be found at numberless, and he wishes he felt a little less like death. Hooray for illness!