I have lived far away from friends and family for the past decade. This makes keeping in touch more difficult simply because of distance. Sure, there are phones calls and texts. While I am grateful to live in such an era of connection, sometimes those mediums don’t feel quite like spending time together. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful I can pick up a phone and people I care about will answer. There is just something about sharing activities with loved ones, more than just communicating, that a psychologist could elaborate on more than I ever could. I will leave that to the experts. For now, I will simply say I believe doing things together keeps people close.
I remember once discussing with my friend why we chose to play World of Warcraft (this was during a time when our friends were all playing WoW). There are a LOT of things to do in an MMO, especially with a game as deep as WoW, and it’s intriguing to hear about people’s motivations. When he got around to describing himself, his answer took me off guard. He told me that World of Warcraft was basically the most expensive instant messaging service that he has ever used. And he’s right. For our scattered crew (we span both coasts now), it was a way to come together in a shared space, have a fun time and talk about things other than work and real life (which can be surprisingly stagnant at times). I can happily say that over the last decade my friendships have been forged strong as tempered steel in the crucible of online gaming.
This form of communication and connection, while sometimes unconventional (I have digitally attended a day long Civilization 6 party before), is incredibly effective. It is also incredibly modern. Let me explain: When I was younger and the Internet was not universally available, hanging out meant hopping on a bike, riding to someone’s house, and hoping they were free at that time. Now I can hop online any time of day and find someone to play with if I want. The Internet was built for nerds like me and I took to it like fish to water. However, I have found difficulty trying to convince people older than myself that this is a good way to keep in touch. In particular, I’m talking about my dad. My dad and I have a great relationship, but it is strained by distance and frankly, also by our pretty normal and mundane lives. There’s not much to talk about when the weeks all start to feel the same for both parties. So last Christmas I convinced my dad that we needed to start playing games together. He was wary about the idea until we landed on which game we would play. I imagine, dear reader, you have guessed what this venerable and noble game is (Hint: IT’S IN THE TITLE).
The correspondence part was really the kicker, because instead of having to sit down and play an entire game, correspondence chess means that each player can have days to make a move if needed. It really takes the urgency off of the game. Dad has played correspondence chess before via mail, so now it was just a matter of finding an online version. We ended up making a Google Sheet that we both had permission to edit and BOOM, we were off. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it has been AMAZING playing with him. Suddenly, if we run out of things to say, our chess game comes up. We always have something to talk about because we have created our own little space that exists outside of the more “real” borders of reality. It doesn’t matter what the weather is looking like or what traffic is doing or the news in the world when there is a bishop FENDING FOR IT’S LIFE IN THE CORNER. We can now create our own excitement and drama without the weight of the outside world. I knew it was going to be a hit when I noticed one day our sheet had a new section my dad created called “Trash Talk/Comments.” He did this of his own accord, without me giving the spiel of communication and games that you have now read. Of course, he had written me a little message to start. And of course, it was lovely (“Good move there Bud.”) We are having a blast playing chess.
So if you don’t already, use games to as a way to strengthen, to rekindle, and to build relationships. I have had a high amount of success, so there’s your irrefutable anecdotal evidence. But it’s probably worth a shot, because honestly, who doesn’t enjoy games?
You just have to find the right game.