How to Talk to Non-Gamers about Board Games

Hi everyone! I’m honored that Spencer and Lara would give me an opportunity to share a few of my thoughts on their blog. I am Morgan, the wife of Nerd Wife Nerd Life, a board gaming Instagram account of me and my husband’s adventures in the world of hobby gaming.

Recently, I was asked to come in and speak to my mother’s church’s women’s group (wow that’s a lot of possessive nouns!). This was a dream come true: an hour to ramble on and on about one of my very favorite activities: BOARD GAMES!

The challenge, though, was that this particular group was made up almost entirely of non-gaming women ages 55 and up.  If you ask friends of ours, I’m certain they would agree that we are “board game evangelists”, always introducing new people to the wonderful world of board gaming. So sharing the love of gaming is something we have plenty of experience with. This situation was a bit more difficult, though. How do you share the love of board games with a group that (stereotypically) has so little experience with gaming?

1. Begin the conversation with what’s most important.

First things first: when you talk to non-gamers about this beautiful hobby we all know and love, remember the most important aspect to express is how much FUN it is! So many individuals I have spoken to about board games have pasts tainted with memories of losing to obnoxious winners, feeling inadequate or not smart enough, or fighting with overly competitive family members. The thought of board games for them means “stress” not fun.

The best way to show non-gamers how much fun board gaming can be is to simply get excited about it!

Talk about how beautiful the art is in Scythe or how silly your last game of Galaxy Trucker was trying to fly through asteroid fields and losing half your ship.

Make sure they can see and hear why you love games so much.  It may be obvious to you, but to a non-gamer, that dry Euro that you love (I’m looking at you Terra Mystica) might look dreadful. Don’t just tell them about games, but tell them why you like them.

I was paid a great compliment after my presentation when one woman, who is almost completely blind, said to me “I could hear the excitement in your voice!”.  Your energy can be contagious and if you make the hobby sound fun, people will be drawn to it.

Maybe you’ve already convinced them to play a game with you? Try using voices for your characters, or leaning into the theme of a game. Put music on, have themed food. But make that time enjoyable. We’ve all heard the dreaded “joke”, “Don’t you mean BORED games?” Let’s be the ones who change that!

2. Remind non-gamers that games are relevant to everyone.

The next best thing you can do when introducing people to gaming is to normalize it. So many today believe that “games” are either for children or nerds living in their mom’s basement.

Of course, I may not be the best example of this given our internet persona as NERD Wife NERD Life, but we live in a glorious time where nerd-dom (ie. super heroes/comics/technology) aren’t in the crevasses of our society. Things formerly considered “nerdy” are now becoming a beautiful part of pop culture (Thanks, Big Bang Theory). Let’s keep that going with board games.

Part of breaking down this stereotype of games being for kids or nerds is by making the conversation of games relevant to them.  Find some common ground.

My family members are not board gamers. Video games and comics are part of their life, but they have not really crossed the line into board games.

My mother is timid of games because of her own negative experiences with them, but when I recently began telling her about a quilting game called Patchwork she immediately perked up. She wanted to know more because she is a novice quilter. She also loves Candy Crush so of course we introduced her to Potion Explosion.

These are games that are relevant to her and her interests. We may not have completely brought her to the dark side (note: this is now a cliché that was once not understood by the masses and now is – Nerds: 1 point) but we have been able to build some bridges for the possibility of future plays. She will trust us more in the future when we say “You’ll like this game.”

Make board gaming relevant and relatable to your audience.

3. Refrain from using insider language.

The third thing I will say to remember when talking to non-gamers is: tone down the “insider” elements. We all know that one person who can leave you in their dust when they get on the topic of computer specs, their current diet’s benefits, cross fit, or Bitcoin (#HODLGANG for all those John Oliver fans out there).

Everyone has their “thing”, but we want to be sure that we don’t ostracize people or make them feel that they can’t casually enjoy our hobby. That may mean cutting back on lingo like “area control”, “chits”,  or “Kallax”.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying to treat people like they’re stupid, but we do need to be aware of the things we take for granted after being around the board game forums or FLGS’s for a while. We have one of THE MOST accessible hobbies. We can take our hobby virtually anywhere and can teach practically anyone. There’s a game for everyone! From party games to heavy euros, we can involve everyone in this gorgeous tabletop pursuit of our LIVES! (I’m perfectly comfortable with how dramatic I am being.)

Ultimately, we can all agree that we need other people to play games to make our hobby possible. Currently publishers aren’t providing players as included components, nor are those player counts for our favorite games going to fill themselves.

And that’s the beauty of this wide world of cardboard; we get to make amazing and lasting memories with those around us. Reconnecting and unplugging in this digital age, and making real friends (and not just Facebook friends) is really what so many of us are craving.

So when talking to people about board games, don’t overthink it, and remember, non-gamers are really just gamers who don’t know it yet.

Are there any special approaches you take to talking to non-gamers-who-are-really-just-gamers-who-don’t-know-it-yet? Share them in the comments or tweet to us @marriedwithbg and @nrdwifenrdlife.

Game on, friends!

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