“Life must be lived as play, playing certain games, making sacrifices, singing and dancing, and then a man will be able to propitiate the gods, and defend himself against his enemies, and win in the contest.”
– Johan Huizinga
It’s that time of year again. We make plans to visit friends or family. Someone prepares a meal, others bring drinks and snacks. Hopefully we don’t have too much anxiety that everyone gets along and carefully laid plans come together. Time to clean the house and prepare the table as everyone gathers. We set up our rulebooks, scenario notes, gamemaster screen, favorite dice. Wait...are we here to celebrate Thanksgiving or play games?
The typical Thanksgiving holiday and gaming share many similar elements. We gather together around a table or similar shared space for a celebration, one of thankfulness and another of play and imagination. Each has a symbolic purpose grounded in some form of play: the recreation (to some degree) of the mythical first Thanksgiving, the immersion in an interactive game that mirrors some reality, however fantastic. One provides an opportunity for reflection, the other for entertainment, and both for taking a break from the normal, often tedious routine of our everyday lives. Both require some degree of preparation – of food, game material, cleaning the house for guests – sometimes fraught with anxiety: will we all get along, will the food be just right, have we forgotten anything, will the overall experience be satisfying? Often everyone brings something for the table, whether a main dish, a host of indulgent snacks, drinks, and dessert. Games even form part of the Thanksgiving tradition as many people sit down afterward to watch their favorite football teams compete...or those of us who aren’t into sports might actually break out some of their favorite adventure games to play or introduce to non-gamers (something I plan on indulging in during my Thanksgiving observance).