Dear Board Game Diary,
I’ve met many through our Game Night meetups from all walks of life. It would seem that board games are the nondiscriminatory glue that binds us all. I’m reminded of this upon meeting these gamers as I get to know them more on a personal level.
Some of the gamers that show interest in attending one of our gaming meetups contact me through email. The slew of proceeding questions is usually typical: who, what, where, when, and how. This is all very expected but there are times when I’m taken back by it all when someone admits to their social anxieties or phobias.
To a smaller extent, I understand a bit of what they are feeling as there are times I feel the same way. Finding it difficult to be around others, being afraid of judgment or self-conscious, or even avoiding places with too many people. I have always had some of these feelings, but they are easily outweighed by my need to be social. I love being part of a community of like-minded individuals and being able to share our lives with one another is quite rewarding. I’m sure others do not feel the same as I do.
Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide.Donald Winnicott (Psychologist)
I don’t feel that these words cater exclusively to the artistically inclined. Many of the wonderful people I have met through the Traverse City Board Gamers community group have struggled with this tension. That inner conflict between being heard but not seen.
How does one, being the head of such a group, manage these personality types within the dynamic of a public social group?
It is to no one’s surprise, I would imagine, that this is a tight rope to walk. Every small choice can have severe consequences to the attendance of these meetup events. Location changes, the attendees, and even the nature of the host can all have detrimental effects on whom returns. I return to the quote from above to answer the question of how.
The linchpin of this quote is the conflict one experiences between these states of being. The desire to communicate is not a unique character trait. Almost everyone loves someone just to listen. We are social beings by nature that differ when it comes to our anxieties. I always start with the assumption that everyone is of this nature and wait for the person to prove me otherwise. This entails the same protocol: Warm, welcoming, and slightly distant. Working in sales for as long as I have has taught me to mirror the individual you are engaged with as people tend to feel comfortable when approached with familiarity. This alleviates the tension and leaves an open door for one to communicate willingly as per their desires.
The innate problem here is this relies on ones ability to carry out these desires to communicate. It demands they suppress their desire to hide. Sometimes this doesn’t happen and that ‘fight or flight’ response kicks into full effect. This I find to be very problematic as there is little I have come up with that can fully accommodate such a response. That initial distance I place upon myself for these individuals does seem to help but is not foolproof. I feel that anxieties are always on a sliding scale with various degrees of severity. These anxieties seem to have triggering events or situations that signal a person to immediately hit the eject button and bug out. Without a viable alternative strategy, I will continue the current protocol.
The point I want to establish here is that we are all different. We bring a multitude of life experiences, thoughts, desires, and fears to the table. It becomes crucially important to understand this as you provide a public gaming space for new gamers to utilize. Its never going to be a sanctuary for all but can easily become a welcome space for most. All it takes is a warm welcome, a cold brew, and the hot, new board game.