Over the past few decades, there has been a creative explosion in the board gaming community. New games are constantly being developed by companies and independent projects. There has also been a resurgence in role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) and Pathfinder. Games that used to be under the umbrella of geek culture have now spanned to a more public sphere.
Wallie Desruisseaux, owner of Kapow Comics and Games says, “one thing I’ve found with D&D especially, is with the kids we get [who are on] the spectrum. They come and they’re shy, uncomfortable and awkward [and then] their parents have said, ‘now he has a group of friends and his marks went up’. Even the simple practice of math in the game from adding up dice has them firing on different cylinders.” The improv-heavy game requires a lot of communicating, listening and patience, and uses the language centre of your brain. “They learn different social cues… we’ve noticed vast improvements in some of these kids.” Some, Wallie says, started out not talking, and now run their own games. He says the social skills are probably the most important thing they, and anyone can learn.
The shop holds a vibrant community of people enjoying a shared hobby with a few dice rolls and a lot of laughs. Some bring their own board games from home, and meet in Kapow. The local shop has done a lot to bring groups of people together.
Board game cafes are another place for new gamers to visit. Families are no longer bound by their closet-pick of five board games from the nineties, and game night doesn’t need to be a five hour fight over the Monopoly board. Kids can learn how to accept failure and success, and adults can keep their brains active. Strategy games like chess, or more complex board games and RPG’s improve brain cognition and memory formation. Social games release endorphins (the chemical inside the brain that produces positive feelings) and stimulate the social brain, also known as the prefrontal cortex. The release of endorphins relieves stress and lowers blood pressure.
Besides all the health and social benefits to playing games, you’re having fun, and you’re spending time with family and friends. If there’s some lessons to be learned, it’s that games are for anyone!